Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Boston Bruins
Series Price: Bruins -140, Lightning +120
The Bruins can come at you in waves, and are receiving some offensive punch from unlikely sources on the roster. When Brad Marchand has five goals and Chris Kelly has four, you know it’s going well for your club.
But, let’s face it, Boston -- with 20 goals in four games vs. Philadelphia -- clearly took advantage of the Flyers’ disaster of a goaltending situation, and that fun is going to stop vs. Dwayne Roloson, who frustrated the Penguins and Capitals in the first two rounds.
And Roloson’s teammates up front have taken on their share of the load, as well. The Lightning’s stars have been stars, as Martin St. Louis has six goals, Vinny Lecavalier has five and Steven Stamkos has four. Tampa Bay has four players in double digits in points, and the Lightning have scored at least four goals in five of their 11 games.
Tough to go against numbers like that in this spot.
Call it The Star vs. The System. Tampa Bay’s strangling 1-3-1 system worked wonders against Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals. It frustrated him, it choked the life out of the Capitals’ offensive strategy, and it won’t take long before it’s thrown at the Bruins.
Boston goes at it a different way. They work from their superstar out, and so far this postseason, 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara has been the tower of power that the Bruins need night in and night out. He has just two goals and two assists, but is an impressive +11 in 10 games against tough competition: Philadelphia and Montreal.
He also has 24 hits, 17 blocked shots and has thrown 34 on net from his own stick. His efforts have rubbed off on fellow defensemen Dennis Seidenberg (six points, +8) and Tomas Kaberle (three points, +5). And when the Bruins defenders play as a unit, they could be the best in the league.
Not surprisingly, when you can throw Stamkos, Lecavalier and St. Louis out on the power play, you’re going to score goals. And as such, the Lightning are 12 for 45 with the extra man for a percentage of 26.7, the highest rate for any of the teams still alive.
Combine that with the 94.4 penalty-kill percentage that Tampa Bay has orchestrated, and it’s no wonder the Lightning are where they are.
The Bruins, conversely, have been a power-play enigma. They have just two goals in 37 chances, for an anemic rate of 5.4 percent, and if that continues -- vs. the Lightning’s stifling system no less -- it could be a long series with the man advantage. At 80.5 percent, the Bruins have been OK on the penalty kill, but not enough to gain the advantage here.
Roloson, and all of his 41 years, has been everything Tampa Bay could’ve imagined when they acquired him on New Year’s Day from the Islanders. In the postseason, he’s 8-3 with a 2.01 goals-against average, and has been at the forefront of this Lightning revival.
But Tim Thomas (8-3, 2.03) has been second to none for the Bruins this past month, and it goes beyond the numbers. It’s the acrobatics, it’s the stickhandling, it’s the whatever-he’s-gotta-do-to-make-a-save mode that he’s in right now that gives him the nod here.
Thomas was good vs. Montreal, but was out of this world vs. Philadelphia. En route to four straight wins, he allowed just seven goals, and just two combined in the final two games.
Hard to believe that Thomas was the backup at this time last year in Boston. Perhaps one of coach Claude Julien’s best moves ever, was giving Thomas his job back.
It’s close in so many categories with these two teams. But defense and goaltending is what wins this time of year, and we like Boston to ride Chara and Thomas all the way to the conference crown.
Bruins in seven games.