If the Lightning is to advance past the second round of the NHL playoffs, their old nemesis the Boston Bruins are standing in their way.
It seems every year, the road to the Stanley Cup goes through Tampa or Boston and this year is no different.
The Bruins, winners of the President’s trophy during the regular season with 100 points, struggled in the round-robin seeding tournament and finished fourth.
The Lightning and Bruins met five times this year, with the Lightning winning four out of five. Four of the games were decided by one goal.
The Bruins beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 in their first-round playoff series. The Lightning beat the Columbus Blue Jackets four game to one to move on to the second round.
The Lightning beat the Bruins 3-2 in their round-robin game and it did not take long for the game to get physical. There is a genuine dislike for each other with these two teams.
This will be the third time that these two teams have met in the playoffs. Back in 2018, the Lightning beat the Bruins four games to one to win the series.
In 2011, the Lightning lost to the Bruins in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final.
The Lightning brings the second-best offense into the series averaging 3.24 goals a game. The Bruins have the best defense giving up 2.30 goals a game. This should make for a great matchup.
Although the Lightning was one of the best scoring teams during the regular season, the Lightning has scored 20 goals in eight games in the playoffs and are averaging 2.50 goals a game.
Braydon Point has five goals and 10 points to lead the Lightning in scoring. The team has also gotten good contributions up and down the lineup from Anthony Cirelli, Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde, and Mitchell Stephens, and many others.
This series will feature five of the 30 goal scorers in the NHL this season. Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak from the Bruins. Nikita Kucherov, Braydon point, and Steven Stamkos from the Lightning.
My guess is Stamkos will not play in this series, so if the Lightning are going to advance, they will need to do it without their captain.
A big question mark for the Bruins is their goaltending. Starting goaltender Tukka Rask left the bubble due to a family emergency, leaving the starting duties to Jaroslav Halak. Halak did a nice job filling in for Task in their first-round series win against Carolina. Halak is 3-1 with a 2.29 goals-against average.
Dan Vlader will be the backup to Halak who has yet to play in an NHL game.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has been outstanding in goal for the Lightning coming up with big saves when they have been needed. The Vezina Trophy finalist has a .932 save percentage in the playoffs.
The Lightning has been the more physical team in all three games they have played in the round-robin tournament, and also in their first-round series against Columbus.
The one area where the Lightning will continue to show improvement in their game is consistency. The Lightning need to be more consistent from game to game and period to period.
Game five against Columbus, the Lightning looked great for 10 minutes taking a 2-0 lead. The Lightning then sat back, quit being aggressive, and allowed the Blue Jackets to score four times.
The Lightning then were able to kick it in up a notch and score three unanswered goals. The last one being the game-winner in overtime.
The lack of being able to get a power-play at times is concerning but has yet to cost the Lightning a game. The Lightning were 0/10 in the series with the Blue Jackets, while the Jackets were 3/21 against the Lightning.
The Bruins were 5/17 on the power play in round one. The Bruins allowed the Hurricanes to convert two of 17 chances.
This will be another great series between these two heavyweights. Boston wants to avenge the 2018 loss, while the Lightning is playing with a chip on their shoulder.
Three Keys to the series:
-Boston’s defense was better during the regular season, but the Lightning defense is peaking at just the right time. Edge to the Lightning.
Vasilevskiy is a step up above Halak in Goal. Edge to the Lightning.
The defensive pairing of Hedman and Bogosian will be able to keep the Bruins scoring line of Marchand, Pastrnak, and Krejci in check over seven games.
This will go the distance. I Like the Lightning to win it in seven and get back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2017.