First round of the unexpected!
In round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be playing the Tampa Bay Lightning. I would first like to congratulate the Tampa Bay Lighting on making the playoffs and having such a successful season. It is a great accomplishment for them to have made the playoffs and have joined us for our finaly of the regular season. Good luck to Tampa and have alot of fun, now on to the breakdown…
Goaltending – The Goaltenders in this battle are assumed to be Marc-Andre Fleury and Dwayne Roloson. While both have been to a Stanley Cup, only one has won the honor. But if Roloson was healthy he might have also won the honor. The biggest question lies within the athleticism and the stamina of the goaltenders, whether it is mind or body. With Marc-Andre you get a young and extremely athletic goaltender who has been to two Cup finals and won one. With Roloson, you get a veteran goaltender; you get an experienced man who has taken a team with little offensive talent to a Stanley Cup. This is not an easy pick, for both goaltenders have had their fair share of experience, but I will pick Pittsburgh for the advantage at goaltender. Marc-Andre is not just younger, but more athletic and has a real knack for playing well in big games.
Defense – In what seems to be an offensive game, the defenses seem to be the biggest game breaker of the two teams. The Pittsburgh Penguins have a top ten defense, while Tampa has yet to break the top twenty. It seems that Pittsburgh has the definite advantage and not many would question. The Lightning has suffered all season with their defense and it has been no shock to anyone that they finished in the bottom third. With only one truly known defenseman, the Lightning are lacking what it needs to have a playoff unit on the defensive side. They do not have a great shot blocker and or a great hitter. While Hedman might be the big man, he is far from a physical guy. The Pittsburgh Penguins possess a great deal of talent from the back end. With a top unit of Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik, the Penguins immediately have a line that carries the balance of offense and defense. Their second line is a true shut down line. Their third line is still up in the air between Lovejoy, Engelland, and Niskanen. While the combo might be dull, the pairs include three different types of play, it include multiple different styles of play. I would have to give the defense to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Offense – It is almost too easy to guess that the Lightning have a better offense than Pittsburgh. With both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin out for the regular season, the Penguins amounted an average amount of goals. The Tampa Bay Lighting have two of the top 10 point scorers and currently rank among the top ten in the league in goals for. Without Sidney Crosby it is too easy to give this edge to Tampa. With St.Louis, Stamkos, and Lecavalier, this team is more than set with offense. The Penguins need to have James Neal return healthy by Wednesday and Sid to return by the end of the series. Even if this does happen I will give the edge to the Tampa Bay Lighting.
Power Play – There is almost nothing to say about this. The Lightning have a one time shot in Stmakos and a true specialist in St.Louis. With a top ten powerplay it is obvious that the Penguins cannot beat them at the Powerplay. With Pittsburgh’s third rate power play, they will barely be able to scratch the talent that resides in Tampa.
Penalty Kill – This is more than obvious. With the best PK in the league and the second best shorthanded scoring team, the Pittsburgh Penguins provide more than opposition to the worst team in the League at shorthanded goal against. The Penguins have Jordan Staal and Craig Adams, who are some of the more deadly penalty killers in the league. Unfortunately they will not possess one of the best in the league at shorthanded scoring in Matt Cooke. The Lightning are not shabby in their PK, but still do not compare with the Penguins. The advantage rests with the Penguins.
Overall this was a strange series to pick. If you would have told me that the Penguins could make the Playoffs and win without Crosby and Malkin, I would have called you crazy, but I have seen something I couldn’t believe. The Pittsburgh Penguins are my choice to win this series and not by my fanhood, but by the facts that Tampa is not a solid enough team to win in the post season. I will credit Tampa and Guy Boucher for their incredible season, but I do feel that the Pittsburgh
Penguins will take this series in six games.
Congrats on the seasons both teams have had and good luck in your upcoming games!
Chuck Gaston Jr.