Tampa Bay Lightning Poised for a Strong Season

----- -----------Correspondent ISeptember 1, 2009

MISSISSAUGA, CANADA - AUGUST 26:  Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning follows through on a shot during the Upper Deck NHL Rookie Debut at the Hershey Centre August 26, 2009 in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

In a recent article outlining the reviews of the offseason and predictions of the regular season outcome I received some scrutiny about a specific team and my prediction of them making the post-season.

That team would be the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Instead of continuously writing replies as to why these Lightning squad would be enjoying a postseason berth, I decided to write a detailed analysis as to why specifically I feel this team will make the jump from 14th to eighth or better.

Firstly if the forwards, you cannot deny that this bunch has the talent comparable to successful playoff-bound teams. They have Vincent Lecavalier, arguably one of the top forwards in the league who has already hoisted the Stanley Cup.

He has highlight reel goals almost every week and he is good for—at worst—close to 70 points a year. At his peak he has had over 50 goals and 108 points. Lecavalier is already a superstar, and the rest of his team is capable of complimenting his talent.

Next we have Martin St. Louis, who on a bad season is worth 60 points. His peak came at 102 points with 43 goals and even during last years abysmal season, he scored 30 times for a total of 80 points.

These two form a dynamic duo that can light it up on any given night.

Then we have recently drafted Steven Stamkos. His first half of his rookie season wasn't that great, in fact bomb was a word that could be used to describe it. In the second half, however, he light it up and showed a taste of what is in stock for this season. He ended the season with respects, with a total of 46 points split evenly between goals and assists.

You can't ignore Ryan Malone either, who is consistent for a good 40 to 50 points a year establishing himself as a forward who has vision, control and a good shot as well.

Throw in the most recent draft pick of Victor Hedman, known for scouting the blue-line and putting up points to boot you can expect that the Lightning blue-line will be somewhat of a challenge this year to get past.

The 220 point six-foot-six defenseman was ranked as the top European player available in the draft. He also had international experience, representing his country in each of the previous two world junior championships, winning the silver medal twice. 

People can start pointing out chemistry issues, or the same type of deal as last year with major tweaking and changes while enjoying no success. To expect a repeat of that would mean you'd have to find the cracks that existing in this line-up from last year to see if it is actually repeatable this year.

Clearly, a damaging point last season was the Lightning's blue-line. This year, it enjoyed a complete overhaul. The lightning went through over 20 defensemen last season, not one of them enjoying decent numbers. Injuries occurred more often then not, and not one played more then 60 games. 

What changed this off-season? Well the lightning went out and bought a couple of very good NHL caliber defense-men.

Mattias Ohlund from Vancouver, Matt Walker from Chicago, Kurtis Foster and David Hale all joined the Lightning D-Corps. Not to mention we already spoke about the No. 2 overall draft pick Victor Hedman. 

To sum up so far, offence is not an issue. Stamkos, Lecavalier, St. Louis, and Ryan Malone can produce the offence needed for postseason run, and we didn't even cover their secondary scoring. 

Defense looks tight, with an abundance of players looking to crack the line-up and make a slot in the NHL. 

The only lingering questions that remain from last season is in goal-tending. By now, Mike Smith should be off the injury list, with his concussion problems gone. 

Also, newly acquired Antero Niittymaki can be counter on to split the load should it be required.

Either way Niittymaki and Smith are walking onto the ice with a much better defensive corps ready to ease the load on these two goaltenders. So how much of a question really remains in goaltending?

So there it is, my review on the Tampa Bay Lightning and the reasons outlining my belief for a postseason berth. Agree with it or not, let me hear about it in the comments.