Sean Bergenheim: Depth Players Stepping It Up in Playoffs for the Lightning
I have heard many reasons for the success for the Lightning's playoff run: "The Penguins were without Malkin and Crosby, there was no way they were going to win!" "The Capitals are known to choke in playoffs, and Ovechkin has had a horrible season!"
I feel that no matter how many reasons people place on the Lightning's playoff run, the Lightning show that they are definitely a team to watch out for this postseason.
However, the single biggest asset the Lightning have gotten from their team is the influx of secondary scoring.
Really, who thought Sean Bergenheim of all players would lead the team in goals in the playoffs?!
Though players like Lecavalier, St. Louis and Stamkos are all expected to have great stats in the playoffs, it's the depth players that always help propel the team from playoff contender to Stanley Cup victor.
The best example from last season is definitely Ville Leino. Leino emerged out of nowhere, and produced at a point-per-game level during the Flyers Stanley Cup run last season. He was tied for third on the team with 21 points in 19 games—pretty solid numbers considering Leino only came out of the press box due to key injuries to Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter.
The Flyers eventually made it to the finals, but lost to the Blackhawks in six games. The fact that the Flyers even made it to the finals that year is no short of spectacular, as the No. 7 seed Flyers were expected to be easy pickings for the No. 2 seed New Jersey Devils.
The Lightning these playoffs have shown they do possess that secondary scoring to drive their team to the Stanley Cup finals. By looking at the top point producers this postseason for the Lightning, you will find some pretty surprising names in the top five.
I'd be hesitant to call player such as Teddy Purcell and Steve Downie "depth players," but they are definitely not players you would expect leading your team in post season points. Steve Downie has always been a controversial player, with many suspensions to go along with his reputation as a major pest.
These playoffs, however, Downie has become an effective two-way player. His plus/minus currently leads the Lightning in the playoffs. He has solidified himself on the third-line and also provides solid penalty killing for the Lightning.
Teddy Purcell has definitely been the biggest surprise this season for the Lightning, never mind the playoffs. The undrafted right winger is becoming a great player, possessing great vision on the ice and great puck handling skills. Though he would benefit from shooting the puck more and adding some muscle to his 6'2" frame, he has emerged greatly from where he once was.
I'm pretty sure LA is regretting the trade more and more each day of these playoffs.
The biggest story this postseason for the Lightning however, is Sean Bergenheim.
A former first-round draft pick by the New York Islanders in hopes he would become an effective two way forward with a scoring touch (a second coming to Gary Roberts is my best comparison), Bergenheim never lived up to his first-round status during his years on the island. He was an effective grinder, but never cracked the 20 goals or 40 points during his years in New York.
Being stuck in the defensive role never allowed Bergenheim to grow as a player.
Bergenheim tested the free agent waters, and got a one-year offer from the Lightning. Luckily Bergenheim proved that he was definitely a huge bargain for the Lightning. Bergenheim got the fresh start he needed, and so far in the playoffs, he has definitely shown some of that first round talent that he was drafted for nine years ago.
Bergenheim credits all his success to his linemates Steve Downie, and Dominic Moore (who is also having a great post season). Bergenheim has gotten the trust of his teammates. Victor Hedman said that Bergenheim "has been a force, and dominating games. Something always happens every time Bergenheim steps on the ice."
With players like Downie, Purcell and Bergenheim playing some great playoff hockey, it will definitely prove the Lightning can regain some of their fans from their Stanley Cup win pre-lockout.
Everything for the Lightning is clicking right now.
Both St. Louis and Lecavalier are putting up points a plenty every game, and are still an integral part of the Tampa Bay roster. Dwayne Roloson is one player that needs to be highlighted for his performance so far these playoffs.
Roloson's historic playoff run consisted of him playing some strong hockey against both the offensively gifted Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. Prior to the 41 year old's playoff run, only two other goalies have won eight games after the age of fourty. Fortunately, Roloson is in some pretty elite company. Johnny Bower matched Roloson's mark more than fourty years ago, playing for Scotty Bowman's St. Louis Blues during their 1969 playoff run.
The other goalie is Dominic Hasek, playing goalie for the Red Wings back in 2007 and winning 10 games.
Everything for the Lightning is clicking right now, and they are currently the hottest team in hockey. After sweeping the Capitals, the Lightning head off to Boston to play in the Eastern conference finals. If Steven Stamkos can break out of his slump, this Tampa Bay Lightning squad will be the scariest team to play in these 2010-2011 playoffs.
Watching the Lightning play with such dominance can only remind of old Tampa Bay fans of their Stanley Cup run back in 2004.
If the Stanley Cup was given out right now, there is no doubt Lightning are the most deserving team. However, with two more round to go, it is still anyone's game.
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