Eastern Conference Finals Preview

Published on May 10th, 2011

Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

by Mike del Tufo

The EC Finals will be starting soon with the #3 seed Bruins facing off against the #5 seed Lightning.  In today’s NHL where the #7 Philadelphia Flyers played the #8 Montreal Canadiens in the EC Finals last season, having lower seeds square off for the right to represent the Conference in the Stanley Cups is not unusual.  This is the 3rd straight Eastern Conference Finals without a #1 or #2 seed.

Both the Bruins and Lightning come into this series on hot streaks as each is coming off of a sweep.  The Lightning swept the #1 Washington Capitals and the Bruins did the same to the #2 Flyers.  The Lightning have won their last 7 playoff games and the Bruins 5.  It should be quite a battle.

Coaching

Claude Julien

Tampa’s head coach Guy Boucher is in his first season as an NHL head coach.  He guided the Bolts to a 46-25-11 regular season record.  He also led them back from a 3 games to 1 deficit in the 1st round of the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Bruins head coach Claude Julien is in his 4th season with the team.  He guided them to the Northeast Division title this season as he did in 2008-09.  He has also had stints as head coach with the Canadiens and New Jersey Devils.   This is his time in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Edge:  Boston

Offense

Marty St. Louis

The Bruins have no top sniper but a number of different offensive weapons in their arsenal.  They had four 20-goal scorers during the season led by Milan Lucic with 30.  They had a total of 12 players who scored at least 10 goals.  Besides Lucic, forwards David Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Brad Marchand are the most dangerous.  Center Patrice Bergeron may miss some time due to a concussion in the Flyers series.  He is the team leader in playoff points so far.  The team’s power-play has been dreadful so far in the post-season.  It will need to improve.

The Lightning is much more top heavy in scoring than the Bruins.  Center Steven Stamkos had 45 goals and 91 points during the regular season and Marty St. Louis 31 goals and 99 points.  No one else had more than 54.  In the playoffs, it has been a different story for the Bolts as several other players have emerged like wingers Sean Bergenheim with 7 goals, Steve Downie, and Teddy Purcell.  Center Vinny Lecavalier has seemed rejuvenated as well and is having a strong post-season.

Edge:  Tampa Bay

Defense

Zdeno Chara

The Lightning’s defense could be their vulnerable spot.  They have some solid veterans in Mattias Ohlund, Pavel Kubina, and Eric Brewer.  They also have a rising star in Victor Hedman.  But on many nights it seemed they relied on their goaltending to bail them out.  So far in the playoffs it has but against a balanced offense like the Bruins’, it could be a problem.

The Bruins have one of the best defensemen in the league in Zdeno Chara.  He is a huge brick wall in front of the net.  Along with veterans Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, and Tomas Kaberle, this is one of the better defensive corps in the league.

Edge:  Boston

Goaltending

Tim Thomas

It was a brilliant move by the Lightning to acquire Dwayne Roloson on January 1, 2011.  He went 18-12 after arriving in Tampa and has been phenomenal in the playoffs with a 2.01 goals-against-average and a .941 save percentage. 

Boston’s netminder Tim Thomas won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie in 2008-09 and may win it again this season.  He had a 2.00 goals-against-average and a .938 save percentage during the regular season.  He has been just as good in the playoffs.  He is an elite goaltender.

Edge:  Boston

Vinny Lecavalier

Playoff Experience:

St. Louis, Lecavalier, and Kubina all won a Stanley Cup in 2004 as members of the Lighting. 

Bruins Mark Recchi has won 2 Cups (Pittsburgh ’91 and Carolina ’06) and Shawn Thornton has won one (Anaheim ’07).

Prediction:  Boston Bruins wins in 6 games

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