2. Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
At the top, I mentioned that two of the top four teams in the league will be eliminated in the second round. This is one of them, as this matchup represents the third and fourth best teams in the NHL, and first and second best in the Eastern Conference, going at it.
Every regular season meeting between these two teams had an added intensity to it, since they knew they were likely to meet again in the playoffs. And while seeing the Bruins win the season series 3-1 should indicate they match up well with the Lightning, everyone knows it’s not that simple.
The Lightning made easy work of the New Jersey Devils, dispatching them in five games. As such, they had the benefit of sitting back and watching while the Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs tried to kill each other on the ice. It’s worth asking which team will fizzle out first — the one that hasn’t played a meaningful game in a week, or the one that is battered and bruised?
The Lightning know that they’re in tough against the Bruins, but if they’ve been watching their series, they know that they have weaknesses. For one, Tuukka Rask has looked vulnerable in his last three games, as he has posted an .848 save percentage and got pulled in Game 5. Charlie McAvoy hasn’t looked like himself either, but in fairness to him, he’s just coming back from an MCL sprain and is playing top-pairing minutes. That’s something the Lightning and their endless wave of forwards should be licking their chops over.
However, the key to winning this series will be the lethal Bergeron-Marchand-Pastrnak line. In the first round, every time that line got a point, they won. Will that trend carry over to the second round? Only time will tell, but it’s hard to bet against it.