Why to Fear the Lightning
I just gave my series prediction and this is a series where it shouldn’t surprise anyone if it goes either way.
They are several reasons Penguin fans should fear the Lightning in this series:
1. Streaking Stars: Other than Steven Stamkos who has 6 goals in his last 30 games, just about every top-6 forward on this team is going into the playoffs playing their best hockey of the season.
Marty St. Louis who led the Lightning with 99 points this season, second in the NHL, along with a career-high 68 assists, enters the playoffs on a 9 game points streak, collecting 14 points during that span.
Vincent Lecavalier who is showing signs of returning to his former elite status, has points in 10 of his last 11 games, collecting 14 points during that span. He’s one of the players who could be a true difference marker > in this series and has 17 goals and 30 points in his final 28 games.
Simone Gagne finished the season with 12 points in his final 10 games and is playing his best hockey of the season down the stretch, collecting 18 points in his last 13 games. He leads all Lightning players with 42 points in his career against the Penguins, leading all Lightning players.
Ryan Malone enters the playoffs with goals in his final 3 regular season games, collecting 4 points during that span.
The Lightning have more than one player who can take over a game. Does Pittsburgh have any?
2. Improved Defensive Play: One area of the Lightning’s play not getting enough credit is their improved play defensively in the second half of the season under head coach Guy Boucher.
After giving up around 3 goals per game during the first half, the Lightning have surrendered just 2.4 goals per game in their last 39 games. According to the Tribune-Review, the Lightning rank 2nd in the NHL during that span.
3. Special Teams Advantage: The Lightning ranked 6th on the power play and 8th on the PK this season. It’s a great combo for success in the playoffs. The Penguins, meanwhile, boast the top ranked penalty kill unit and a 25th ranked power play unit.
Pittsburgh’s PK unit is playing better over the past three games but they have taken a step back without Matt Cooke.
4. Steven Stamkos: The true X-factor in this series is Steven Stamkos. Stamkos has just 6 goals in his last 30 games and has not been the same player down the stretch.
If Stamkos plays to the ability he did in the first half of the season where he was neck and neck with Crosby, Pittsburgh could be in trouble.