So it is the Bruins.
The big, bad Bruins.
The Bruins come to town Saturday for the start of the Eastern Conference semifinals with the Lightning, a best-of-seven series that begins with a 3 p.m. puck drop.
It is the second-round series nearly everyone predicted when the playoff seedings were set. Ironically, the Lightning were thought to have the tougher first-round matchup, facing a Devils team that won all three meetings during the regular season. The Bruins were expected to roll past the Maple Leafs.
The Lightning dispatched the Devils in five games, while the Bruins, after winning three of the first four, were taken to a Game 7 by the Leafs and needed a four-goal third Wednesday to advance with a 7-4 win.
The winner of this series meets the winner of the Capitols-Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Bruins beat the Lightning in three out of the four regular season meetings. The Lightning avoid a sweep with a 4-0 victory April 3 at Amalie Arena, a win that was crucial as the Lightning held off the Bruins for the top-seed in the Eastern Conference. That came with some help from the Panthers, who beat the Bruins twice during the final week of the season, including on the last night of the season.
The Lightning edged the Bruins by one point for the Atlantic Division title and home ice throughout the conference playoffs.
Here is a quick breakdown.
Saturday 3 p.m. Tampa Bay NBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Monday 7 p.m. at Tampa Bay NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Wednesday 7 p.m. at Boston NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
May 4 7 p.m. at Boston NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
*May 6 TBD at Tampa Bay TBD
*May 8 TBD at Boston TBD
*May 10 TBD at Tampa Bay TBD
Regular season records:
Tampa Bay: 54-23-5, 113 points
Boston: 50-20-12, 112 points
Regular season series: Boston 3, Tampa Bay 1
Nov. 29 at Boston: Bruins 3-2 W
March 17 at Tampa Bay: Bruins 3-0 W
March 29 at Boston: Bruins 4-2 W
April 3 at Tampa Bay: Lightning 4-0 W
What matters: Beating the Bruins 4-0 in the last meeting during the final week of the regular season should give the Lightning a measure of confidence. That G Andrei Vasilevskiy turned in a Vezina Trophy-winning performance should provide a lift since Vasilevskiy admitted he was a bit gassed from his workload — career-high 65 games/64 starts — during the tail end of the season. That the Bruins are coming off an emotional seven-game series against the Maple Leafs should leave them not at their best for Saturday's Game 1. The Lightning need to take advantage of that, especially since it will be a week since it last played.
What doesn't matter: Losing three of four to the Bruins during the regular season. Everyone begins with a clean slate in the postseason. Remember, the Devils supposedly had the edge on the Lightning in the first round having won all three regular-season meetings. How did that work out for the Jersey boys?
Does Boston have the Lightning's number? One might think so, given the way the season-series went. But, the Lightning felt it played well during the third period of the loss in November and felt it played well from start to finish in the 4-2 loss in Boston on March 29. Two Boston goals in the final minute of the first period basically turned that game. Yet, five nights later in Tampa during a game with huge implications on the division lead, the Lightning won 4-0.
Will Brad Marchand be a factor? You know it. A big part of his game is to get under the skin of anyone on the other team. So he will be involved in some things that are outside of the rulebook. He is also really good. He led the Bruins during the regular season in points with 85 on 34 goals and a team-high 51 assists. He was also second with 63 penalty minutes. In four games against the Lightning, he had a goal and five assists and six penalty minutes. He was second on the team in scoring in the seven games against the Leafs with three goals and six assists for nine points. He was also whistled for just one penalty.
Tampa Bay 23.9 percent, 3rd out of 31 teams in NHL
Boston 23.5 percent, 4th in NHL
Boston 31.8 percent, 2nd out of 16 playoff teams
Tampa Bay 26.3 percent, 5th
Boston 83.7 percent, 3rd
Tampa Bay 76.1 percent, 28th
Tampa Bay 84.2 percent, 5th
Boston 73.3 percent, 13th
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Contact Roger Mooney at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @rogermooney50