Here to help kick-off a collaboration with a "5 Burning Questions" preview, Tampa Bay Sports Examiner Althea Pashman sat down on the hot seat and gave us some insight on the Lightning and their tremendous run thus far this post season.
Mark Marino: 1. One huge boost throughout the post season for the Lighting has been their special teams. They lead all NHL teams with 12 power play goals, and a whopping 94-percent success rate on the penalty-kill -- again, leading all playoff. Who are some of the PP and PK players to watch?
Althea Pashman: No doubt the PK has been superb during the playoffs having allowed just three goals in 54 opportunities for their opponents. Leading the way on the PK is defenseman Eric Brewer, acquired from the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline. He’s bulked up the blue-line and his calmness on the PK and even during even-strength has been an asset. Despite just having six points, he leads the team in hits with 32, total ice-time averages over 26 minutes and his 43 blocked shots leads the league and team as well.
The power-play has also done their job. They lead the NHL in conversions with 12 during the course of the playoffs and are third in conversion ratio at 26.7 percent, behind Anaheim and Phoenix who have been eliminated.
The Lightning’s key power play unit is deep with Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Eric Brewer (who have combined for 18 points) and for a change-up there’s Simon Gagne and Ryan Malone.
MM: The ageless wonder, Dwayne Roloson. It goes without saying, but just how big has he been for the Bolts in each round of the playoffs?
AP: Dwayne Roloson has been nothing but the real deal since being acquired in a New Years Day trade with the Islanders. In Roloson, the Bolts acquired a proven, veteran goaltender that provided the stability that was sorely needed and was the one goaltender that could lead the Lightning into the playoffs.
The Bolts haven’t had a netminder this strong since the days of Nikolai Khabibulin and Roloson is playing just like the ‘Bulin-Wall’ of 2004, when the Lightning when onto win the Stanley Cup. Martin St. Louis credits Roloson at the top penalty-killer on the team and rightfully so as evident of his save percentage while shorthanded (3-for-75 (SA), .960), which leads all goalies remaining in the playoffs.
MM: 3. Who has been the biggest unsung hero of the Tampa Bay club that has been flying under the radar?
AP: No doubt that it belongs to Sean Bergenheim and his linemates – Dominic Moore and Steve Downie. They’ve put up great numbers in the post-season combining for 28 points… but one step further has been the play of Teddy Purcell, who quietly has recorded 11 points (1G, 10A).
MM: We've been hearing a lot of about the Lighting's 1-3-1, or 1-4 system. Explain Head Coach Guy Boucher's method of madness here, and how successful it has been this post season especially.
AP: There is really no method to Boucher’s madness. His system, as unconventional as it may seem, worked in the minors for him and applying it at the NHL was the big test… so far, it’s paid off but the big dividend will be advancing out of the Conference Finals.
The bottom line is that the system is sometimes visible as a 1-3-1 or a 1-2-2 (not a 1-4) and essentially gives their opponent control of the red line, but then it defends against the entry and its own blue line. You’ll see a d-man cheating back to defend against a dump-in, thus quickly gaining control of the puck.
The game plan is to attack, push the puck into the offensive zone and shoot…
MM: The Bruins went 3-1-0 against Tampa Bay during the regular season. Aside from Roloson, what can the Bruins expect to see differently this time around?
AP: The Lightning is a well oiled and conditioned team. They’re not afraid of losing but more importantly they’re getting balanced scoring – especially contributions from their third and fourth lines, which essentially beat Pittsburgh.
The biggest addition along with Roloson though has been Eric Brewer who has stabilized the blue-line. Brewer leads the team in time-on-ice (over 26 minutes), leads all players with 43 blocked shots in the playoffs which has rubbed off on Mattias Ohlund (36), Victor Hedman and Brett Clark (31) to hold the top four spots during the playoffs in blocked shots.