The Pittsburgh Penguins surprised most analysts by taking a 3-1 series lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning, despite the continued absence of their two best players, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But the Lightning’s offense came alive, and eventually taking the series by winning three straight games.
Before this series, I said the following:
Marc-Andre Fleury gives them a solid presence in net, but may not be ready to steal a series by himself. They match up against a team boasting Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis (two of the top offensive players in the league) along with Vincent Lecavalier. A healthy Penguins would give Tampa Bay a run for their money; a wounded Penguins team has very little chance.
Lightning in 6
Fleury was indeed very solid in net, and almost stole the series. But in the end, the Lightning just had too much firepower to overcome, despite a rousing effort from the Penguins defense.
What Happened To Pittsburgh?
They ran out of gas. The Penguins played inspired hockey for the first four games of the series, frustrating the Lightning forwards and barraging Dwayne Roloson with shots. But when Arron Asham and Tyler Kennedy are your only multi-goal scorers for the series, you know you’re in trouble. Pittsburgh showed they are more than just Crosby and Malkin; they are a well-coached and hardworking team that will be a threat next season.
What Have We Learned About Tampa Bay?
In one word? Inconsistent. Tampa Bay had the skaters to run the Penguins off the ice; instead they had to mount a comeback to win a series against a team with much less talent. They won, but it shouldn’t have been this difficult.
Going forward, the Lightning have a matchup against the top seeded Washington Capitals. If the offense from the last three games of this series show up, the Lightning are a legitimate candidate to come out of the Eastern Conference. But their defense is a serious concern, and a major one. The Lightning are the big question mark left in the playoffs, and it's extremely difficult to predict how they'll fare for the remainder of the postseason.