by PuckStopsHere on 05/03/13 at 08:09 PM ET
It is kind of a backhanded compliment to be the best team that missed the playoffs (it's a lot like being the prettiest fat girl in school). Nevertheless as I watch the playoffs there are a few teams that look like they have been lucky to make the playoffs. They managed to fluke their way in after 48 games, but I doubt they would make playoffs in a full length 82 game season. I look out at the teams the missed the playoffs and see a few that would probably do better than some of the teams that did make the playoffs. The non-playoff team that I think would have been the toughest playoff team is the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The finished second last in the East Conference. They only won 18 out of 48 games but I think they would be the best of the non-playoff teams if they made playoffs. Offensively this team is led by the two highest scorers in the NHL. Martin St Louis won the scoring title and Steve Stamkos was second. Never before has a team that missed the playoffs had the top two scorers in the league. When you shorten the benches in the playoffs the value of talented offensive stars increases. Tampa doesn't have great offensive depth but they do have further valuable offensive players including Vincent LeCavalier and Ted Purcell. In fact Tampa was the third highest scoring team in the league this season.
Their problem came with keeping the puck out of their net. Only four teams allowed more goals than the Lightning. Tampa allowed two more goals than they scored. That is the record of a team that should have around half their games end in wins (what was formerly known as .500). Tampa failed to live up to that mark but I think it was largely bad luck.
Tampa missed the playoffs for a reason. A defence of Matt Carle, Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer and Sami Salo won't scare anyone but there are weaker groups in the playoffs this year. In goal Ben Bishop looks like he will be a solid goalie. He may be good enough to steal some games for the Lightning and if he is this is a team that could win a series or two in the playoffs.
I think the East Conference is lucky that Tampa Bay missed the playoffs. They would be more dangerous than some of the eastern playoff teams. If Tampa does nothing this summer, they should improve because luck was against them this year. It won't make them a top team but it could make them a playoff team that has a chance to win a round. They are better than their record showed this year.
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