Why the Lightning Could be Dangerous Come Playoff Time
The team missed the postseason both years, lost a lot of hockey games, and went through a lot of growing pains both as an organization and as a team on the ice. Up until this season, Lightning fans only hoped that the team's struggles would all be worth it and that the franchise would go back to being a good hockey club.
Lightning fans no longer have to hope or wait as their favorite hockey team is a good one and a club that deserved to clinch a playoff spot last night with a 3-1 over the Montreal Canadiens, the team they will more than likely be playing in the first round of the postseason. With the playoff-clinching win, the Lightning picked-up their 92nd and 93rd points of the season and are second in the Atlantic Division.
There are several reasons why this Lightning hockey team could be a very dangerous one to play against in hockey's second season. It all starts with the fact that they have a goal scoring machine in Steven Stamkos.
While Stamkos missed a lot of time this season with a broken shin he sustained back in November, the 24-year-old sniper is tied for second on his team in goals this year with 23. He is not afraid to put pucks on the net, he can score from anywhere on the ice and he is one of the league's best players in the clutch.
Another reason why the Lightning will be tough to play against in the postseason is because of their offensive depth. While the offense is certainly run through Stamkos, this Lightning team has several other plays that can put the puck in the net and produce.
Players such as Valtteri Filppula (25 goals and 32 assists for 57 points), rookie Tyler Johnson (23 goals and 25 assists for 48 points), Ondrej Palat (19 goals and 34 assists for 53 points), and Alex Killorn (17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points) have all been key contributors this season for the Lightning. One can also not forget about newcomer Ryan Callahan, who has fit right in with the team and has 10 points (6 goals and 4 assists) in 14 games with his new team.
The team's defense is also tough to play against. As of this writing, the Lightning are 12th in the league in averaging 2.58 goals against per game.
While that number may look great, it is one that has improved a lot since last season. This is a team that is smarter with the puck in their own zone, is good at breaking up plays, and understands what they need to do to protect their net and keep the puck away from it.
Speaking of the team's net, the club has gotten great goaltending from starter Ben Bishop this season. In 60 games this year, Bishop, 27, is 37-12-7 with a 2.16 goals against average (sixth in the league), a .927 save percentage (fourth in the league) and five shutouts (second in the league).