It’s no exaggeration to say whichever team wins the second round series between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning should be the Eastern Conference representative in the Stanley Cup Final.
No offense to the New York Islanders or the Philadelphia Flyers, but the two best teams in the East will be playing each other beginning Sunday night for the right to get to the Eastern Conference Final.
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It’s a shame that one of them will be eliminated so early in the tournament, but that seems to be the lament just about every year around this time in the playoffs.
The two squads have met twice in the playoffs, one a memorable Eastern Conference Final showdown in 2011 that had one of the most intense Game 7s in playoff history and the other a five-game series two years ago where the Bruins were overwhelmed by the talent of Tampa Bay.
Don’t expect the same thing to happen this time, but some of the same match-up issues remain. Boston’s scoring depth isn’t as formidable as Tampa Bay and the Bruins forwards commonly have some issues fighting their way to the net against a big, strong Lightning defensive corps that has some very strong two-way players.
Both teams are hungry for another Cup – the Lightning are at a point where they need to win one with this group, the Bruins are at the very end of their window after falling short in Game 7 last year – so there will be no shortage of intensity in this series. The fact that the B’s will have to do this with their backup goaltender just gives them another challenge along the way, but the Black and Gold have never been ones to shrink from a challenge.
Who has the edge in the head-to-head matchups? We’re so glad you asked.
Bruins vs. Lightning: Which team has the edge in NHL playoff series? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston