The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning will meet for the third time ever in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the second time in three years, these Atlantic Division rivals will battle for a spot in the Eastern Conference Final. Each team has won one series in the brief playoff history between them. The Lightning won their 2018 Eastern Conference Semifinal series in five games, while the Bruins won the 2011 Eastern Conference Final in seven.
Game 1 of this series drops the puck at 8:00 pm on NBC and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
CONTAIN THE RUSH
For the Boston Bruins to advance to the Eastern Conference Final for the second year in a row, they’ll need to lock down defensively against a dominant Lightning attack. Head coach Bruce Cassidy believes that the key to the series lies in improving their rush reads.
“Probably our rush reads,” Cassidy said on Saturday. “We got victimized by Tampa, I think Washington a couple of times. We’re giving up the middle of the ice so we talked about we want to make it harder for them to get into the middle of the ice by getting our D a little closer together, not getting as flexed out and then force them to go through us to get to the net. So I thought we did a really good job with that with Carolina.”
The Bruins did a better job of that against the Carolina Hurricanes in their Quarterfinal matchup. The Lightning are a different beast, however. They are a faster, more skilled team than the Hurricanes. The task will be more difficult.
AN INEVITABLE MATCH UP
Last season, it seemed inevitable that the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning would meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Then the Columbus Blue Jackets shocked the hockey world and swept the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
The Lightning took care of business this postseason, and now the match up Cassidy thought he would see a year ago is reality.
“I felt like it. I assumed last year would be the year,” said Cassidy when asked if he felt this matchup was inevitable. “I don’t think anyone saw the Columbus series coming. We assumed we’d get them in the second round. We took care of business, here we are the second round this year even though it’s a different format.”
The Bruins and Lightning met in 2018, with the Lightning winning that series in five games to advance to the Eastern Conference Final. Prior to eliminating the Blue Jackets last week, that stood as the Lightning’s most recent playoff series victory.
If the match up was inevitable in Cassidy’s mind, close games in said match up are inevitable in the mind of Lightning coach Jon Cooper.
“We played them a couple years ago (in the playoffs). And then we’ve had some pretty intense games with them since,” Jon Cooper said of the rivalry. “Usually they’re one-goal games and usually there’s some sort of fireworks that have happened in the game. It’s two competitive teams, and I think when two teams have been at the top of the standings battling it out over the years, that’s what you’re going to get. If the series is anything like the last time we played them up in Boston, it should be a fun one.”
NO STAMKOS FOR LIGHTNING
Steven Stamkos is not yet ready to go. The 30-year-old is nursing a lower-body injury that he sustained during the Lightning’s pre-postseason training camp. Stamkos has yet to practice with his teammates since the injury, and has not played since February 25th.
“He’s not available right now,” said Cooper. “When he is going to be available, I will let you know. But, there’s no further updates. And so, I’ll address it when it comes available.”
BOSTON BRUINS LINES
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Ondrej Kase
Nick Ritchie – Charlie Coyle – Anders Bjork
Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Connor Clifton
Boston Bruins lines are subject to change. Halak gets the start, and will almost certainly be the guy with Tuukka Rask now out of the bubble. Lines are based off of recent practices and are anticipated by the club. Karson Kuhlman, Jack Studnicka, Par Lindholm, Jeremy Lauzon and John Moore will be the scratches tonight.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING LINES
Ondrej Palat – Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn – Anthony Cirelli – Tyler Johnson
Barclay Goodrow – Yanni Gourde – Blake Coleman
Patrick Maroon – Mitchell Stephens – Cedric Paquette
Victor Hedman – Zach Bogosian
Ryan McDonagh – Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev – Kevin Shattenkirk
Lightning lines are subject to change. Vasilevskiy, although not yet confirmed, is almost certain to get the start. Maroon, meanwhile, is the only player remaining in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs who can repeat as Champion. He played for the St. Louis Blues last season, who were eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night.