It took seven games for one of Boston, but the final Second Round match-up in the Eastern Conference has been decided. The Tampa Bay Lightning will take on the Boston Bruins, with the winner heading to the Conference finals to face either Pittsburgh or Washington.
How did we get here?
When the Lightning drew the New Jersey Devils in the first round, many considered this to be the most one-sided match-up in the conference, if not the whole playoffs. The Bolts had just won the East, while the Devils, making their first appearance in the playoffs since the 2011/12 season, barely scraped into a wildcard spot.
Games one and two were standard for the Bolts who scored five goals in each, the Devils replied in game three when the series moved to New Jersey’s Prudential Center. That loss woke up the Lightning who won games four and five to seal the series.
The Bruins’ road to the second round was far more torturous, for both sets of fans in the contest. Nobody really expected the Toronto Maple Leafs to bring much of anything to the only Original Six match-up in the Playoffs. Both teams had played reasonably strong seasons in a weak division, but the Bruins amassed more loser points than their Canadian opposition and were granted the higher seeding.
Despite a strong start to the series from the Bruins, gaining a two game advantage, the Leafs fought back and by game six had tied the series, taking fans to the only seventh game decider of the first round. By end of the second period, the Leafs were leading 4-3, but four goals by Boston in the third period destroyed any hopes head coach Mike Babcock had for taking his team to the second round for the first time since 2004.
So what can we expect in the second round?
As rivals in the Atlantic division, the two teams have met four times, with Boston taking both points in three of those games:
11/29/2017: BOS 3 – 2 TBL
03/17/2018: BOS 3 – 0 TBL
03/29/2018: BOS 4 – 2 TBL
04/03/2018: TBL 4 – 0 BOS
The Lightning have been quietly efficient in their games, but also had arguably weaker opposition. They’ve also played two games less than the Bruins so will be more rested and have had more time to prepare going into the second round. This is how the teams have performed in the playoffs so far:
|Tampa Bay Lightning||3.60||2.40||26.3%||84.2%||33.6||34.2|
This is going to be a close one (there’s the commentator’s curse), the Bruins score more, but also concede more. They’re stronger on the power-play but weaker on the penalty-kill. In goal, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been the only choice for the Bolts, while Tuukka Rask started every game for the Bruins but was pulled once for Anton Khudobin, here is how the two main goalies stack up:
Well, these two are almost inseparable but that’s not surprising as both are elite goalies. Expect an outstanding performance from Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov, with three game-winning-goals he should be your #HiSticking pick for the series. For Boston, David Pastrnak has been the team’s most consistent player but Brad Marchand is worth an outside bet too.
Predicting this series is going to be tough, it definitely has the potential to go the full seven, but this writer thinks that the Lightning will edge this one. What do you think? Comment below or join in the conversation on Twitter!
As a special offer to 4th Line Podcast readers, prostockhockey.com has a 10% discount code if you enter offer code 4THLINE at checkout.