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Question of the Week: Who Would You Like to See in the First Round?

The Raw Charge “Question of the Week” is a weekly feature that poses a question to Raw Charge writers and sometimes other writers within the Boltosphere, discussing the ins and outs of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Over the past few weeks on the site, we’ve offered our opinions on the job Steve Yzerman has done as GM, and looked at the best pickup of the previous offseason.

Well, this week, we’re bringing the focus back to the team on the ice, as well as taking a look into the future.  We’re in the final month of the season, so I’ve asked the Raw Charge staff this:

Assuming that the standings remain relatively the same, who would you prefer to face in the first round of the playoffs at this point and why?

The answers from our staff are below the jump.  We’d love your take in the comments!

Meredith Qualls – Staff

I’d be interested to see a Penguins-Bolts match-up in the first round. Sure, the Lightning are struggling right now, having lost 6 of their last 8 games, but if they’re going to get anywhere in the post-season, they’ve got to go into round one with a mindset that they will overcome any of their complacency pitfalls. Having suffered two embarrassing losses to Pittsburgh this season, losing 1-5 in November and 1-8 in January, the mistakes have been made against the Pens, and the Bolts know what not to repeat. Speaking for individuals, the Sidney CrosbySteven Stamkos matchup, though nothing new, is still entertaining.

Dani Toth – Staff / Lightning Hockey Blog

By process of elimination, the Pens.

Things can change obviously, but since Crosby only started to skate and may or may not be ready for the playoffs, I have to pick the weakest team that I think the Lightning have a chance at beating. It’s by no means saying that we can’t take on any other teams (outside of Boston because they’re a scary team), but if I had a preference, Pittsburgh would be my first choice based on them not having Crosby or Malkin.Cassie McClellan – Staff

Pretty much anyone but the New Jersey Devils, the Montreal Canadiens, or the Washington Capitals. Especially New Jersey. They have just been on an unstoppable tear lately, and I seriously doubt that they’ll be stopping that any time soon. They may not look like much on paper, but they’re 8-2-0 in their last ten games. Montreal has one of the hottest goalies in the league right now in Carey Price. (Who would’ve thought anyone would be saying that about Price a year ago?) Washington – while not likely that the Lightning will face them in the first round, though still possible – has gotten hot at the right time of year. They ought to go right through whoever they face in the first round in four or five games. That’s not a fun prospect.

The rest of the Eastern Conference, while not poorly playing teams by any means, are currently playing rather average. The New York Rangers are starting to heat up, but that could still fizzle out. The Rangers just haven’t been that consistent all season. I’d take my chances with anyone else but the Devils, the Habs, or the Caps right now.

Nolan Whyte – Staff / Frozen Sheets Hockey

It would require both teams to make a push in the standings, but I would like to see the Lightning tangle with the New York Rangers this post-season. First, because the teams have not met in the playoffs before, which would spare us the tedium of another Caps or Flyers series. Yawn.

The more obvious reason I want the Rangers is because of the lovable lunatic behind their bench, the curse-word spewing ex-Lightning bench boss John “#$%&ing *$%&!” Tortorella. The action on the ice would be dramatic enough, but I’d be “All In” for Tort’s post-game mania. We all remember him going bat-balls crazy about Ken Hitchcock in the 2004 playoffs. Well, he’s gone on a rant about Guy Boucher already this season, and it wasn’t even related to a game. Imagine what he would be saying after a game five loss where his team falls apart. We might even see him go after Thunderbug.

Plus, I think the Lightning could totally handle the Rangers, and that would make the series even sweeter. That wasn’t a jinx, was it?

John Fontana – Staff

As it stands right now, before Thursday night’s action in Montreal, the Lightning are 5th seed in the East. They have the ability to climb and fall in the standings a bit, but they’re looking at being in the top half of the final standings in the Conference.

The Bolts also play head-to-head with four teams still vying for their place in the standings: aforementioned Montreal, the Pittsburgh Penguins (who are ahead of the Lightning in the standings at current), the Buffalo Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes (who the Bolts face three more times before the end of the season).

Assuming the Bolts stay in 5th in the conference, and looking at the teams above them… I think I’d much rather face the Pittsburgh Penguins than the Boston Bruins in the 1st round of the 2011 NHL playoffs.

Things have just not gone right when the Bolts have played the B’s – be it the December 1st, 8-1 massacre, or the “Campbell-ized” 4-3 loss a few weeks later, or recall the injury plagued 2-1 loss against the Bruins on March 3rd.

Of course, the Bolts got run over by the Penguins on January 5th (8-1 final) as well as a 5-1 loss in November, but the Bolts traditionally play the Penguins a lot closer than they do the Bruins. The Bolts, all-time, have less than a handful of wins in Beantown.

I’ll take my chances with Sidney Crosby, thanks.

Previous Question of the Week: Top Pickup from the 2010 Offseason.

Which Eastern Conference team would you rather the Lightning face in the 1st round of the 2011 NHL playoffs?

Boston Bruins 8
Montreal Canadiens 25
New York Rangers 48
Pittsburgh Penguins 23
Other (but it’d require big changes to the current standings) 2

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