Tampa Bay never has and likely never will lay claim to the title of Hockeytown USA, nor will it ever be called Baseballtown USA from what I can gather, but I digress. What it can lay claim to however, is that it has one hell of a hockey team, possibly the most offensively potent in the NHL. Though I’m sure Chicago would love to call bullshit on that. While the Hawks may actually have the almighty statistics to back-up their end of the argument, we have to remember that numbers only tell part of the story, and that without proper context these stats are just like the Maple Leafs: meaningless.
Case in point, though the Blackhawks may have an edge in terms of GF/GP (2.94) over 17 games when put side-by-side against Tampa’s number (2.45) over 20 games, taking them at face value would do little to reveal the true picture. While Chicago overpowered Nashville (4-2) and swept Minnesota (4-0), it took them everything but the kitchen sink to beat Anaheim (4-3). In the end they clocked their ticket to the Final round by beating three respectable teams, but none of these teams had their goaltenders deliver the type of soul crushing performance that would merit a Conn Smythe nomination. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has had to face a magical upstart and a pair of Vezina finalists to reach the same point.
Mzarek, Price and Lundqvist whom the Lightning have slayed are all listed in the top 10 in terms of GAA (goals allowed average) and S% (save percentage) this post-season. Meanwhile, Hawks-felled Rinne, Dubnyk and Andersen are absent from these lists. What is even more interesting is that aside from Darling and Crawford who both play for the Hawks, all other eight goalies (including Bishop) leading these statistical categories hail from the Eastern conference, which makes Tampa Bay’s leading offensive stats look even more dominant.
If the Western conference is known for its offensive firepower, then the East is without a doubt a defensive-minded (or goaltending-minded) beast.
Asbury Park may be home of the original Beast from the East in Bam Bam Bigelow, but this incarnation of the Bolts from NoSportsInParticularTown USA absolutely deserves the moniker. Tampa Bay’s offensive torchbearers composed of the Triplets Johnson, Kucherov and Palat are true revelations this season and those guys deserve an entire post of their own, but let’s not forget a certain guy named Steven who has a knack for scoring big goals.
Detroit, Montreal and New York have already fallen, could Chicago be next?
The Lightning could be four wins away from earning their second Stanley Cup in franchise history; the first of the Stamkos Era, with Steve Yzerman at the helm as GM. Maybe they could add a brand new nickname to further their mythos as well:
Original Six Killer