Tampa Bay Lightning's Blueprint to a Deep Run in 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Eric SteitzAnalyst IIIApril 18, 2014

The Lightning are going to be in for a dogfight against Montreal, but it's a very winnable series.
The Lightning are going to be in for a dogfight against Montreal, but it's a very winnable series.Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Lightning have the pieces and ability to make a deep run in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. They also have a blueprint for success. Game 1 of their opening-round series on April 16 against Montreal wasn’t it.

The youth of the Lightning came to the forefront in the first career NHL playoff game for the rookies. It was the type of game that the Bolts were playing in early March.

Correcting the game plan involves some very fundamental tweaks. If the Lightning can make the adjustments quickly, they can get back on track before going on the road to Montreal in a potentially even series.


Magic Number 2

Tampa Bay has a great offense, but the Bolts are far more successful when they focus on defense first. In the Lightning’s four-game winning streak to close out the year, they gave up just four goals.

For the Bolts, their magic number this postseason is two, as in goals against. If the Bolts can hold their opponent to two goals or less, they will be in a good position to win a lot of games.

Considering the Lightning put up a four-goal performance on 25 shots in Game 1, things appear to be going well for the offense. They averaged 2.83 goals per game during the regular season.


Limit Scoring Chances

The Bolts may have given up five goals in Game 1, but very minimal blame can be placed on Anders Lindback. The Swedish netminder was left to fend for himself with attackers on the doorstep throughout the game.

He faced 44 shots, seven from prolific scorer Thomas Vanek and six from a talented David Desharnais. Coming up with a win in this situation would have been difficult regardless of who was in net. It won’t be Ben Bishop "anytime soon."

Lindback has proven he can make the first save, but breakaways in the playoffs can be killers. Leaving forwards wide open in front of the net doesn’t help, either.


Dominate the Dot

It wasn’t all negative for the Lightning. In fact, they improved greatly in the faceoff dot, winning 58 percent of the draws. Nate Thompson and Valtteri Filppula won 70 and 67 percent of their draws, respectively. Those are impressive numbers.

Winning that many faceoffs equates to more offensive opportunities and less defensive time. For a team that won 49.2 percent of its draws during the regular season, this is a significant improvement in a key area.

Continuing to be successful in the faceoff circle will become more important as the series drags on, especially on the road.


Below the Circles

Watching the first game, Montreal had a distinct advantage in zone time. The Habs played below the circles in Tampa Bay’s zone. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay seemed to play more at the blue line and in the neutral zone. In overtime, that cost the Bolts.

Despite the struggles in Game 1 to play a Tampa Bay-style game, the Lightning were just one shot and a few inches away from coming out with a win. As they prepare for the rest of the series, the Bolts will need to get back to playing their game.

Montreal is a formidable foe, but Tampa Bay has proven that the Habs are beatable. It’s about sticking to the game plan and the blueprint for success. It’s going to be a wild series that could shape the future of the Lightning for years to come.