Bruins Will Have a Hard Fought Battle in Round 2
Stanley Cup Round 2 Preview: Bruins vs Lightning
With the Bruins defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in game seven of the first round, they have set up a date with the Tampa Bay Lightning in round two. This is a match up many have anticipated since the trade deadline. Both teams made massive trade deadline moves with the Rangers to bolster their rosters for the playoffs. The Bruins acquired Rick Nash, whereas the Lightning acquired JT Miller and Ryan McDonagh. The Lightning finished the regular season with 113 points, one more then the Bruins. The Bolts defeated the New Jersey Devils in five games in the first round of the playoffs and will present the Bruins with numerous challenges.
The offenses of both teams are electric and will provide an entertaining series. After the first round of the playoffs, the Bruins have scored the most goals thus far, averaging four goals a game. The Lightning are averaging 3.6 goals a game, but they have played two less games then Boston. Each team will have to keep a close eye on the opposing team’s top line. Boston’s top line consists of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron who combined for 30 points in the first round. Tampa’s first line consists of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and JT Miller who combined for 20 points in five games. While the Bruins top line is currently hot, the Lightning scored the most goals in the regular season and have one of the deepest forward cores in the league. Both offenses matchup evenly and can light the lamp at will. Both teams will have to stay out of the box as each team possess a top five regular season powerplay. If the Bruins want to win this series, they will need forwards like Rick Nash to start scoring. Most importantly, they will need their top line to continue to lead the charge which will be easier said than done.
Tampa’s defensive core is much better than what the Bruins saw in round one. The Lightning are led by one of the league’s best in Victor Hedman. Hedman had 63 points in the regular season, which is second best in the Eastern Conference. In addition, Tampa Bay acquired Ryan McDonagh, who many consider one of the best two-way defenders in the game. These two guys can cause the Bruins a ton of problems as both have a lot of experience eating up minutes and playing against the opposing team’s top line. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper has options determining how he will run his defense. Currently, Hedman and McDonagh are split up to provide better balance to the defense. However, if the Bruins top line continues to put up points, expect Cooper to pair these two together to counter Boston’s top line. Despite being a bit overmatched on defense, the Bruins can close the gap by playing simple hockey. The Bruins found some difficulty in the first round with the breakout pass and clearing their zone. The Bruins defense will have to clean up some mistakes and try to play turnover free hockey.
The goaltending matchup in round two will feature Tuukka Rask versus Andrei Vasilevskiy. If the Bruins want to win this series, Tuukka Rask is going to have to play better then he played in round one. While Rask had ups and downs, he gave up a few goals he probably wishes he could have back. If Rask cannot pick up his game, Tampa Bay will win this series in four or five games. Meanwhile, Vasilevskiy is a contender for the Vezina Trophy (NHL top goalie) and has shown no signs of slowing down in the postseason by posting a .941 save percentage. Tuukka Rask has posted a .899 save percentage, which is the worst among remaining starting goalies. Based on recent performances, the edge goes to Tampa Bay in the net.
The Bruins are going to have a massive challenge ahead of them. The key to the Bruins success has been their top line, and they will have to keep it going and must be better than Tampa Bay’s top line. In addition, the Bruins need their two other big players, Rick Nash and Tuukka Rask, to step up. Without these two, it will be nearly impossible for the Bruins to win this series. Both teams can score goals and will provide the defenses and goalies with an abundance of challenges. Tampa Bay have a better defense and goalie which will contain the Bruins offense better than the Leafs did. While this will be a hard-fought series that can go either way, I think the Bruins are just slightly overmatched and will lose the series in seven games. The B’s will enter with confidence as they won three of four meetings this season, but if Tuukka Rask does not pick up his game, it will be virtually impossible for the Bruins to win their pursuit of the cup.