The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning will meet in the ultimate battle for supremacy in the second round of the playoffs.
This marks the third post-season series between the teams. Each team holds a win over the other, with Tampa collecting the most recent W in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Lightning also own the most recent triumphs, beating Boston in the round-robin on August 5 and taking three of four regular season encounters.
These two teams have a healthy dose of hostility and that should make for some physical hockey right out of the gate.
What makes this more interesting is that both teams will be without key players, at least initially. The Lightning will not have Steven Stamkos in the lineup for Game One Sunday, while Boston’s goalie Tuukka Rask left the bubble on August 15.
The Bruins have been leaning on 1B-turned-1A Jaroslav Halak, who’s pulled off three wins and is 3-1-0 in the bubble. He has a .912 save percentage with a 2.29 goals against average. The backup gig falls to Dan Vladar, who has not seen a single game of NHL action.
In Tampa’s crease, Andrei Vasilevskiy is 6-2-0 in these playoffs with a 1.98 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.
Goaltending will be vital, obviously, because both teams get pucks to the net and apply pressure. Tampa’s depth might be tough to counter, especially as they lead with Brayden Point. The forward has 10 points in eight games on a line with Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. The former has nine points in eight games and 26 shots on goal.
Boston, meanwhile, has the fire to win. Their depth is not easy to overcome either, with the second line of David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk, and Ondrej Kase a problem for the best of teams. Krejci’s skill in these playoffs is well-documented and he’s been bumped up to the first power-play unit. He leads the team in scoring with nine points in eight games.
For Boston to catch the W, they’ll have to produce some more five-on-five scoring. Just eight of their 15 goals against Carolina were even-strength goals, though their power play has been clicking. If Tampa can’t keep them out of the box, look out.
If the Lightning gets on the power play, they’ll be able to push Halak. While Carolina was somewhat of a challenge for the Boston goalie, facing the firepower brought on by Tampa Bay is a different story. That could swing this series in the wrong direction for the Bruins.