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Bolts Vs Bruins (Matchup Preview)
By Jake Ricker
The Tampa Bay Lightning will be taking on the Boston Bruins in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bolts are coming off a 4-1 series victory against the Devils, while the Bruins are coming off a 4-3 series lead against the Leafs. The Bruins did win the regular season series 3-1 but, we should be in for a great first round matchup with these division rivals. Let’s take an in-depth look at how these two teams stack up.
Both of these teams have their fair share of talented players that can score, but I’m going to have to give the Lightning the advantage here. The Bruins have 3 30+ goal scorers but the Bolts have the advantage depth wise. The Bolts have 5 20+ goal scorers and have the ability to score on any line. So many of their players are having breakout seasons and are only getting better. Both Point and Gourde have taken the league by storm and if point gets on a breakaway you can pretty much forget about it. The Bolts ended the regular season with the highest goals per game average (3.54) while the Bruins finished 6th (3.26). The Bruins do have a higher average goals per game however they have played more games than the Bolts so far in the playoffs. The Bruins have relied on their top line for scoring too much and if they get shut down, their offense will likely struggle as we saw in the first round.
Both teams have decent defenses that have struggled at times. For the Bolts, they definitely have an advantage in talent with guys like Hedman, Stralman, and McDonagh. However, this defense did not play well in the regular season giving up an average of 2.85 goals per game (13th in the NHL). The Defense has looked much better in the first round of the playoffs letting up a total of 12 goals over 5 games. If the Bolts can keep up that kind of defense the Bruins will have a very hard time scoring. As for the Bruins, they do have some big names but not as many. Chara is getting old and is not the same player he used to be. The Bolts are a very similar team when it comes to offense and the Bruins gave up 20 goals over 7 games. The Bruins will need to step up their game if they want to stop the Bolts
As we got to see in the first round Vasy was stellar once again. Vasy had a .941 save percentage in 5 games (4th best in the NHL) and gave up a total of 10 goals. He has continued to show us why he is a Vezina finalist. Vasy has been great all year and while he did struggle towards the end of the season he showed us in the first round there is no reason to worry. As for the Bruins Rask has the ability to steal games and had a .899 save percentage in the first round of the playoffs (13th in the NHL). Rask did not have the best first round and had some games where he definitely could have been better. This is a big concern for the Bruins as he will face an even better offense in the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Louis Domingue played well for the Bolts after replacing the injured Peter Budaj. Domingue ended the season with a .894 SV% and a 3.41 GAA. And while Domingue got 7 wins with the Bolts, however, the Bruins have a great option to go too. Anton Khudobin played great in the regular season ending the year with a .913 save percentage. We also got to see Khudobin in the playoffs when he replaced Rask in game 5, where he made all 8 stops and looked good. With his brief playoff experience and great regular season play, Khudobin has the edge over Domingue.
The Bolts had the 3rd best PP in the NHL this year and have the ability to be the best with all of their firepower. The Bolts PP was just ok in the first round finishing with a 26.3 power play percentage. The Bolts power play was on and off but will need to be more consistent as they take on a Bruins team who has been really good on the PP. The Bruins finished the first round with the best PP percentage in the league (33.3%) and were a big reason they have made it to the second round.
The Bolts PK was great in the first round finishing with an 84.2 PK percentage. The Bolts PK struggled all season and as a big question mark coming into the playoffs, but so far they have looked really good and will need to continue that success. As for the Bruins, they ended the first round with a 72.3 PK percentage. This is not fantastic but isn’t terrible. However, they will need to be even better going up against the Bolts as they have so many players that can make you pay for both PP lines. If the Bruins can’t stop the Lighting PP they will have a real hard time in this series.
The Bolts have a better team and are well rested. the Bruins who are coming off a 7 game series will also have to start things in Tampa Bay and short rest. Because the Bruins are coming off that 7 game series they have a few players who are banged up which hurts their already weaker depth. Rask also looked shaky in game 7 despite getting the win, and this will not be good enough against a high powered offense like the Bolts. And in order to keep up with the Bolts offense the Bruins offense will need to step up as well. But with Vasy playing some of his best hockey of his career this is not likely. The Bruins will need to play a very physical game if they want to keep the Bolts off balance. With that said, if the Bolts play to their strengths Boston won’t stand a chance. The Bolts have too much superstar talent to lose this one.