Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins meet in Boston for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Bruins are -165 favorites over the Lightning with an over/under goal total set at 5.5.
After ridding of the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals in equally impressive 4-games sweeps respectively the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves competing against each other for the Eastern Conference championship and the right to play in the Stanley Cup finals. Boston completed the sweep on home ice as they completely dominated their series with the Flyers and avenged their dreadful collapse last season against Philly at the same juncture in the postseason. The Lightning meanwhile swept their division rivals from Washington and unseeded the East’s best team en route to their first Eastern Conference finals since they won the Cup in 2004. Both teams will try to use their offensive dimensions to their advantage in what should be a tight series between two character hockey teams who weren’t expected to be playing each other for the Eastern Conference title.
The Lightning come into the Final Four as the biggest surprise of the 2011 postseason as they climbed out of a 3-1 series hole in the opening round and haven’t lost a game since. After rifling off 3 straight games and stunning the Penguins in the opening round the Lightning took their talents one step further and swept the Capitals in 4 games behind a stellar offensive series and spectacular goaltending from Dwayne Roloson. The big 3 of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier have been integral to the success of the Lightning in their two series victories thus far but it has been the play of their secondary role players that have made the Lightning so lethal. The play of Sean Bergenheim, Teddy Purcell, and Steve Downie have given the already dangerous Lightning offense and added dimension up front and another headache for their opposition to deal with. If Tampa Bay can continue their offensive presence and get another run out of Roloson they could steal another series from an Eastern Conference powerhouse and look for their 2nd Stanley Cup title in franchise history.
The Bruins look like a team on a mission after outlasting the Canadians in 7 games in the opening round and dismantling of the shorthanded Flyers in the 2nd round it appears as though the Bruins have found their stride and don’t like they will be slowing down anytime soon. After a quiet opening round offensively the Bruins exploded in the opposing zone against Philly with a big series from David Krejci and Brad Marchand. Now the Bruins have to play against a Lightning team who is more explosive offensively than the Flyers and is averaging over 3.5 goals per game in the postseason, and will have to adjust their defensive game plan to account for the offensive prowess of Tampa. That being said Tim Thomas has been exceptional so far this postseason and if he can continue to find success against the Lightning he will put himself in contention for the Conn Smythe trophy to go along with his inevitable victory of the Vezina as the league’s best goaltender in the regular season.
Due to the second round dominance of both clubs they have been off for a substantial amount of time and haven’t been on the ice in a game situation in approximately 2 weeks. Taking the long delay into consideration I think it will take some time for both of these teams to find their groove again and will play to a scoreless first which should play right into the hands of an under to start the series. The Bruins have been abysmal on the powerplay this postseason while the Lightning has been top notch on the penalty kill. By removing powerplay opportunities from this contest I think this one goes under the 5.5 total.