Stanley Cup Preview

The next few weeks, I'll be kind enough to provide all you hockey n00bs the insight and opinion I can on the Lightning/Calgary Stanley Cup Finals series.

To kick things off, here's the statistical breakdown (ripped straight from NHL.com):

Calgary (42-30-7-3, 94 pts) vs. Tampa Bay (46-22-8-6, 106 pts)

CategoryAmountLeague Rank
Goals For20019
Goals Against1763
Power-Play Percentage15.121
Penalty Kill Percentage84.613
Faceoff Percentage50.712
CategoryAmountLeague Rank
Goals For2453
Goals Against19211
Power-Play Percentage16.216
Penalty Kill Percentage84.810
Faceoff Percentage50.016

Scoring Leaders (G-A-TP)

1. JAROME IGINLA: 41-32-73
2. CRAIG CONROY: 8-39-47
3. SHEAN DONOVAN: 18-24-42

Scoring Leaders (G-A-TP)

1. MARTIN ST. LOUIS: 38-56-94
2. CORY STILLMAN: 25-55-80
3. BRAD RICHARDS: 26-53-79

Goaltending Leaders (W-L-T, GAA)

MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF: 24-10-4, 1.69
ROMAN TUREK: 6-11-0, 2.33

Goaltending Leaders (W-L-T, GAA)

JOHN GRAHAME: 18-9-1, 2.06

REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Lightning win series, 1-0-0

Jan. 24: Lightning 6, at Flames 2

The short of it: on paper, the Lightning look like the better team overall. However, as Calgary has proven in its entire playoff run, the numbers mean nothing. As the sixth seed in the West, Calgary has been the lower ranked team in every series it has been in, and was expected to lose every series.

How did they get here? The Flames beat the third seeded Vancouver Canucks in 7 games, the top-ranked Red Wings in 6 games, and most recently the second place San Jose Sharks, also in 6. Calgary is the first team ever to defeat three teams with over 100 points from the regular season to make the Stanley Cup Finals. The last time Calgary made the finals was in 1989, when they won the Cup.

The Lightning defeated the Islanders in 5, swept the Montreal Candiens, and just capped off a fantastic, exciting and emotional 7 game series with the Philadelphia Flyers. Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk previously held the record for playing the most regular season games without playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. Now that record is finalized with his appearance in the finals, but it also rewrites it anew: most regular season games without winning the Cup. At 40, Andreychuk is hungry... and more than likely looks to go out on top. This is also the first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals for the Lightning.

The top playoff performer for Calgary has been Jarome Iginla, as he was in the regular season. He currently has the most postseason goals at 10. Tampa's main star and regular season point leader Martin St. Louis has been relatively quiet in the goal department with only 5, but has 13 assists and leads the postseason with 18 points.

Calgary and Tampa play similar styles of hockey. Both teams are quick, have solid defense, and have an excellent passing offense. Neither team is afraid to change up its system for a win, and both teams have shown the ability to push themselves when in the clutch. Both teams can play physical if it comes to it, but they don't depend on size... they're both speed teams.

In terms of goaltending, it's Khabibulin for Tampa and Kiprusoff for Calgary. This is a non-issue, as both goalies are playing the best hockey of their careers. Assuming their level of play stays as it has been throughout the playoffs, we could be looking at goals that require a lot more luck than skill on both ends of the ice.

The key for Calgary is going to be shutting down the Tampa players that can create a fast break for the Lightning and turn around the game in a heartbeat, as they've done many times in the playoffs. Lecavalier, Richards, Fedotenko and Modin are key players for the Lightning's potent offense. Calgary will also have to make sure to stay out of the penalty box, as Tampa managed to score on 8 of its last 9 power plays against the Flyers, including the opening goal in game 7 of the series with the Flyers. Finally, Calgary has had a great deal of trouble winning at home, and will have to fix that. The bad news for Calgary is that Tampa has the same amount of losses at home as it does on the road in this post-season: two. Calgary certainly won't be able to guarantee wins at the Forum, so winning at home will be key.

Tampa, on the other hand, will need to keep the intensity up. Just getting off a series where neither Philly nor Tampa could keep momentum in their favor for a period (let alone a game), Tampa showed a lot of perseverance - along with a lack of consistency. Tampa should put more pressure on the point men in the defensive zone to force the Calgary players to make a play with the puck rather than take their time and take a shot. I know their defensive strategy is to block shots and let the shooter shoot as long as he has a bad angle, but deflections can be killer. Tampa will also need to keep the pressure on in the offensive zone to limit the time Iginla gets to handle the puck. Iginla has such a level of skill that if you give him too much time in your zone, he'll put the puck in the net. The best way to counter that is to keep the puck in their zone by pressuring their defense.

It's going to be a great hockey series, and it's great for both towns involved. It's two young, hungry, hard-working teams with a lot of heart that have most certainly earned their place here in the finals.

With all that said... Go Bolts!

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2003 - 2005
Reverend Hughes