Three weeks ago, we published this piece that explained the match up the Lightning would face if the playoffs started that day. We also predicted that it would likely not change in the final weeks of the season, and we are correct: the Lightning will face the Penguins in the opening round of their first playoff appearance since 2007.
At the time, we thought it wasn’t a favorable match up for our Bolts, and that’s still mostly true. However, one main thing has changed since then: heart. The Lightning have adjusted to a grittier style, and they come into the post season one of the hottest teams in the league.
They beat the Pens in their last meeting 2-1 and beat the current Cup Champs, the Chicago Blackhawks, 2-0. Their mentality has clearly changed, and they will be healthy in the playoffs.
These factor have caused us to change our prediction: Lightning in 7.
Even if/when Crosby returns, the rest of the Penguins will likely be worn out form the load and style they have had to play through the last three months without what is essentially their entire offense. There is only so long a team can play like that, and it isn’t likely they can last another two weeks like that.
And the Lightning will push it the distant. Most pundits are counting them out, but they shouldn’t. This series will go at least 6, no matter who wins in the end. For the Lightning, it will be a great learning experience and a taste of what is to come the next several years as they continue to develop.
The pressure is all on the Pens, we’ll see how the Lightning react.