The Playoffs: Just How Far Can The Tampa Bay Lightning Go?
As we enter the Playoffs of the 2014/15 NHL Season, the tension levels grow for the fans of the teams involved. Some teams are used to the stress and strain the Playoffs hold, for example the Detroit Redwings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who in recent years have regularly made them; yet for other franchises, such as the Winnipeg Jets and the Calgary Flames, this is a new experience for most of their players, as they’ve not been as successful in recent times.
Reasons For Optimism
Tampa Bay enters the Playoffs this year in confidence, and with optimism of going far. They lead the entire NHL in goals scored with a colossal 262 goals, and lead the league in Goals Per Game, averaging 3.16, a whole 0.50 above the league average. This is crucial in Playoff success as lower line scoring has been a vital part in recent years with the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks, leading to successful campaigns.
The Bolts also have 3 of the top 5 NHL Leaders in the +/- column in the shape of the line known as “The Triplets”, comprising Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, another very welcome statistic in a very difficult Playoff campaign lying ahead. Tampa Bay also lead the league in Home wins with 32 in total, and as home ice is guaranteed against the Detroit Red Wings in Round 1, a team who the bolts have a recorded a 3-1 record against this year while outscoring them 12 to 9, there’s confidence that they will progress at least past the first round.
One element which will make the first round of the NHL Playoffs special to both franchises involved in this tasty affair is Steve Yzerman, current General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and who spent his entire NHL Career, spanning 23 seasons and accumulating 692 and 1755 points in total, in Detroit.
A lot has been mentioned on how the Lightning struggled in the Playoffs last season, being swept 4-0 by the Montreal Canadiens, and whether or not that could be detrimental to this year’s campaign. However, one thing I would point out on this matter is that the Lightning have a young squad, maybe not the youngest in the Playoffs on average age, but a young team nevertheless. This time around, they will be older and more experienced in the Playoff campaign, as well as having a fully fit starting Goaltender behind them in the shape of Ben Bishop.
With no one being reliant on anyone else for scoring, this puts the Bolts in a great shape for the Playoffs, and with the likes of Braydon Coburn, Alex Killorn and Jason Garrison on the mend and on their way back into the team, the squad looks fitter and fresher than ever.
This is not to mention the efforts that the replacements have put in, such as Slater Koekkoek, Nikita Nesterov, Jonathan Marchessault and Luke Witkowski. The Bolts enter the Playoffs in some good form as well, winning their final 3 regular season games, against tricky opposition in the form of local rivals the Florida Panthers, and Eastern conference rivals; the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins.
How Will Things Go Down
As a Tampa Bay Lightning fan myself, I may be seem to be biased on how far the Bolts will progress in the Playoffs. However, even with all these aspects considered, I have predicted that the Bolts will progress through Round One against the Detroit Red Wings, but struggle in the second round against, I believe, the surging Ottawa Senators, who we have posted a 2-2 record against this season, outscoring them 11-8.
Fortunately, the NHL Playoffs regularly throw up surprises and unpredictable results, so I wouldn’t rule anything out.