The Tampa Bay Lightning dropped Game 1 and never looked back. The Lightning secured their ticket to the Eastern Conference Final after defeating the Boston Bruins in five games of the second round. This is a huge confidence builder for the dominant Lightning and a learning moment for the Bruins about their off-season next steps. This will be the third Eastern Conference Final for the Lightning in their last four seasons.
Tampa Bay Lightning Banish Boston Bruins in Game Five
This series signifies a disappointing end to an otherwise fantastic season for the Boston Bruins. The Bruins came out strong in the series, winning the first tilt 6-2 on Tampa Bay ice. The Lightning were not ready for the Bruins continued momentum after their series win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Lightning had far more time to rest before Round 2 began. Game 1 was all the Lightning gave as they went on to win Games 2 and 3 by at least two goals. Game 4 went into OT, the Lightning emerging victorious in Boston. On home ice, Tampa punched their ticket on with a 3-1 win.
As stated in the series preview, forward depth was integral to this series and ultimately the Lightning’s success. The Lightning’s offence is littered with contenders, whereas the Bruins lacked a supporting cast to back up their top-line of stars.
Players like Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak continued to demonstrate excellent puck handling. The three earned 13 points on the series. The problem with that top first line is that they can’t do everything. Without players like Rick Nash, Jake Debrusk and David Krejci stepping up to consistently find the net, there was no hope. The first-line couldn’t hold the entire series on their backs. If the Bruins wanted to be a series contender for the cup, they need more than one line running at 100 percent.
As for the Lightning, their offensive stars from round one continued to dazzle. The Lightning’s top line of Steven Stamkos, J.T. Miller and Nikita Kucherov continued to produce on the series. Miller scored the game-winning goal in Game Five. Even when they weren’t scoring, players like Stamkos would step in and make a risky play, sending a message to the bench to risk it all. However, it was the Lightning’s depth that enabled them to make a deep run. Brayden Point especially didn’t quit. He drew penalties and scored goals. Point ended the series with seven points. The Lightning also did a fantastic job physically dominating the Bruins, especially young defenseman Charlie McAvoy who could be seen all over the ice for the Bruins. Ondrej Palat also continued to make a difference for the Lightning earning four points on the series.
In the end, the Bruins couldn’t beat the Lightning’s ability to roll four strong lines. No amount of licking from Marchand could stop that.
It’s obvious that goaltending is a key element in a strong playoff team. Usually, experience is an essential element in a goalie’s playoff success. However, Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Tampa Bay Lightning outplayed Tuukka Rask, who is eight years his senior.
Rask dealt with the pressure of Round 2 better than in the first round but he was too quick to react to the Lightning. He frequently put himself out of position. This allowed the Lightning to monopolize on Rask being off-balance and sink the puck. Tampa’s puck handling is too good for mistakes like that to be made. Tampa also outshot the Bruins throughout the series with a total of 154 shots for vs. Boston’s 133 shots for.
Vasilevskiy continued to perform extremely well for the Lightning in playoff conditions. He can end this series confident about his dexterity in the crease and ability to track the puck with congestion in front of the net.
Regular Season Redemption
As mentioned in the series preview, Boston had largely dominated the Lightning in the regular season. With Boston’s big victory in Game 1, many Bruins fans were confident this trend would continue. However, the postseason is a new season and the Lightning were not about the repeat the regular season’s woes. The Lightning adapted to their New England opponent quickly and shook the past right off their backs. Boston’s power play continued to be hot as expected with about a 44% success rate. It wasn’t enough to move them past Tampa. Tampa was also careful with their penalties, giving the Bruins only nine power-play opportunities throughout the series.
The Lightning will carry on to face the winner of the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins series in the Eastern Conference Final. If it’s the Capitals, you can bet they are chomping at the bit to make the most of their first round three appearance in 20 years. There’s nothing they’d like more than to lose their “playoff choker” reputation. If the Lightning meet the Penguins, they’re facing a team with far more post-season experience thanks to their current status as defending two-time Stanley Cup Champions.
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