For the last few years, we’ve been doing a Penguins playoff roundtable for each round of the post-season. The result the first year was a Stanley Cup, so I figured we’d stick with the same recipe.

I asked our panel of experts three quick questions in regards to the first round series against Tampa.

1. Name one thing that has to happen for the Penguins to win this series, whether that be a single player performance or an overall aspect to the series such as the penalty kill, etc.

2. What aspect of Tampa’s game do the Penguins need to pay the most attention to?

3. What is your official prediction for this series?

Without further delay, here are the responses from our good friends of the Pittsburgh blogosphere.

Our first stop is Sean Leahy coming to us from Yahoo’s Puck Daddy

1. Aside from Marc-Andre Fleury being the MVP like he was during the regular season, the Penguins need to find a way to find more goals in regulation. In their final 41 games (post-Sid), 15 of them have been decided in overtime or the shootout. Jordan Staal, Tyler Kennedy and Chris Kunitz have done a good job trying to provide the offense in the absence of Sid and Geno, but considering the firepower that Tampa has, they’ll need to step it up even more.

2. They really need to limit the amount of scoring chances by St. Louis and Stamkos. We know how dangerous they can be and this would been have been a great spot with Sid and Geno in the lineup to have Staal in his spot as the shutdown guy on the third line. The Pens’ defense has been fantastic all season long and I’m eager to see Zbynek Michalek continue just being awesome.

3. Lightning in 7.

Next we spoke with our friend Hooks Orpik of Pensburgh.

1. It’s going to be staying out of the penalty box. If the Pens give Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and company the time and space on their power play, it’s not going to be pretty, despite how well Marc-Andre Fleury and the PK has been all year long. Pittsburgh has been one of the most penalized teams in the league, and if they play with fire, sooner or later they’re going to get burned.

The nightmare scenario, for me- the Pens take penalties early in games and Tampa cashes in for an early lead. With TB’s unorthodox 1-3-1 style of defending it will be really tough for the Pens to create zone entries, let alone to generate consistent scoring chances. It’s obvious to say you don’t want to fall behind early, but with no Malkin and seemingly no Crosby, any hole Pittsburgh digs themselves in will be magnified all the further.

2. I think it’s that 1-3-1 style of play. Dan Bylsma won’t be tricked and will put in his time on video review to give the troops a good plan. But do they have the horses to outskate the Tampa defensive players? That’s going to be key, especially if Tampa is trying to cling to a lead or even if the game is tied.

If the Pens can punch through Tampa’s defense with effective dumps to the corners and some hard work to dig pucks up, they should be in good shape. Given how Pittsburgh’s lineup is made to basically do that, and they’ve been clawing for months just like that, I like their outlook going into it. It’s just going to come down to execution and hopefully getting some breaks.

3. Pens in 6. Bylsma gives them the right game plan, Fleury and the D holds the fort enough to give the offense enough time to punch a few by Dwayne Roloson.

Up next we have Tony Ferrante of The Confluence

1. Penguins’ PK must perform well vs. the Lightning PP. Goals will be at a premium in any case, but if Tampa’s PP is clicking, that spells bad juju for the Penguins.

2.Take the body against Lecavalier, St. Louis and Stamkos. The Penguins have the muscle to make their playoff life hell.

3. Penguins in 7. This series will not be a tap-in (Masters reference), a gimmie, or whatever else you want to call it. I think MAF has the edge over Rolosson, hopefully that will result in a narrow series win for the Penguins.

Up next is our old friend Chris Gates and his new blog Pittsburgh Sports Depot

1. The Penguins have to play disciplined hockey. That means stay out of the box and take advantage of the few opportunities that present themselves. Playoff hockey is almost always tight and, given that the Pens are without Sidney Crosby, there is really no room for error.

2. To go along with my first point, the Lightning’s power play has to be the point of emphasis. The Penguins need to stay out of the box as much as possible, given the likes of Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos don’t need any help scoring goals. Too many opportunities allowed on the man-advantage could make this an easy series for Tampa Bay.

3. How about a prediction and a hunch? First, I think the Penguins will win in seven games. Second, I think if Crosby is to return this series it will be in the three-game layoff between games 4 and 5.

Next up is the our good friend Derek from The Pensblog

1. The easy answer is Marc-Andre Fleury. The real answer is Tyler Kennedy. He had a nice 22 goal season. Reputations are made in the playoffs. He embarrassed himself last year. If Kennedy scores 3+ goals Pens win this series.

2. Powerplay city. Stamkos makes his living on the top left boards, and St. Louis feeds him. If they get a clean pass to Stamkos it is going on.

3. It is going seven. If Tampa had non-psychotic goalie they could probably cruise. But Roloson can collapse at any time.
Marc-Andre Fleury can steal two games. A Pens forward is going to have to have a huge game somewhere.What a series this is going to be.

Finally, we have our old friend Brian Metzer coming to us From The Point

1. There are plenty of match-ups and variables to consider when looking at this series, but one aspect sticks out above most others – Special Teams. The Penguins have got to find a way to win that battle if they would like to win this series. The Lightning ice one of the most lethal power play units in the league, which will certainly test the Penguins penalty killing unit. Though the Penguins PK has ranked at or near the top of the league for most of the season, they simply need to stay out of the penalty box as much as possible, while at the same time finding ways to score on their own opportunities – something they have not been able to do often enough this season. Simply formula – cash your own chances, limit the oppositions’ and win the series.

2. Though I sort of answered it in the last question by mentioning the Lightning’s power play, there is something else that comes into play. The Lightning work a ton of give and go’s and like to set up one timers. The Penguins haven’t always done the best job at defending offenses that operate in that fashion… yes they are capable of doing it, but they are going to have to keep a body on Steven Stamkos in the offensive zone. They cannot let him set up shop between the hash mark and goal line, as he will kill them from that area. One good thing is that the Penguins are in possession of one of the most athletic goaltenders in the league and his ability to get side to side will limit goals that are scored off of east/west one timers.

3. Though the Penguins are playing without some of their best and brightest, they have found a way to notch the second best season in franchise history. Their attention to detail, work ethic and never say die attitude will see them take this series in six games… (Truly, I could see it being a five game affair, as the Lightning may fall into the trap of being a bit wide eyed early on in the series — a la the Penguins circa 2006-07 against the Senators.)

Post your answers to these questions in the comments section below!