Teams learn more about each other throughout a playoff series, as they face each other repeatedly. Not just each team's tendencies, but also which matchups the opponent seeks and how well those matchups play out in the real-life laboratory.
Identifying ideal matchups and tendencies was part of the talk following the New York Islanders' 4-1 Game 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, along with the escalation in physical play and the Islanders' inability to press a comeback in the third period.
Here are other themes to weigh as the series switches to New York.
1. The Lightning PK is aggressive.
So stop being surprised when they push, even deep into the Isles zone. Okay, coach Jack Capuano said they weren't -- or shouldn't have been -- surprised:
"I think our guys are well prepared for how they kill and how aggressive they are going to come. That said, you have to be dialed in. We were a little lackadaisical, tried to over handle the puck [on the early opportunities]."
Fair enough, but they needed to act like it -- be dialed in, then.
Frans Nielsen echoed Capuano's latter point:
"We tried to get too cute [on the early PPs]. Once we started shooting we got more opportunities."
These are classic mantras for a power play. But they were all the more important to heed in Game 2 when the Lightning were desperate to even the series -- Lightning coach Jon Cooper called it "panic mode" -- and the Islanders were handed early opportunities.
Sometimes teams don't like to get power plays early, before they're in a groove, and when a fresh opponent can use successful kills to grab the mental momentum. That's certainly how the Isles looked early in Game 2, and the Lightning took advantage of it.
2. The Lightning speed and passing kills.
On the one hand, when the Lightning get their counterattack going, they are dangerous through long cross-ice passes and overlaps that take advantage of their speed. It's how they got the early lead in Game 1. It was a factor in building their 2-0 lead in Game 2.
The Isles know this and didn't give up too much to it in Game 2, but it was there, lurking. Jonathan Drouin's chance that missed the net in the first, which would've made it 3-1, came about this way.
Nielsen spoke to this aspect in Newsday coverage ahead of Game 2:
"They look a little like Chicago once they get in the zone, with five guys moving," Nielsen said. "They don’t really work it down low with the two guys standing at the point. That means our communication has to be really good. As a forward, sometimes your back is to the play, especially when they come into the zone, so our D have to be calling out where they need us."
It's where the Lightning, who have drawn the Isles into track meets at times over the last two seasons, can tilt the series.
3. The Isles can grind the Lightning down...
...when they work the puck behind the net, anyway. Good forecheck, board work and cycling was often the key to the Isles' sustained stretches of zone time in Game 2, though they still didn't create enough dangerous chances and second opportunities off of it.
That key, easier said than done. Thomas Hickey via nhl.com:
"We had spurts. Look what we did at the end of the first period. We really had a lot of zone time. It was tough to sustain it. I think we came close a couple times and got some pucks there, but you want to spend more time in their zone."
Speaking of which...
4. Expect Changes for Game 3
Jack Capuano was by no means alarmed in the post-game, and said overall the Isles came to Tampa, played six periods and did reasonably well against a tough team. It wasn't a "we need all 20 guys going, pick their #$% up" kind of presser.
But in response to questions about combos and the shift back to home ice, he did say they'd analyze the matchups for the first two games and likely have some changes in the matchups they seek with the last change at home.
Capuano specifically mentioned how to handle the Tyler Johnson line. There is also much reasonable speculation that Ryan Pulock would be one of them, if he's healthy.
* * *
With Game 3 not until Tuesday, there is all of Sunday, Monday and the morning skate to learn of any injury updates and what other tweaks are made.