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Posts Tagged ‘Tampa Bay Lightning’

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview Bonanza

In Hockey on April 16, 2014 at 6:35 pm

5281948Oh hey there, playoff hockey. Welcome back. Please, come in. Can I take your coat? Would you like a beer or are you more of a wine fan? Excellent, now please stay forever.

That’s right, we get playoff hockey back and I’m ready to actually do some writing for you loyal readers along with the binge drinking that comes with it. But as usual, work and video games got in the way of doing detailed breakdowns so I’m cramming everything into one post. I have avoided any preview material on the internet, so no one can alter my thoughts.

This is the part where I’m supposed to insert something funny before we get going, but I got nothing. I’m tired and the games are on, so let’s get this over with.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
The fun and loveable Blue Jackets have a chance because Marc-Andre Fleury will be in the Pittsburgh net during the playoffs and damn it, it will make for an entertaining series at the very least. But too much Sidney Crosby and not enough support for Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky means the Pens move on. Don’t worry, their fans will still find plenty to complain about. Penguins in six.

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
I have bounced back and forth on this series several times. Henrik Lundqvist vs. Steve Mason feels like it should be enough for me pick the Rangers alone, but I can’t help myself. Claude Giroux has been nuts after the team got off to a terrible start and he carries it over to the playoffs. Flyers in seven.

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings
If any team in the East might give the Bruins a scare in the opening round, Detroit is the one that could do just that. This is great for the game because it throws the Red Wings into a series with someone that they could develop an intense rivalry with. It should be deja vu for the Bruins as far as round one goes this year, but the result will be the same. Boston is too good. Bruins in seven.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens
Everyone is sleeping on this series but I think it will be an entertaining slugfest featuring the game’s best goal scorer and Canada’s only hope. Early advantage goes to Montreal as they boast one of the best goalies in the world while the Bolts’ MVP (Ben Bishop) is out for at least game one. That’s enough for me to take the Habs. Montreal in six.

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild
Everyone in hockey has been waiting for the Avs to come crashing back to Earth based on their unsustainable fancy stats numbers and a goalie playing out of his mind. They’ll play former division foe Minnesota who would be primed for an upset if there wasn’t a giant question mark in the net. Avalanche in six.

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Norris Division, we have missed thee. This series won’t be a throwback to the chaos that ensued during the Black and Blue Division’s heyday, but it’s going to be a war. St. Louis had the President’s Trophy in their sights before crapping the bed late in the year, giving us the matchup we all wanted one round early. St. Louis has been bad in every aspect of the game as of late and they’re going to need to get up for the Hawks before it’s too late. Chicago is too deep and the Blues have too many questions in net and on offense. Blackhawks in six.
Ed. Note: It was REALLY difficult to not rip on the Blues during that. Don’t worry, I’ll do plenty of that on Twitter.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars
Fire wagon hockey will be present in every single game of this series as both teams love to get up and down the ice. Dallas has been a blast to watch and they have the edge in net with Kari Lehtonen over, well, whoever the hell the Ducks decide to play in net. Both teams have a superstar duo and plenty of secondary scoring. But the Ducks have Cam Fowler. That’s enough for me to make my pick. Stars in six. #CamSucks

Want to read an actual preview of the series? Check out our buddy Pierre Canard’s in-depth preview.

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
My preview for this series is that I drink a lot and wind up in the fetal position because Antti Niemi can’t keep the puck out of the net. Yeah, I’m not going into much detail. Let’s just say I’m not optimistic and I don’t wanna talk about it and JUST LEAVE ME ALONE. Shit. Kings in six.

That’s it. If you want something more in-depth, I’m sure you can find about 5,283 articles on each series. Want more of an in-depth answer from me on the series in the West? Follow me on Twitter and I’ll be sure to answer. Also, follow along for the retweets, especially if you don’t like the Blues.

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Because I’m a Very Busy and Lazy Person

In Hockey on October 23, 2013 at 11:58 pm

AbeSooo yeah. I didn’t exactly meet the opening bell when it came to getting my season previews done. Work and life get in the way, so deal with it.

But I am not about to deny my loyal reader(s) the remainder of these previews. Here they are in fast forward, unchanged from the start of the season, beginning where I left off.

Metropolitan Division

Washington Capitals – 3rd Place
Lots of offense, not alot of defense, but this team is going back to the playoffs.

Atlantic Division

Detroit Red Wings
The move East helps this old roster earn their first divison crown as members of the East.

Boston Bruins
Still a physical and nasty group, the Bruins will contend for the division title but just miss out after playing lots of hockey over an 18-month span.

Ottawa Senators
Maybe the most fun team in the league to watch, but with a few of their top forwards prone to injury, the team lacks depth to contend for the top spot. Still a playoff team though.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Defensive issues and possession numbers don’t favor the Leafs as they aim for a second straight playoff berth. Adding Jonathan Bernier means there’s no easy night for opposing shooters.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Suspect defense and a lack of consistent goaltending spells trouble for the Bolts this season.

Buffalo Sabres
They’re not good and the most entertaining thing about this team will be the Ryan Miller/Thomas Vanek trade watch.

Florida Panthers
Still a young group trying to find their way. Adding Tim Thomas helps, but these guys are a long way away from contending for anything other than a lottery pick.

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks
Loaded at every position, the Blackhawks won’t run over everyone like they did last year but they’re still the class of the NHL.

St. Louis Blues
Great on defense and solid in goal, the Blues are one still one dynamic scorer away from challenging for the top spot in the Central. But man will it suck to play against these guys every night.

/laughs knowing the Sharks pounded the Blues early this year

Minnesota Wild
Still a year or two away from being a serious threat. But this team showed great strides last year and I expect that to continue this year.

Dallas Stars
They’d be higher on this list if I knew Kari Lehtonen wasn’t one play away from falling apart. Still a really good group of young forwards and veterans and a sneaky good defense.

Nashville Predators
They won’t run away with many games this year, but defense and goaltending will keep the Preds in most games this year. Plus, they have American Hero Seth Jones on the rosters, which is awesome.

Colorado Avalanche
A fast and skilled group of forwards makes the Avs a fun team to watch. A shaky defense and spotty goaltending do them in. But man will Patrick Roy be fun to watch as a coach.

Winnipeg Jets
They couldn’t win the worst division in hockey the last two years. That’s bad news as they transition to the West. Ondrej Pavelec is not a franchise goaltender. Why can’t Jets’ management understand this?

Pacific Division

Los Angeles Kings
They have the right mix of skill, toughness and great goaltending. They’ll be in the mix for the Stanley Cup again this year.

San Jose Sharks
It’s the last shot for this group to win. They’ll still roll out world-class talent at forward and have a very good goaltender in Antti Niemi. One serious injury to the forwards will doom the Sharks.

(This was my thought before their red-hot start. I never would have expected what has happened.

Anaheim Ducks
Lucky for you, Pierre Canard has you covered with an actual in-depth preview. Read it now.

Vancouver Canucks
They’re a tire fire waiting to happen, but they still possess some of the best talent in the world. They’re not elite anymore though. And the Sharks own them, which is great for everyone.

Phoenix Coyotes
Still stingy on defense and the score more than you think. I’d be shocked if they didn’t earn the West’s final wild card spot.

Edmonton Oilers
I still don’t trust this team on defense and in net. That’s bad news for a fan base that expects to win now.

Calgary Flames
Oof. Calgary needs to fail badly to try to lock up the top pick in next year’s draft. They’ll battle, but they’re very short on talent.

There ya go. I did not take anything that has happened so far into account for these brief previews. I’m sure everyone will agree with me though…

I am Ryan Thomas, and I’m glad I don’t do this for a living. Follow me on Twitter @rthomas_22, because if you like hockey, you’ll like following me.

2011-12 NHL Season Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning

In Hockey on September 7, 2011 at 10:55 am

Tampa Bay Lightning

A Look Back at 2010-11
Last season, for the first time in quite some time, there was reason for optimism in Tampa. A new coach in Guy Boucher, new GM Steve Yzerman and one of the best young players in the game in Steven Stamkos were a major reason for that buzz. I predicted the Bolts would make the playoffs last year, but I had no idea that they would make a run deep into the playoffs. They had a major issue in goal that was addressed at the trade deadline, and they came within one goal of the Stanley Cup Finals, falling to eventual champions Boston in a very entertaining seven-game series. Youngsters like Victor Hedman and Teddy Purcell made huge strides. Martin St. Louis looked like he was ten years younger last season, having his best year since he won MVP back in 2004. Vinny Lecavalier played a fine game when he was healthy. And of course, Stamkos had another outstanding season, and has become one of the league’s top players. But a ton of the credit has to go to Yzerman in the front office and Boucher on the bench, who didn’t take long to establish himself as one of the league’s most colorful coaches. However, had they drawn Vancouver in the Finals, I still think they would have gotten whacked. I still label this season a success. Grade: A

A Look Ahead to 2011-12

Steven Stamkos slowed down late last year and will look to have a big year this season.

Forwards
Much of the same cast that made their run to the East Finals returns this year. They will be a little lighter on the left side with Simon Gagne and Sean Bergenheim gone, but they will still be tough to deal with. Lecavalier, St. Louis, Stamkos, Teddy Purcell, Ryan Malone and Steve Downie make up the top six forwards. There’s plenty of goal scoring on each of those lines, no matter what combinations are used. The team also has a pair of very physical forwards in Malone and Downie patrolling those two lines. Each does a great job of playing the rough game, but each guy was hurt for a long period of time last year. With Gagne and Bergenheim gone, each of those guys needs to be healthy to avoid trouble. Lecavalier is another guy that would benefit from a clean bill of health, and he could easily hit the 90-point mark if he does. While the top six forwards were responsible for the team’s high goals for, the bottom six did a great job doing the dirty work. Dominic Moore, Nate Thompson, Adam Hall and newcomer Ryan Shannon will assume the same roles this year. Thompson and Moore are the most vital players on the bottom lines and on the Lighting’s penalty kill, as they bring a great work ethic and lots of speed to the team. Dana Tyrell, Tom Pyatt, Mattias Ritola and Alex Picard all have experience at the NHL level and will compete for the final forward spots. The Lightning will also give the team’s top two prospects, Carter Ashton and Brett Connolly, a serious look in camp. I think each guy is ready for the NHL, especially Connolly, who is expected to be Stamkos’ wingman for years to come after tearing up junior hockey for the last two years. The window for some of these guys (St. Louis, Lecavalier, Malone) is closing and there isn’t much in the pipeline. This squad is built to win now. Grade: B+ (Can improve a grade if Connolly steps in and produces immediately.)

Victor Hedman enters his third season as the future of the Tampa blue line.

Defense
What was considered the weakness of the Lighting last year, and for good reason. The Bolts brought in Eric Brewer and Marc-Andre Bergeron late last year, and Brewer provided defensive stability for the team down the stretch while Bergeron brought offensive skill to the blue line. Each of those guys return and join Brett Clark, Mattias Ohlund, Pavel Kubina, Victor Hedman and newcomers Matt Gilroy and Bruno Gervais to make up the Tampa defensive corps. This group is very veteran-heavy, but they’re not a very quick unit. Hedman needs to take a monumental leap forward as the team’s defender of the future. He led all of the Lightning defenseman in +/- at 3. That’s not going to get it done, not just for Hedman but for the entire group. I predict Hedman will be better and establish himself as the unit’s unquestioned leader. Bergeron and Gilroy are each offensive-minded blue-liners, and the rest will chip in with the occasional point. Again, they’re not going to light it up, but they should give up fewer goals this year with this group. Grade: C (The only way I could grade them higher is if I thought Hedman could score 50 points. They’ll get exposed for their lack of speed as well)

Dwayne Roloson will need to repeat his performance from last year to get Tampa to the finals.

Goaltending
Ever since Nik Khabibulin left for Chicago years ago, the Tampa net has been a place where goalies go to die. Don’t think so? Ask Marc Denis what happened to his career once he came to Tampa.  Of course, noteable names such as Johan Holmqvist, John Grahame, Dan Ellis, Mike Smith, Antero Niittymaki, Karri Ramo, Sean Burke (in his last season) and Olaf Kolzig (ditto) have all been left hanging out to dry by Tampa defenses since the lockout ended. That’s not as bad as Philly’s goalie nightmares, but not great by any means. This season should be different, as Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon will combine to man the cage. Roloson was a revelation after coming over from the Islanders last year, not playing like a 41-year old goaltender. He stymied the Penguins and Capitals in the playoffs last year and was sensational at times against Boston. No question this is his team.  I do have a couple of problems regarding their goaltending. First problem is just how reliable will Roloson’s 42-year old body hold up. He’s gotten better the longer he’s played, but he’s one injury away from the end of his career. The second problem was letting Cedrick Desjardins leave and join Colorado. Desjardins was great in limited action last year, but the Lightning elected to let him go and pin their future hopes on Dustin Tokarski. I figured they could have given Desjardins a shot to back up Roloson and have Tokarski play a full year as the guy in Norfolk. Despite my claims, they still get a good grade from me. Grade: B.

Prediction
This team is poised to make a run at the Stanley Cup again. However, a lack of speed on defense and a little less depth than last year’s squad means they’ll fall in the East standings. But not by much. Plus, they changed their jerseys (left) to a scheme that I absolutely love. Well done. 2nd in Southeast, 6th in East.