Tampa Bay won three of four regular-season matches against Boston, as well as their contest in the post-goal round-robin portion. Will the Bruins reverse that trend in this series?
Note: Advanced stats are from Hockey Reference, Natural Static Trick and Evolution Hockey
More: See the full NHL Postson schedule here.
What we learned in the first round: If lightning was to run in the summer this year, they would have to drive away some demons first. Tampa Bay faced John Tortorella’s Fourcheck-focused Columbus Blue Jackets again in the first round and this time gained momentum with a five overtime Game 1 victory. Tampa Bay did it all without Steven Stamkos, who was sidelined due to injury. The Lightning reduced the depth of their overall roster, although the absence of Stamkos looms.
Bruce slept through the round robin, dropping all the way from No. 1 to No. 4 seed and many wondering if they could muster this summer. Spoiler: They can. Goali Tukka Rusk left the bubble to take part in family affairs, but his teammates rallied against the Carolina Hurricanes, a team Zdeno Chara hailed as “well trained” with “a dangerous lineup”. David Pestrank missed most of the series, but more than compensated Veteran Vets like Brad Marchand and David Krejci.
First line: Pastrnak returned in Game 5 vs. Caine, meaning the completion line was back on track with Patrice Bergeran and Brad Marchand. Pasternak seems to be a full stop, leading to ice time in Boston (20:28 per game) and hitting five shots on net in his first game. Without Stamkos, Lighting is rolling out Brendan Point, Nikita Kucharov and Ondrej Palat on the top line. Point (five goals, five assists in eight games, including two overtime winners) is a brilliant postman. But perhaps here is where we mention that although electricity is creating a lot of danger, they are still having a hard time. He scored just 20 goals through eight games and three goals only once. They could have gotten by Columbus without Stamkos, but it would be tough in this series. Advantage: Bruins
Further Depth: Boston’s second line is Jake DeBruck, Crazy and Ondrej Case Gulzar, who are in possession and are making Grade-A chances. The third line is stronger than Charlie Coyle (66% expected goal rate against Carolina), too, but is followed by a drop-off. The second line of Tampa Bay, centered by Anthony Cirelli, is not producing at its best, but the third line of Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow and Yanny Grede is playing great hockey. You will hear a lot about how GM Julienne Briseboy grited his forward group with the addition of Coleman and Goodrow to the trade deadline and Patrick Maroon last summer. The fourth line of Tampa Bay holds a significant edge as well with Boston. Advantage: Electricity
Defence: This postseason has been a little revelation for Zac Bogosian, who resurrected his career in Tampa Bay, for a great assignment to play alongside Nominee Victor Hedman of the Notch Trophy. The headman was a full force in the Carolina series. The two pairs behind them are very solid. In Boston, Charlie McAvoy ranks himself as the top defenseman in the league. In a sign of the times, she bears the burden on their pairing with Zdeno Chara. Boston’s top six are hard to find a lot of faults, and keep an eye on Matt Grayscic, who continues to take on more responsibilities. Advantage: Tie
Goaltending: With rusk out, Jaroslav Hallak assumes No. 1 duties. In the last two seasons (over 66), Hallack has a .921 save percentage and 12.4 goals above average. The 35-year-old Halak has total confidence in the Bruins. The issue is the workload, especially with two back-to-backs baked into the schedule. The backup belongs to 23-year-old Dan Vladar, who has never played an NHL game. In Tampa Bay, you know that you are receiving from Andrei Vasilvsky, the Vizina Trophy winner who is up for the award again this season. Vasilevsky also has a save of .923 percent on this postman’s force. Advantage: Electricity
Coaching: Bruce Cassidy is a Jack Adams nominee who nominated the Bruins for a President’s Trophy (they were the only team to hit 100 points before a halt) In his second term as NHL coach, Cassidy has become sane and in this group Knows all the right buttons to push with. John Cooper has also had major regular-season success with Tampa Bay in his tenure, but until this team can achieve the hump in the postman, it will be a mark against him. Advantage: Bruins
Special teams: On paper, these two have almost identical postson statistics. 13.3% of Tampa Bay on the power play is disappointing considering that the Lightning (like Boston) were the top five teams with man advantage during the regular season. There is not much harp on Stamkos’ absence, but his presence will certainly increase here. Boston has a huge 17.9% advantage on the power play, although the Bruins are slightly behind on penalty kills (85.7% to Tampa Bay’s 87.1%). Advantage: Bruins
Prediction: Bruce at Seven. This is a clash of the two best teams in the Eastern Conference this season, and hockey fans are in for a treat. While we are expecting a tight-fitting, tough struggle, the Bruins seem to just click at the right time to avenge their 2018 second-round loss.