It’s that time of year again in the NHL. The time where clichés are just as common as Pittsburgh and Washington meeting in the postseason. The playoffs [VIDEO] can bring out the best of them. Clichés that is.

Since this is an article on how well the Tampa Bay Lightning’s defenders played in a first-round playoff win against the New Jersey Devils, feel free to insert your favorite “defense wins championships” cliché here. No matter what you came up with, it’s hard to argue against the numbers. In its four wins against the Devils, Tampa’s defense surrendered a combined seven goals, only allowing one goal in both games four and five.

After a season that saw them dominate on the offensive end of the ice, it’s the defense that deserves much of the credit for the Lightning knocking New Jersey out of the playoffs in five games.

Throughout the last month of the regular season, the Devils were putting pucks in the net at a clip of more than three per game. That helped the team compile an 11-4 record in that stretch and secure the Devils' first playoff appearance since 2012. That goals-per game average fell off to 2.4 goals per game against a Tampa defense that gave up 2.84 goals per game during the regular season, ranking 19th in the NHL.

Penalty kill was the turning point

Even after acquiring lockdown defender Ryan McDonagh from the New York Rangers at the NHL trade deadline [VIDEO] – a prized get – the Lightning didn’t exactly have a closed for business sign posted on their goal.

Throughout the months of March and April, opponents were averaging 3.5 goals per game against the Lightning defense. Furthermore, they were finding the back of the net on the power play with regularity. Tampa finished 28th in the league during the regular season on the penalty kill.

It was the penalty kill, however, that turned Tampa’s postseason fortunes around. New Jersey netted only three goals on the power play in 19 chances against the Bolts' defense, with two of those goals coming on 5-on-3 advantages.

Through the first three games, Tampa had trouble containing league MVP candidate Taylor Hall, who led the Devils with five points and averaged nearly six shots on goal in those contests. By the time Game 4 rolled around, Tampa finally seemed to solve the riddle of Hall, allowing him only a total of four shots in the final two games of the series. Center Brayden Point may have actually been the key to Tampa’s defensive success as Lightning coach Jon Cooper matched him up with Hall nearly every shift that the Devil forward played in the final two games of the series.

Plenty of firepower awaits

If the Lightning are going to make a run at a second Stanley Cup, there will be plenty of offensive stars that need to be contained in the rounds ahead. The Lightning await the winner of the Boston-Toronto series, which is headed for a Game 7. Toronto finished fourth in the league in scoring this season, while Boston was sixth. It gets no easier after that as the winner of the second round series faces off against either Pittsburgh (third in the league in scoring) or Washington (ninth).