Vasilevskiy does not miss many opportunities to eliminate opponents

The Wraparound is your daily look at the NHL Stanley Cup 2022 playoffs. We’ll be analyzing the NHL playoff games today with all-important televised news.

• The Lightning enter Game 6 on Saturday night with just one win from their third consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup final.

• The Bruins’ path will likely be dictated by David Pastrnak’s contractual situation.

• The Panthers should not overreact to their performance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

With another win, the Tampa Bay Lightning will return to the Stanley Cup final for the third consecutive season and the fourth time in the last seven seasons.

They enter Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday night with a 3-2 lead in the series over the New York Rangers after winning three consecutive games. It was a combination of Lightning’s top line that took over, as well as Andrei Vasilevskiy who conceded only four goals in 3-5 games of the series.

If recent history is any guide, this is where Vasilevskiy really begins to shine.

Vasilevskiy has been one of Lightning’s constants for the past three seasons, playing every minute on goal for the team in the postseason. While his overall numbers are sensational and have helped solidify his status as one of the all-time greats, it’s when he gets the chance to take out an opponent from the playoffs that he really takes over. He is automatic in these games as any NHL player can be.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

Since the start of the 2019-20 postseason, Vasilevskiy and the Lightning have played 15 games in which they had a chance to eliminate an opponent.

Vasilevskiy’s record in those games is 10-5 (with only one of those defeats in the regulations; the other four in overtime) with a save rate of 0.951 and a huge six closures.

For his career, he has a save rate of 0.944 in 22 games where the Lightning have a chance to take out an opponent. In 15 games he conceded two goals or less. In 10 games he conceded a goal or less.

What is perhaps even more astounding is that in his career he actually lost three potential knockout matches in which he conceded only two goals and had a save rate of over .940. In the aforementioned four defeats in extra time he conceded only two regulation goals in each game. In 22 potential knockout games in his career he has conceded three regulation goals just three times. So even when he doesn’t actually get the win, he’s still nearly unbeatable in these kinds of games.

This is bad news for a Rangers side who have struggled to generate a consistent attack in this series in their last three games.

Not only did Vasilevskiy recover from a shaky start in Games 1-2, but the Lightning also put a damper on them defensively in Games 3-5 of the series.

In Tampa Bay’s Game 5 victory, for example, Rangers generated only five high-risk scoring chances (in all situations) for the entire game, including only one after the first period.

In these three games, the chances of scoring at high risk are 53-26 in favor of the Lightning (67%) while the expected goals are 13.01-7.38 in favor of the Lightning (64%).

In terms of scoring chances and expected goals, the Lightning are doubling down on Rangers across the board. That type of play won’t be good enough to beat Lightning and Vasilevskiy in any match, let alone an elimination match. The Lightning have not only been the best team in the league for the past seven years, they have developed a knack for closing teams when they get the chance.

Add in the fact that Saturday’s game is in Tampa Bay where the Lightning are 6-1 this post-season and it will take an incredible effort on the part of Rangers, arguably their best of the post-season up to this point, to force a game 7.

2022 NHL Playoff Schedule: Eastern Conference Final

NEW YORK RANGERS versus TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (TB leads 3-2)

Game 1 – Rangers 6, Lightning 2
Game 2 – Rangers 3, Lightning 2
Game 3 – Lightning 3, Rangers 2
Game 4 – Lightning 4, Rangers 1
Game 5 – Lightning Bolt 3, Ranger 1
Game 6 – 11 June: Rangers at Lightning, 8pm ET, (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
* Game 7 – June 14: Lightning at Rangers, 8pm ET, (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)

* If necessary

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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