The greatest tournament in all of sports gets under way tonite. The 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings battling in game 1.
These teams split the season series with each ream winning twice. Detroit won the first 2 games and Tampa the last 2.
Goaltending: The Lightning have Ben Bishop who should get consideration for MVP but won’t, and the Red Wings will start Jimmy Howard. Bishop finished with a 2.06 GAA and if not for his play the Lightning may not even be in the playoffs. That’s how good he has been the season. Jimmy Howard finished with a 2.80 GAA and struggled at times. His back up is Petr Mrazek who finished with a 2.33 GAA. Edge to the Lightning.
Defense: The Lightning underperformed in this area, and begin the series with one of their key defensive parts Anton Stralman out with a broken leg. The Lightning finished 5th in the league defensively giving up 2.4 goals a game. Detroit finished 17th giving up 2.70 a game. Victor Hedman is back tonite after missing the last 3 games and with the veteran Jason Garrison getting close to 100%, the defense is as healthy as it has been in a while. This group should be able to keep Datsuyk, Zetterberg and 19 yr old Dylan Larkin in check this series. Edge defensively goes to the Lightning.
Offense: This is where the Lightning really struggled at times this season. The triplet line of Johnson, Kucherov, and Palat was even blown up at one point. Steven Stamkos is out. Tyler Johnson will be a game time decision. The Lightning finished a disappointing 12th in the league in scoring at 2.70 Goals per Game. The power play finished 28th at 15.5%. Detroit finished 23rd on offense at 2.5 goals per game, while the power play was 13th at 18.8%. Patel Datsuyk and Henrik Zetterberg are not the same players they were a few years ago. 19 yr old Dylan Larkin is still trying to reach his potential. Edge Even.
Coaching : 2 good friends Jon Cooper and Jeff Blashill have to face off in round 1. Cooper has done a great job and has last years playoff experience to draw on. This is Blashill’s first Playoffs in the NHL. He has tons of experience in the minors with Grand Rapids Detroit’s AHL affiliate. Edge to Jon Cooper and the Lightning.
The key to the series will be the play of Ben Bishop. He has to continue to win games for this team with his play. The power play has to get better. I don’t think you advance far in the playoffs unless you can figure out how to score with the man advantage. Defense needs to continue to play strong. Eliminate turnovers when trying to clear the puck. Someone has pick up the scoring for this team. Maybe Jonathan Drouin will be the answer. Time will tell.
Lightning win the series in 6.