Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings: How Do They Match Up?


The Tampa Bay Lightning are set to take on the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Just how do these two teams match up?

Last year in the postseason, the Tampa Bay Lightning produced a Game 7 triumph over Atlantic Division rival Detroit Red Wings. This year the two clubs are at it again in a first round rematch. Here’s a closer look at how these two teams matchup on the ice.

On Wednesday, April 13th, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings will kick off their postseason at Amalie Arena. For the Red Wings, it is their 25th consecutive trip to the playoffs and it is one of more than just payback for their loss to the Lightning last year. Career Red Wing Pavel Datsyuk confirmed a few days ago that this season will be his last in the NHL as he intends to return home to Russia to be closer to his family.

Datsyuk, who turns 38 in July, has been a shining star for the organization since 2001-2002, amassing over 950 career games and 918 career points. As the sun sets on the career of perhaps the most famous dangler in NHL of this generation, an already inspired Detroit club will no doubt want to send their hero home with Stanley Cup silver.

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason ended in heartbreaking fashion as they watched the Chicago Blackhawks capture their third title in six seasons. Their second trip to the Stanley Cup Finals ended with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman declaring Chicago a dynasty.

While a loss in the finals is enough to motivate any team, the Tampa Bay Lightning has had a tumultuous road back to the postseason.

Their inconsistencies had found them as far back as a dozen points from first place in the Atlantic. Two private team meetings had to be called over the course of the season to put things together.

Forward Jonathan Drouin had asked for a trade after being assigned to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL and then later refused to report. Defenseman Anton Stralman suffered a broken fibula in a March 25th contest against the New York Islanders and would miss 4-6 weeks.

Tampa Bay Lightning, Steven Stamkos
Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

On April 2nd, an announcement was made by GM Steve Yzerman that captain Steven Stamkos was diagnosed with a blood clot near his collarbone and would miss 1-3 months of action.

Then in the season finale, forward Tyler Johnson fell precariously into the boards behind the Montreal net after a hit by Montreal Canadiens defensemen Greg Pateryn. He is listed as day to day.

Going into the series, fans could view this series as a mismatch one way or the other. Perhaps Datsyuk’s inevitable retirement is a distraction. The inconsistent goaltending of the Red Wings favors the Lightning. Or the Lightning may have suffered too many injuries and Detroit could take advantage. The Red Wings could be favored due to their uncanny ability to block shooting and passing lanes as well as their knack for holding a lead once they score first. As it breaks down, the two teams are well matched.


Advantage: Even

Three of the Lightning’s top six forwards are listed with day to day injuries and captain Steven Stamkos is on the mend.  The Lightning offense is superior to Detroit’s offense on a paper matchup, but are prone to scoring slumps and are easily frustrated. That does not, however, preclude anyone from being an “X-factor” such as Jonathan Drouin. Detroit hosts an exciting lineup with young names like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, and Dylan Larkin. These unsung heroes of the Detroit lineup are often forgotten due to the press of aging stars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. The inconsistencies of the Lightning’s offense makes this match up too difficult to call.


Advantage: Tampa Bay Lightning

Despite the loss of Anton Stralman, the Lightning still have a formidable defense with the likes of Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn. Most important of all, they still have Victor Hedman; who is perhaps the best-kept secret in the NHL in a division with the likes of Erik Karlsson and P.K Subban. The likes of Mike Green, Danny DeKeyser, and Niklas Kronwall are no slouches. They will give the Lightning forwards a lot of trouble. It’s just that Hedman can take over a game by himself and will his team to victory.

Special Teams

Advantage: Detroit Red Wings

While Tampa Bay boasts one of the league’s best penalty kills, their power play is absolutely appalling. Who can forget them going 1 for 10 in a loss to Vancouver at home? The loss of Stamkos’ famous one-timer takes away perhaps their best chance at scoring with the man advantage. Likewise, Detroit’s power play has proven it can break through if given enough chances. This factor could be the game-changer in the entire series. The Lightning may be able to hold off several power plays against, but they are unlikely to score any power play goals of their own.


Advantage: Tampa Bay Lightning

The inconsistencies of Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard make it hard to vouch for the Red Wings when Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop has played like a Vezina candidate all season long minus a handful of bad games. Look for the Lightning to lean very heavily on their goaltending to carry them to success.


Advantage: Detroit Red Wings

While Mike Babcock may be coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs now, the Red Wings have not forgotten how to play the game that has made them so famous under him. Blocking shots, timely saves, forcing the play wide, puck possession. They have bought into rookie coach Jeff Blashill and will likely continue to frustrate the Lightning as they have done so many times before. For as brilliant as Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper can be, he still has not seemed to figure the Red Wings out.

Next: Tyler Johnson Nailed Into Boards By Greg Pateryn (Video)

Final Prediction: The winner of this series will come down to whoever can score first. It will take the Tampa Bay Lightning all seven games to win the series, the Red Wings will take six due to their ability to hold leads.