Some believe the Tampa Bay Lightning will hold a clear advantage over the Boston Bruins when it comes to being healthy and rested for today's Game 1 action, since the team wrapped up its series against the New Jersey Devils exactly one week ago. The full six days off between games will allow the players to rest up and prepare for their first game against Bruce Cassidy's men.
We all remember what Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said, on Tuesday morning. He admitted he really hoped the seventh game between the Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs would be hard and exhausting for the winner:
"Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, at Marriott groundbreaking in Tampa, on Maple Leafs vs. Bruins Game 7: “I hope they go four overtimes and beat the crap out of each other.”"
Now even though the game didn't go to four overtimes, Boston had much less time to prepare. Bruins' insider Jimmy Murphy identified what the team needs to do to beat one of the NHL's best franchises this year. Here's what he said, according to CLNS Media Network:
1. Tuukka Rask needs to be more consistent: At 4-3, with a 2.94 GAA and .899 save percentage, he has been average at best. He has proven however -with a 3-1-0, 2.00 GAA, .926 save percentage and one shutout against the Bolts – that he can shut down the league’s best offense and third best power play... No more bad goals or goals right after the Bruins score and if by chance he does let in a softie, battle through it like he did in game 7 against the Leafs.
2. Forward depth needs to show up: One of the main reasons the Maple Leafs were able to erase a 3-1 series deficit and take the Bruins to seven games was that they were able to shut down the Bruins top line of Bard Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak in Game 3, 5 and 6... The likes of David Krejci, Rick Nash, Danton Heinen and Riley Nash however became invisible as well in those games and didn’t provide the depth the Bruins needed. That is not to say they were horrible against Toronto, but they will need to be great against Tampa Bay.
3. If possible, manage Zdeno Chara's minutes better: Chara was clearly fatigued in Games 5, 6 and 7, and while he dug deep and helped the team as best he could on the ice and with a pep talk in the second intermission, he was not himself when the Bruins needed him most. Chara led the team with average of 23:27 minutes on ice per game against the Leafs for a total of 164:09 minutes in the series,
4. Don't allow momentum killing goals: In the first round and through most of the season, it seemed like every time the Bruins scored a big goal, they allowed the opponent to answer with one of their own. This killed them a few times in the series with the Leafs, most noticeable when they cut Toronto’s lead to 2-1 in Game 5 and then the Leafs made it 3-1 51 seconds later. With another team that can strike quick in the Lightning, Bruce Cassidy needs to make sure he has the right matchup’s out promptly, and the players need to stay even-keeled.
5. Special teams need to be special again: Scoring at a 31.8 percent clip, the Bruins have the second best power play in the playoffs thus far and the Lightning have the fourth best at 26.3 percent. Meanwhile the B’s penalty kill killed off 11 of the 15 power plays they faced against the Leafs and the Lightning killed off 84.2 percent of the power plays they faced. Boston will need their PP and PK to be great again, and even better would be to stay disciplined and not put those offensive weapons like Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.
6. Win one of the first two and all home games: With TD Garden being a house of horrors for the Lightning dating back to 2011 when the Bruins beat them in a seven-game Eastern Conference Final, the Bruins need to take advantage of that to hold serve at home in this series. More importantly though, they need to take one of the first two games in Tampa Bay and steal home advantage as well as set the tone for the series that they can beat the Lightning anywhere.
This is certainly going to be tough for the Bruins. Tell us in the comment section what you think about Murphy's suggestions. We would also like to know whether you believe Boston will be able to beat the Lightning, and access to the Conference finals?