Good special teams and solid goaltending are usually the recipe for a successful postseason run, so expect the Tampa bay Lightning to claim the second Stanley cup in franchise history this June.
The Big Why: The Lightning possesses two players -- Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier -- among the League leaders in power-play goals. The team finished among the top 10 in power-play efficiency, both at home and on the road while generating a League-leading 329 chances with the man advantage. Tampa also finished tops in the League while working the two-man advantage.
Possessing skilled and agile puck-movers such as Stamkos, Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis has certainly benefitted that cause. The club was among the League leaders in penalty-killing, among the top 15 both at St. Pete Times Forum and on the road.
When opposing teams have gotten their chances, veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson has been there to save the day. This is nothing new to those who have following Roloson throughout his career, either. He was a big reason the Edmonton Oilers reached the Stanley Cup against the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, going 12-5 with a 2.33 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in 18 game spanning three rounds before suffering a severe knee injury in Game 1 of the Cup Final that sidelined him the remainder of the tournament.
The Big Uh-Oh: While the acquisition of Roloson has helped the last few months, the Lightning finished the regular season ranked among the League's bottom half in goals allowed during the regular season. There's also this little concern regarding the team's third-period woes -- the Lightning were allowing the fourth-most goals in the third while scoring the fifth least.
Final Argument: You kind of get the feeling every player is zeroed in on making the team's first postseason appearance in four seasons a memorable one. One thing is certain, those veteran players -- St. Louis, Lecavalier, Mattias Ohlund, Ryan Malone, Pavel Kubina and Roloson -- are licking their chops at another postseason run.
The team enters the playoffs as healthy as it's been all year and that's something coach Guy Boucher doesn't take for granted.
"Our entire coaching staff was new, the administrative aspect of things were new and all I kept hearing at the start was that Tampa Bay was probably going to turn it on at some point, but that it was going to be difficult at the beginning of the year," Boucher said. "We didn't waste any time and the players bonded so fast, everyone was on the same page even through so many injuries … that's what I was most proud of."
He’ll be even more proud when his team hoists the Stanley Cup in June.