The Tampa Bay Lightning survived a 3-1 deficit and won three straight to get past the Pittsburgh Penguins in their first round match-up, while the Washington Capitals breezed past the New York Rangers 4-1 to reach the conference semi-finals. Both teams are filled with young talented stars and this might be the most exciting second round series. Keep reading to find out our NHL playoff picks for this series.
#5 Tampa Bay Lightning
How They Got Here: Down 3-1, things looked bleak for the Lightning in this series. However, an 8-2 win in Game 5 in Pittsburgh gave the Bolts hope. Tampa Bay then limited the Penguins offense the last two games, allowing just two goals in Game 6 and 7. The key for the Lightning in this series was their play on special teams. Pittsburgh looked like a peewee team on the man advantage, converting just one of their 35 opportunities. Meanwhile, Tampa converted 29.6% of their power plays, giving them a dominating advantage in this aspect of the game.
Player to Watch: LW Simon Gagne has been disappointing over the last two seasons, but showed up in a big way in Round One. Gagne racked up two goals and five assists in seven games against the Penguins and looked to rekindle the magic that previously made him one of the best players in the NHL. If he has recaptured the ability that made him a star with the Flyers, the Lightning are a very dangerous team.
Goalie Outlook: Of all the starting goaltenders, no one was better in the first round than Dwayne Roloson. Roloson registered a .949 save percentage and had a miniscule 1.77 GAA despite the fact that the Penguins averaged five power plays per game. However, the Capitals offense is much more potent than the Pens and Roloson will be hard-pressed to put up those numbers again.
Key to Victory: The Lightning were lucky in drawing a Penguins team that didn’t have either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin and still needed seven games to advance. Tampa Bay will need to play much better against Washington if they hope to make the conference finals. The Capitals won’t go a paltry 1 for 35 on power plays and the Lightning must play more disciplined hockey to advance.
#1 Washington Capitals
How They Got Here: Washington was the best team in the Eastern Conference in the regular season and showed that again in the first round by being the only team in the East to not need seven games to advance. The Capitals did not have a repeat of last year’s first round letdown and hit on all cylinders in their series win over the Rangers. Needless to say, the Capitals have the lowest Stanley Cup odds of any Eastern Conference team.
Player to Watch: LW Alexander Semin led the Capitals in +/- with a +4 rating and is one of the most talented players on the team. Semin tallied three goals and an assist in the five games against the Rangers and like Alexander Ovechkin is a threat to score every time he is on the ice. If his second line continues to produce like this, the Caps will be tough to beat.
Goalie Outlook: Michal Neuvirth was solid in net for the Capitals during the regular season and was even better against the Rangers in the first round. Neuvirth stopped 140 of 148 shots (.946 save percentage) and had a 1.38 GAA, the lowest of any starting goaltender thus far in the playoffs. He was fortunate to face an offense without Ryan Callahan, but still performed well for the Caps.
Key to Victory: Washington played great defense last round, allowing just eight goals in five games, but will need to get better production from their offense to get past the Lightning. Ovechkin, Semin, and Mike Green will all need to produce to ensure the Capitals get past the Lightning and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
2010-11 Regular Season Meetings
March 7th – Washington 2 – Tampa Bay 1
February 4th – Washington 5 – Tampa Bay 2
January 12th – Washington 0 – Tampa Bay 3
January 4th – Tampa Bay 1 – Washington 0
November 26th – Tampa Bay 0 – Washington 6
November 11th – Tampa Bay 3 – Washington 6
Season Series Notes: Washington and Tampa Bay met each other six times in the regular season with the Capitals winning four of the NHL betting affairs. The Lightning could only muster 10 goals in their six games against the Capitals and thus betting the under might be a good play in this series. br>
The Final Word: The Southeast Division rivals are very familiar with each other and although both the Capitals and the Lightning are best known for their offense, it was their goaltending that got them to this stage. Roloson was lights out against Pittsburgh, but the Penguins had no real offensive threats emerge during the series. However, the Capitals have plenty of offensive threats and it is doubtful Roloson can repeat his performance. Expect a quick series.
Stanley Cup Free Picks: Washington in 5
Andrew Ryan has been in the sportswriting biz since the late-90s, and he has worked side by side with some of the best and brightest in sports gambling. Always searching for the best trends in sports, Andrew uses his brilliant math mind to his advantage to beat the books.