2011 NHL Playoffs: Five Goats for the Tampa Bay Lightning
In what was a tremendous renaissance for the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team surged from obscurity to explode on to the NHL Playoff landscape. Still, the dream of raising the Holy Grail of sports above their shoulders fell five wins short.
In this list, we'll discuss the "goats" of the playoffs. Not all of these players played poorly per se, in fact, many of them had dramatic impacts in early playoff games. However, when you get this far but fail to advance, people look to point the finger somewhere and these guys seem to be as good a candidate as any.
5. Eric Brewer, Defenseman
As solid as he was in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer struggled in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Lightning leaned on Brewer, giving the hulking defenseman 25 minutes of ice time per game, but Brewer's team usually saw the puck end up in the net while he was on the ice.
He finished with just one point in the series (an assist), had 10 penalty minutes (most of the tripping and hooking variety) and was a minus four.
4. Ryan Malone, Fwd
Ryan Malone received a lot of praise during the Eastern Conference Finals for doing the little things...and it was well deserved.
Unfortunately for the Lightning and Malone, he didn't do enough of the big things.
Malone blazed a trail to the Tampa Bay penalty box multiple times during the series, typically for goalie interference. While some were certainly horrible calls, others were well deserved and hurt the team's scoring chances.
While Malone was never counted on to be a big time goal scorer, he parked himself in front of the net, trying to block the vision of goaltender Tim Thomas. You'd think that would lead to some rebound goals for him or a strong plus/minus, but Malone had one point in the series (an assist) and was a -1.
3. Marc-Andre Bergeron, Defenseman
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Placed into the lineup because of his scoring ability, Marc-Andre Bergeron proved to be more of a liability on defense than a threat to score.
Bergeron was bailed out a countless number of times by his goaltenders with terrible giveaways and just plain poor defensive play.
Despite quality time on the power play, Bergeron managed just one point, a goal in Game 1.
The times he wasn't bailed out left him with a minus 1 for the series.
2. Steven Stamkos, Fwd
No one can question Steven Stamkos' toughness and heart. After having his nose obliterated by a slapshot from the point, the gutty young Bolts superstar returned and finished the game.
Unfortunately for the player nicknamed "the Hammer", it was his mistake (and that of defensemen Victor Hedman and Eric Brewer) that sealed the Lightning's fate.
It wasn't the first time in the playoffs a mistake or turnover by Stamkos ended up in the back of the Lightning's net.
Stamkos, like so many goal scoring phenoms, struggled to find open ice in the post season. There were some nights he barely registered a shot on the scoresheet, causing one out-of-town wag to call him "Stam-ghost"
The final numbers' story are about as pretty as his nose right now. 18 games, 6 goals, 7 assists, 13 points, -5 plus/minus.
1. Dwayne Roloson, Goalie
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It's hard to think that Roloson is on this list, especially at the top. He was sensational most of the playoffs and was at his very best in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Still, before Game 7, he was downright horrible in this series. He came into the Eastern Conference Finals with a 2.01 GAA while making a playoff leading 366 saves. Roloson has also posted a league best .941 save percentage (among players with at least 4 appearances in the playoffs).
In East Finals, Roloson was pulled twice while posting a 3.66 GAA and a .882 save percentage.
In the games he started in the ECF, the Lightning were 3-3 but he received a no decision in Game Four because he had already been pulled after allowing 3 first period goals. Tampa Bay rallied to win that game 5-3.
The Lightning certainly wouldn't have been in the Eastern Conference Finals without the stellar play of Roloson. They couldn't win the Finals without it, either, and that's a big reason why Boston is in Vancouver preparing for the Canucks and the Lightning are wondering about what could have been...