Fans of hockey as a whole haven’t had a big lull between games (the San Jose Sharks beat the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 on Thursday). Yet partisans who only care about the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning have had to wait an almost excruciating amount of time. The Bruins wrapped up their series on May 6 while the Bolts finished off the Capitals on the 4th.
Maybe that’s a reasonable amount of off-time for an NFL team, but hockey clubs aren’t really used to such gaps. Especially when you consider the fact that the Lightning and Bruins’ first round series were seven-game marathons, allowing them to maintain momentum into the semifinals.
Game 1: Tampa Bay @ Boston (Versus) – 8 p.m. ET
While the Lightning expect to get Simon Gagne back after missing most of their four-game sweep of the Capitals, the Bruins must find a way to succeed despite Patrice Bergeron’s absence. Sure, Boston coped with the loss of another prominent center (Marc Savard) all season, but Bergeron is a more balanced player than Savard. They will absolutely miss his two-way play.
The question is: will that absence really matter? The Bruins went 3-1 against the Lightning during the regular season, outscoring them 15-8. The B’s have home ice advantage and were a stronger season in many categories, although the Bolts have a clear advantage on special teams in the playoffs.
The Lightning got here thanks to outstanding goaltending by Dwayne Roloson and timely scoring from stars like Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos along with support players such as Steve Downie and Sean Bergenheim. The Bruins survived a tough series against the Montreal Canadiens before flattening the Philadelphia Flyers. Their own offensive depth was especially apparent against Philly, while Tim Thomas was brilliant in both rounds.
Gagne is the biggest beneficiary of the time off for Tampa Bay, but Zdeno Chara might just be the happiest in Boston. He dealt with some issues in the first round, so more than a week off means that the big-minute, larger than life defenseman should be nice and hydrated for Round 3.
Let’s take a look at the other PHT content regarding the two teams.
- This conference finals will be something of a college reunion for Thomas and St. Louis.
- St. Louis and Thomas are also strong candidates for the Conn Smythe trophy.
- Our “Sore Thumb” posts for the Bruins and Lightning.
- Could this be the return of the “Big, Bad Bruins”?
- Steve Yzerman and Guy Boucher make magic in Tampa Bay.
Hopefully those posts will get you primed and ready for the Eastern Conference finals. It should be an intriguing series to watch.