Lightning advance to Eastern Conference Championship

With their win today over the New York Islanders, the Tampa Bay Lightning became the first team to advance to the Eastern Conference championship round. Although Tampa lost the first game at home, they won the next four, which included two wins in Brooklyn. Stealing the show in the second round of the NHL Playoffs was Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman.

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A native of Sweden, Hedman collected four goals and eight points over the five-game series, and two of the goals came in Tampa's 4-0 series-clinching victory.

Taken second overall in the 2009 draft, Hedman is only 25 and is becoming one of the top defensemen in the NHL. In the 2015 playoffs, many people said that Hedman broke out of his shell and emerged as an elite defenseman, but he only continues to get better as the playoffs go on. Complimenting Hedman is forward Nikita Kucherov.

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Kucherov leads all players in playoff goals since 2015 and continues to lead the 2016 playoffs in goals with nine. He scored on a breakaway in game five and, along with Hedman, helped the Bolts to a second straight Eastern conference final appearance.

With all of the high-powered offense that Tampa Bay has, goaltender Ben Bishop has consistently been one of the best goaltenders in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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A 2016 Vezina Trophy finalist, a veteran of the University of Maine, and a goalie for Team USA, Bishop shut out the Islanders in game five to clinch the second round series; it was his fourth shutout in series-clinching games which started with a victory over the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.

In just 10 games, Tampa has advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.

Last season, Tampa played 26 of a possible 28 playoff games, but now the Bolts may have over a week off before the next series begins. 

Although the pieces seemed to have fallen into place for Tampa, they are still missing forward J.T. Brown, defenseman Anton Stralman, and their captain, Steven Stamkos. Many people think this will be Stamkos's last opportunity for a cup in Tampa Bay, and the team is hoping to make a second-straight Stanley Cup Final appearance with Stamkos and Stralman in the lineup.

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Tickets for the Eastern Conference Finals go on sale Thursday, May 12, at 2 p.m. ET. 

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