NHL Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

BOSTON MA - DECEMBER 02: David Krejci #46 of the Boston Bruins scores a goal with this shot as Randy Jones #8 of the Tampa Bay Lightning defends on December 2 2010 at the TD Garden in Boston Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

After more than a week off after clinching their second round series against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Bruins will be back on the Garden ice on Saturday night for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Tampa Bay Lightning's trip to the East Finals went through Pittsburgh and Washington. The Lightning took their opening round series with the Penguins in 7 games before making surprisingly quick work of the Capitals in a 4-0 sweep.

The Bruins and Lightning met four times in the regular season with the B's holding a 3-1-0 edge in the season series including a 8-1 pounding of the Lightning back on December 2nd in Marc Savard's first game back from post-concussion syndrome after missing the start of the season. The teams last met on March 3rd in a game that the Bruins won 2-1 behind goals from Steven Kampfer and Milan Lucic.

Series Schedule

Saturday, May 14 at Boston, 8:00 p.m. ET
VERSUS, CBC, RDS
Tuesday, May 17 at Boston, 8:00 p.m. ET
VERSUS, TSN, RDS
Thursday, May 19 at Tampa Bay, 8:00 p.m. ET
VERSUS, TSN, RDS
Saturday, May 21 at Tampa Bay, 1:30 p.m. ET
NBC, TSN, RDS
*Monday, May 23 at Boston, 8:00 p.m. ET
VERSUS, CBC, RDS
*Wednesday, May 25       
at Tampa Bay, 8:00 p.m. ET       
VERSUS, CBC, RDS
*Friday, May 27 at Boston, 8:00 p.m. ET
VERSUS, CBC, RDS

*If needed

Series at A Glance

Bruinsnewlogosmall_medium
Lightning-logo_medium

8-3
Playoff Record 8-3
3.36 Goals/Game 3.46
2.18
Goals Against/Game 2.18
33.8
Shots/Game 26.7
34.4
Shots Against/Game 35.5
5.4%
Power Play 26.7%
80.5%
Penalty Kill 94.4%
53.4% Face Offs 49.7%
12.2
PIMs/Game 12.2
2.38 5 on 5 Ratio 1.15
Brad Marchand (5)
Nathan Horton (5)
David Krejci (5)
Leading Goal Scorer(s) Sean Bergenheim (7)

 

Projected Lineups

Boston

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand - Chris Kelly - Mark Recchi
  Michael Ryder - Rich Peverley - Tyler Seguin
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
  Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk
 Tomas Kaberle - Adam McQuaid

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

Tampa Bay (per NHLDailyFaceoff.com)

Ryan MaloneSteven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
 Simon Gagne - Vincent Lacavalier - Teddy Purcell
  Sean Bergenheim Dominic Moore - Steve Downie
  Marc-Andre Bergeron - Nate Thompson - Adam Hall

Mattias Ohlund - Eric Brewer
  Victor Hedman - Brett Clark
 Mike Lundin - Randy Jones

Dwayne Roloson
Mike Smith

Injury Report

Boston

Out for Series: Marc Savard (concussion)

Out for Start of Series (at least): Patrice Bergeron (concussion)

Probable for Game 1: Adam McQuaid (neck)

Probable (if needed): Steven Kampfer (knee)

The big question mark heading to this series is the health of Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins center and alternate captain suffered the third known concussion of his NHL career after taking a hard open ice hit from Claude Giroux of the Flyers in Game 4. There is no time table set for Bergeron's return to game action and B's fans have to wonder how this team can deal with the loss of their leading playoff point-getter, face-off guru, and one of the B's true leaders. Personally, I would be surprised to see Bergeron return during this series given his concussion history.

Tampa Bay

Out for Start of Series: Matt Smaby (lower body)

Doubtful for Game 1: Pavel Kubina (head)

Probable: Simon Gagne (head), Ryan Malone (shoulder), Dana Tyrell (foot), Randy Jones (ankle), Steve Downie (ankle)

Simon Gagne is expected to return to action for Game 1. Many Bruins fans are probably still cursing his name from last spring after his return from injury (coupled with David Krejci's injury) proved to be a major turning point in the Bruins collapse against the Flyers. Gagne racked up 5 goals in 4 games against the B's last years as a Flyer.

In Net

The goaltending Matchup features the two hottest goalies in the NHL playoffs. Tim Thomas has held the fort for the Bruins, while 41-year-old Umass Lowell grad Dwayne Roloson has been the unlikely hero of the playoffs and been dominant in the postseason.


GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
  Playoffs - Tim Thomas 11 708
8 3 24
2.03 378
354 .937 0


GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
 Playoffs - Dwayne Roloson 11
687
8
3
23
2.01 389
366
.941 1


Lightning's Strengths

Fire Power Up Front: The Bolts have guys throughout their lineup that can put the puck in the net.

Goaltending...for the moment: Rolie the Goalie has the hot hand right now.

"The Tampa T": The Lightning do a great job of clogging up the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap.

Special Teams Play: 26.7% on the power play and 94.4% on the penalty kill...numbers don't lie.

Coaching: Scarface has this team playing some good hockey.

Lightning's Weaknesses

Blue Line: The Bolts put a lot of their resources into their forwards and rely heavily on their forwards to play a two-way game. If the B's can find a way to break down the 1-3-1 and play a possession game in the offensive zone, the Tampa Bay D corps can be exploited.

Goaltending: How long can this bag of fossils they have propped up in front of the goal hold up before he cracks?

Keys to the Series for the B's

Test Rolie the Goalie Early and Often: How long can Dwayne Roloson keep this up? Part of the Bruins' success against the Flyers was challenging Brain Boucher early in the series and early in games.

Figure Out What the F&%* is up with the Power Play!

Find a Way to Move the Puck through the Neutral Zone: The Lightning are going to live and die by the 1-3-1 trap.

Establish Physical Presence: The Bruins are a much bigger and more physical team than the Lightning. The B's need to make the slot a dangerous place for the Lightning's talented goal scorers.

Everyone Needs to Step up in Bergeron's Absence.

Don't Let the Lightning's Speedy Forwards Exploit the Difference in Foot Speed

Notes:

- So far, the Bruins path to the Stanley Cup has looked like the Mark Recchi Reality Tour: Montreal, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay.

- The Tampa Bay's marketing department must be filled with a bunch of slack-jawed chuckleheads. "All In"? Seriously? That is the best you could come up with? Also,what's up with changing your team's logo on the website and on the ice, but not changing the uniforms until next year? Way to establish consistent branding. On the bright side, there is no more forced Saw promos.

- Patrice Bergeron has been with the team, but has not been on the ice or participated in any physical activities.

- Barry Melrose thinks that the injury to Patrice Bergeron swings the momentum to the Lightning.

- The winner of this series will face the winner of the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks.

- Bolts fans, don't forget that it took a dude from Boston owning the team to right the ship in Tampa Bay.

- Calling it now: Nate Thompson is going to have a big moment in this series against his former team.

- Covers.com has the Bruins as -140 series favorites.

- Is Tyler Seguin ready for the big stage?

- The Bruins were last in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1992. Back then, NHL hockey in Florida was still a few months ago, Mark Recchi was finishing up his 4th NHL season, Tyler Seguin was 4 months old, Tim Thomas was a junior in high school, and Dwayne Roloson was a sophomore at UMass-Lowell.

- Raw Charge has you covered for all things Tampa Bay Lightning.

Stanley Cup of Chowder Staff Predictions

Evan (Stanley Cup of Chowder): Bruins in 7

Patrice Bergeron means a lot to this team and his absence is going to be a big blow for the B's in this series. In fact, I think Bergeron means so much to this team that I almost took the same stance as Barry Melrose and came very close to picking the Bolts, but I think when it comes down to it the B's have enough talent to overcome the hardship and will close out the LIghtning to advance to the Finals. Tim Thomas will steal a game or two and Rolie the Goalie will finally come back down to earth late in the series.

Phil (Phunwin): Bruins in 6

I've already stated at some length that I don't think Tampa Bay is as good as their record, so you can probably guess who I'm picking.  If Dwayne Roloson continues doing his best Dominik Hasek impression, and the Lightning continue getting scoring from three lines, then yes, they stand an excellent chance of winning.  I just don't see that happening.  I just can't buy that this team somehow went from a team that was floating around league average (by goal differential; a better indicator of ability than record) most of the year to a juggernaut as soon as the calendar hit April.  As long as Boston avoids a bunch of dumb penalties (Milan Lucic, I'm looking in your direction; you too, Brad Marchand) their 5 on 5 superiority should carry the day.  Any defense where Eric Brewer is the best player can be exploited.  This could easily be a replay of the Montreal series; they play similar styles, and although Tampa Bay has more firepower up front, I think the Bruins learned their lessons from that and won't spot the visitors two at TD Garden this time around.  If Patrice Bergeron makes a quick comeback, as it's looking like he might, this series could be over quickly.

Tim, Stanley Cup of Chowder's Emergency Call-up/Black Ace (timmorrison23): Bruins in 6

[Editor's Note: Timmy sent his prediction via text]

I think each team splits the home ice and Bruins win in 6. Lucic is a beast this series. Bergeron returns Game 5.

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