The 2010-2011 regular season was one of up-and-downs for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Early in the season it looked as if the Lightning were going to be a force to be reckoned with in the Southeast Division and rest of the conference. However, instead of sprinting to the finish line, the Lightning sputtered like a car running out of gas in the last quarter of the season.
The story of this upcoming Tampa Bay Lightning—Pittsburgh Penguins series has to be the absence of Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. With Crosby 100% healthy and playing like the mad-man that he was before he went down with a concussion, I would have handed the Penguins this series on a platter. Add to that the absence of Evgeni Malkin, this will be a series that is going down to the wire.
The Lightning will look to go all-out on offense as the defensive corps will not have to sweat over the fear of keeping tabs on Malkin or Crosby. They will rely on their players that have been there before such as Vincent Lecavalier (25g) and Martin St. Louis (99pts), and this year’s runner-up in the Rocket Richard race, Steven Stamkos (91pts). If the Lightning expect to break through a more defensive-minded Penguins squad, these are the players that will have to lead the way.
The thing that the Penguins have going for them is their playoff savvy and experience gained from being only two years removed from winning the Cup. The Lightning? Their first appearance since 2007. The Penguins’ core group is still intact and they know how to win in both the regular season and in the playoffs.
Besides Crosby, this squad still boasts three 20+ goal scorers in Chris Kunitz, Tyler Kennedy, and James Neal. Even with Crosby and Malkin out, you still have to worry about those players along with Alex Kovalev.
Defense is night and day between the two teams. With names like Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, and Zbynek Michalek anchoring the blueline for the Penguins you would be hard pressed to find someone that would prefer names like Nate Thompson, Eric Brewer, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Brett Clark playing on their side.
The edge to goaltending goes to the Penguins because of Marc-Andre Fleury’s play throughout the season and his experience in a Cup win. However, you can’t discount Dwayne Roloson after coming in a righting the goaltending issues in Tampa Bay. Don’t forget that Roloson has some unfinished business after losing in the finals in 2006 to the Carolina Hurricanes.
While I give the edge in goaltending and defense to the Penguins, I think the Lightning’s guns will be able to push this to seven games. However, I think in a game seven affair, the Penguin’s intangibles are going to be too much to overcome.
Penguins in seven.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Tran
New York transplant from California, and an avid blogger and sports fan. As he tends to do every year, he picks an Eastern Conference NHL team to root for until they become too good and he fears for his team out west. If you want to talk hockey with me, feel free to send a line.