The Tampa Bay Lightning lost the first game of their second round series with the Bruins and experienced plenty of difficulties containing an offense that engineered very good scoring chances in addition to three goals in Boston's 3-2 Game 1 win.
The Bolts have vowed to tighten things down defensively and be harder on Boston’s top players after they had a field day in Game 1 against the Lightning, but that job got much tougher for Tampa with the news that top D-man Ryan McDonagh is out for the Game 2 rematch in the best-of-seven series.
Jon Cooper confirmed that the top pair Tampa defenseman didn’t practice and will be out for Tuesday night’s Game 2, and, while unsaid by the coach, that would undoubtedly make him questionable for Wednesday’s back-to-back Game 3 as well if he can’t play in this one.
It’s expected that Braydon Coburn or Luke Schenn would replace McDonagh in the lineup, but there’s no obviously no replacement for the big minutes, toughness or experience that will be missing from the Lightning lineup.
McDonagh left Game 1 in the third period with an undisclosed injury after he was stripped of a puck near the Tampa Bay net by Patrice Bergeron for the game-winning goal, and really wasn’t having a very good game leading up to that point either.
It begs the question whether McDonagh was injured prior to Game 1 or early in the game and tried to play through it, but either way McDonagh is a workhorse and warrior in the defensive zone who is a big key to the two-way portion of Tampa Bay’s overall game. His absence leaves the door open for Boston’s best players to continue to be effective and impactful as the Perfection Line teamed up for five points, 11 shots on net and 22 shot attempts in a dominant Game 1 performance.
If the Bruins continue to get good offensive looks and this is an injury that takes McDonagh out of the lineup for a significant period of time, that’s exactly the kind of swing of circumstances in a playoff series that could tilt things heavily in Boston’s favor. Clearly the Black and Gold aren’t getting ahead of themselves after a strong Game 1 win, but there is plenty to be optimistic about at this point from a B’s perspective.
“At the end of the day, two years ago doesn't matter, only in the essence that you win the first game you can't get too comfortable,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if he was cognizant of the B’s being in the same position in a playoff series after taking a 1-0 lead over Tampa two years ago before losing four straight games.
“You put it behind you like I said and you worry about the next one. Maybe two years ago we were a little overconfident going into the second game and I don't believe that will be the problem this year.”