Blog Entry

Preview: No. 3 Bruins vs. No. 5 Lightning

Posted on: May 13, 2011 4:22 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2011 9:12 pm

All the dramatics in the other conference have turned the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins into bystanders for more than a week. By the time the Eastern Conference Final begins at TD Garden on Saturday night, the Lightning will have had 10 days off and the Bruins idle for eight days after their second-round sweeps of the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers, respectively.

“It’s been the same for both teams,” Bruins forward David Krejci said on Friday. “Hopefully, there are not going to be excuses on either side.”

The time off has allowed both teams to heal from the nagging issues that crop up during 82 regular season games and a couple rounds of playoffs, but Tampa (defenseman Pavel Kubina) and Boston (forward Patrice Bergeron) will be without players -- at least to start the series --- due to concussion-like symptoms. Tampa will have Simon Gagne, who, like Kubina, suffered a concussion in Game 1 last round, back in the lineup.

Since it feels like these teams haven’t played since the All-Star break, there’s also the issue of carryover. Will there be any? Third-line Lightning forward Sean Bergenheim scored four goals last series and leads Tampa Bay with seven overall in the playoffs. Bruins forward Milan Lucic also broke out of a playoff slump by scoring his first two goals of the playoffs in Game 4 against the Flyers.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said he’s not overly concerned about the break. The Bruins had about a three-week break two years ago in the second round against the Carolina Hurricanes and won Game 1, although the ‘Canes ultimately took the series.

“I think it's been a group effort that mentally we stayed on top of our game, on top of our focus,” he said. “At the same time, the physical part of it, I don't think too many players get out of shape at this time of year.“

Here’s the breakdown:

Forwards: The only two forwards left from the Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup-winning team of 2004 have played like they want another crack at it. Martin St. Louis (six goals, seven assists) and Vincent Lecavalier (five goals, seven assists) lead the lightning in scoring. But it’s the secondary scoring that’s been most impressive. Steve Downie (two goals, 10 assists) and Bergenheim (seven goals, one assist) have each scored more than Steven Stamkos (four goals, two assists), Tampa’s top goal scorer during the regular season. The fact that Gagne is expected back in the lineup gives Tampa two high-powered top lines with one of the most (unexpectedly) potent third lines of the playoffs. The Bruins have their weapon even minus Bergeron, who absorbed a hit by Flyers Claude Girioux and suffered a “minor” concussion. Julien said Bergeron is “progressing” but reiterated that he doesn’t expect to have his services early in the series. Bergeron has not been cleared to take part in practice. Rookie Tyler Seguin will take Bergeron’s place in the lineup. Now, the Bruins need somebody to pick up some of Bergeron’s production. The top candidate would be Lucic, who has struggled mightily but also had points in back-to-back games as the Bruins closed out the Flyers. Pesky rookie Brad Marchand has done more than just been an agitator on the ice; he’s been the second most productive Bruin with 11 points.

Edge: Lightning

Defense: The Lightning may not have a 6-foot-9 blue liner on its roster --- the closest they will get on Saturday is 6-4 Mattias Ohlund --- but the Lightning’s defense has stood out anyway this postseason. While a lot of the credit will go to goalie Dwayne Roloson, only two Tampa players enter the series with a negative plus-minus. Ohlund, plus-6, leads in that category. Eric Brewer is tops in both ice time (26 minutes , nine seconds per game) and points (six) this postseason. Randy Jones, who missed a month with a high-ankle sprain, replaced Kubina in the lineup and has a point in three games. Chara has obviously recovered from the dehydration issue that kept him out a game in the first round. He’s tops in the playoffs in plus-minus (plus-11) and leading the Bruins in ice time again (28:41). In fact, all the Bruins defensemen have at least an even plus-minus rating. The Bruins should get Adam McQuaid, who suffered a neck injury in Game 2 last round, for Game 1 and Boston’s depth on the blue line will only get deeper now that Steven Kampher, who has been out since the closing days of the regular season with a knee injury, has returned to practice.

Edge: Bruins

Goalies: Lots will be made of the next few days about Tampa’s Roloson, 41, and his 37-year-old counterpart Tim Thomas. Along with New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, they are the last of the old-school goalies who don’t depend purely on the cookie-cutter butterfly goalies that populate the NHL. Regardless of how they do, each has been successful this season. Both have nearly identical numbers in the postseason, although Thomas gets the nod during the regular season. Thomas has the highest save percentage (.938) since the stat began to be tracked 34 years ago. He was also tops in goals-against average (2.00) and second in shutouts (nine). Thomas, who didn’t even start in the playoffs a season ago, is a primary reason the Bruins have ventured into the conference finals for the first time since 1992.

Edge: Bruins

Special teams: Tampa Bay, successful in 26.7 percent of their opportunities, has the top power play among the four teams left in the playoffs. The Lightning also have the best penalty kill (94.4 percent), especially impressive when you factor in they had to contend with the high-powered Washington Capitals last round. The Bruins may have solved their power play issues. It took until the third game of the second round (0-for-30) before Boston scored on the man-advantage. But they closed out the final two games against the Flyers with a 2-for-7 mark. Boston has the lowest-ranked PK of the remaining playoff teams, 80.5 percent.

Edge: Lightning

Prediction: These two teams both had seven-game series in the first round followed by sweeps. I think this will be closer to the former. The Bruins are better defensively --- a nod to the blue line and Thomas --- but how they handle the Lightning’s potent offense will make interesting viewing. I think minus Bergeron, you have to give the benefit of the doubt to Tampa Bay. I’ll take the Lightning in seven games. 

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Eastern Conference Finals
No. 3 Boston vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay - Series tied, 0-0
Date Site Time/Result
May 14 at BOS 8 p.m.  
May 17 at BOS 8 p.m.  
May 19 at TB 8 p.m.  
May 21 at TB 1:30 p.m.  
* May 23 at BOS 8 p.m.  
* May 25 at TB 8 p.m.  
* May 27 at BOS 8 p.m.  
Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 16, 2011 2:39 pm
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Since: Nov 3, 2010
Posted on: May 14, 2011 2:21 pm

Preview: No. 3 Bruins vs. No. 5 Lightning

Should be a great series considering both teams are chock full of Canadians. Makes for some real hockey with lots of banging. With TB's 16 Canucks and Boston's entire forward corps (minus Krejci) being Canadian, get ready for hockey the way it's supposed to be played.  SJ with their 18 Canadians should be in the final. No coincidence again that the final 4 are predominantly Canadian teams.Gotta love what Yzerman and Boucher have done with TB especially Special teams, 3rd and 4th lines and work on the walls not to mention the personal projects of Downie, Brewer and Teddy P. On the other side Chiarelli(sic) and Cam have done exceptional jobs of building a team with all the ingredients to win a cup starting with a backend with a little bit of everything and a lot of toughness minus Kabs.  The only weakness in my opinion with the B's is Kaberle and the 4th line.Everything is in place for the Bruins to win, all they need is effort and the bounces to go their way.  I predict a big series from Lucic. Gonna be a sick East final as these teams match up perfectly.

Since: May 8, 2011
Posted on: May 14, 2011 1:54 pm

Preview: No. 3 Bruins vs. No. 5 Lightning

Bruins will take out the Lightning in 5 games

Since: Nov 19, 2008
Posted on: May 14, 2011 1:38 pm

Preview: No. 3 Bruins vs. No. 5 Lightning

I disagree with the whoever comes out to lose to the west statement.  I feel this matchup could truly go either way, and I would be shocked if it didn't go all 7 games.  I personally think Boston will win in 7, but like I said, I'd not at all be shocked if it went Tampa's way either.  Both of these teams are ridiculously good, and I feel that both of these teams could beat either vancouver or san jose.  In other words these teams to me, are the best in the nhl, and this is the real championship right here!

Since: Oct 31, 2006
Posted on: May 14, 2011 10:37 am

Preview: No. 3 Bruins vs. No. 5 Lightning

Oakster....good to see that not knowing the facts doesn't get in the way of you forming an opinion. The only thing you said that made sense was the Bruins struggled with Montreal. That I give you. Carey price played out of this world good, and Montreal is ALWAYS a tough out for any team that plays them in the playoffs. They have skill and speed and an elite Goalie. Philly having no netminder??? How about no DEFENSE in front of Boucher, no one cleared out rebounds or made it difficult for the bruins forwards to get to the net. Boucher wasn't as bad as the stats showed. He only allowed a couple real stinkers in that series. On to Tampa Bay and their "grueling" series with Pittsburgh. Do I even need to tell you who Pit were playing WITHOUT??? I think we all know who was missing in their lineup. Enough said. Round two for Tampa also didn't go 5 games as you suggest. They swept the Caps fairly easily without much of a doubt in any one of the 4 games. You can take Tampa in 6 and that's fine and all, but your reasons are horrific. Tampa's "high powered offense" scored 1 more goal this season than Bostons offense. But they did give up about 45 more goals than Boston too. Whoever wins, I feel like it goes minimum of 6 games. Two evenly matched squads here at the end of the day.

Since: Sep 28, 2006
Posted on: May 14, 2011 7:34 am

Preview: No. 3 Bruins vs. No. 5 Lightning

Tampa faced a Pittsburgh team that had no finishers.  Pens were all over them but couldn't score when it counted.  In Washington they faced a team that played like it was still the regular season and without much intensity.

With the Bruins they face a team that can and is scoring and a team that is playing hard.

Boston in 5 is my prediction........

Since: Feb 4, 2009
Posted on: May 14, 2011 12:20 am

Preview: No. 3 Bruins vs. No. 5 Lightning

When one views the two teams respective paths to get here, Boston definitely has enjoyed the easier of the routes. The Bruins struggled with the Canadiens in round one before taking on a team in the Flyers which in essence played the entire four-game series without a netminder. Tampa Bay on the other hand endured a gruelling opening round seven-game series against Pittsburgh and followed that up with a five-game series against the number one seeded Washington Capitals. Boston has also enjoyed a very lengthy rest between their most recent round with the Flyers, which certainly bodes well with them healing their nagging injuries. In any case I see Tampa's experience and drive being the difference maker in this eastern conference final and the Bolts should take Boston out in six, maybe seven games.

Since: Jan 19, 2009
Posted on: May 13, 2011 11:38 pm

Preview: No. 3 Bruins vs. No. 5 Lightning

its the bruins year hopefully bruins in 7 and 2 ots

Since: Oct 2, 2006
Posted on: May 13, 2011 7:35 pm

Preview: No. 3 Bruins vs. No. 5 Lightning

As stated both these teams are coming off sweeps so they have been sitting for quite some time now.  Two things are going to play a huge factor early, who was able to stay hot after a nine day break and the special teams play of TB.  Bolts need to worry a bit less about penalties this series. Thats good because they gave a lot of chances to the Caps. Ill take the Bolts in 6 if Rolly stays the mad man he has been so far.  Bruins in 7 if he is not. What a difference "The Captain" has made in a single season.  Did anyone see Scott Bowman up in the Lightning GM box last week?  That was interesting.     

In any case it should be a fun series to watch. 

Since: Oct 18, 2006
Posted on: May 13, 2011 6:23 pm

Preview: No. 3 Bruins vs. No. 5 Lightning

I've given up trying to figure out the East. I never saw 2nd round sweeps coming so these two teams may be evenly matched. I'll take the Bruins goalie by just ever so slightly over Rolly, but it's almost a wash. The Bruins D should be better so my pick is the Bruins but I'll be happy with 7 games regardless of who comes out to lose to the West.

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