The First round of the NHL Playoffs has been really interesting for all teams involved. Every now and then a team will get swept in the first round but this time two teams got swept. The Columbus Blue Jackets swept the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders swept the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday to complete a very surprising couple of series’.
Two First Round Sweeps
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning made history on Tuesday and not the good kind. They became the first Presidents’ Trophy winning team to get swept in the first round. What just transpired completely shocked the hockey world. The Lightning won 62 games which tied for the most in NHL history. They have the Potential Hart Trophy winner (MVP), the potential Vezina Trophy winner (best goaltender), and the Potential Jack Adams award winner (Coach of the Year). The Blue Jackets, who were the second wild card team, came out and showed why all that goes out the window and being the best means absolutely nothing in the playoffs.
Reasons They Got Swept
Top Players Were a Non-Factor
Their top players didn’t nearly do enough in this series to be of any threat to the opponent. Three players specifically that everyone thought needed to shine for the Lightning to advance but simply didn’t are Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point. In the regular season, all three of these players had 40+ goals and had over 90 points with Kucherov having well over 100. Kucherov didn’t score one goal in the series. A one-game suspension was handed out for a dangerous hit in game 2. That hurt the Lightning even worse. Stamkos only had ten shots on goal the whole series. Point had a power-play goal in game four and that’s it. All three were no shows and you definitely need more out of these highly skilled players.
2. Injuries On The Defense
This is not an excuse for the Lightning at all. They have skill and depth so they should be able to withstand a couple of injuries but they didn’t. The Lightning went without two top four defensemen in Victor Headman for a couple of games and Anton Stralman for all of the games. Although Headman didn’t miss game one or two, he missed the last four games of the regular seasons with a concussion. It apparently lingered into the playoff series he didn’t look right at all in the first two games. Coach Jon Cooper pulled him out of the lineup for the final two games and his absence was felt throughout. Stralman didn’t play in the series at all as he was dealing with a lower body injury.
3. Special Teams Issues
The Lightning’s special teams were a huge part of their success in the regular season but they just couldn’t sustain it. The Lightning went 1-6 on the power play and didn’t score on it until game four. They also gave up a shorthanded goal. The penalty kill wasn’t that great either as they gave up a game winner to Seth Jones which seems to give all the momentum to Columbus for the rest of the series.
The Penguins have been the team to beat for a while in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Penguins top lines are some of the best in the league with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel just to name a few. They just couldn’t get things going. The problems are kind of similar to the problems that the Lightning had but to a larger extent.
Reasons They Got Swept
Lack of Production From Top Players
One of the best players in the league Sidney Crosby went completely silent. In game four, he missed a wide-open goal as Robin Lehner was down. He has no goals and one assist for the entire series. Not only did Crosby not show up but a few other top players didn’t as well. Forward Evgeni Malkin had no points in game three or four, Foward Phil Kessel had no points in game two, three, or four. Forward Patric Hornqvist didn’t record a point at all and defensemen Kris Letang had one assist. The Islanders held the Penguins to only six goals in total.
2. Power Play Out of Sight
The Penguins’ power play ranked fifth in the NHL during the regular season but was a no show in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They went 1-11 with no power play goals in the final three games.
3. Momentum Staggered
The Penguins had no momentum going for them. They failed to score consecutively at all during this series. For that reason, they never took the crowd out of it in Brooklyn and that is never good for the visiting team. The fans in Pittsburgh got loud at some points in the game but the team didn’t give them a reason to keep the energy. The lack of scoring and the sloppy play really turned off the fans. A crowd is really important in a playoff series and the Penguins couldn’t get the home crowd going.
The Lightning and Penguins would like to forget this ever happened. They both did nothing to improve game after game and it cost them. Both teams did not come close to showing their potential. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are very unpredictable and we saw what happened with the Lightning and Penguins.
Embed from Getty Images