Playoffs Here We Come, with Bugsy

By on April 1, 2011

Tampa, Fl. (RSEN)–For owner Jeff Vinik, GM Steve Yzerman and the entire Lightning organization tonight was culmination of the rebranding of this franchise.  The first goal of the new look franchise was getting this team in the playoffs and they have done just that.  The Bolts clinched a playoff spot for the first time in four years after their 2-1 victory last night against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the St Pete Times Forum.  The win also pulls the Bolts within 3 points of Pittsburgh, with a game in hand, for home ice advantage in the first round.

The players and coaches will tell you that making the playoffs is just the start; it’s only the first step in the process.  They still have a lot to play for as home ice advantage in the playoffs.

Vinny Lecavalier talked about the victory after the game. “We had a few tough years and to come this year and just, I felt we had a great season so far, but it’s the beginning obviously it’s the first step to making the playoffs after that it’s the first round. We set our goals, we wanted to make the playoffs, and we’re there, now obviously we’re not sure who we’re going play, probably Pittsburgh.”

Steve Downie got the Bolts off to a good start as he knocked in a rebound attempt of a Simon Gagne wrap around attempt, to give them a 1-0 lead at 4:51 of the first.  Steven Stamkos continued to build on his solid effort against Ottawa with an assist on the goal.

Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier continued his excellent play as he landed a crushing check on Penguin defenseman Kris Letang who, turned over the puck which ended up on Marty St. Louis’ stick.  Marty was able to score passed Fluery on the short side for his 30th goal.

Steven Stamkos and St Louis have led this team all year long but you could make an argument that Lecavalier has been the Lightning’s best all-around player since the January.  His attention to detail in all phases of the game has Coach Boucher singing his praises on a nightly basis.  Couple that with the recent good play of Simon Gagne, this team has 2 plus scoring lines, heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Lightning are going to be a tough our for any team.

Tampa Bay’s best players having been coming up big recently, Lecavalier has scored 24 points in 23 games, St Louis has 17 pts. in 12 games and Gagne even at a better clip with 13 pts. in 8 games.  

Pittsburgh came out of the locker room in the third period flying and applying a ton of pressure on Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson who was making save after save.  It took a little fluky wrist shot by Michael Rupp that beat him at 4:31 of the third period to close the gap to 2-1. 

Roloson is starting to round into form at just the right time as the team is heading into the playoffs.  As anyone in the league will tell you once you make the playoffs it’s the hot goaltender that wins the Stanley Cup. Roloson was impressed with his teammates work on the penalty kill. After the game Roloson said, “Our penalty killers, are our defensive core on the penalty kill were amazing. They did not give them any time and space to get into our zone and when they did get into our zone great stick on puck and kept guys to the outside.  When they did get a couple shots I was able to see most of them.”

It also helped that the Bolts are starting to get much healthier as they welcomed Ryan Malone into the lineup tonight.  “Bugsy” return was felt up and down the entire lineup as his physical presence was a welcome addition to the Bolts lineup. He produced traffic in front of the net, 3 shots on goal and 5 hits in the game tonight…not bad for your first night back on the job after two months.

Tampa Bay begins a crucial stretch on the road as they head to Minnesota and Chicago over the weekend and then cap it off in Buffalo before they head back home.

Tune in to RSEN on ESPN 1040am Saturdays 10am to 12noon.

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