Nate Thompson has been part of the Tampa Bay Lightning's efficient penalty kill unit during the 2011 NHL Playoffs. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
WHERE:TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
WHEN: 8 PM EDT | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Versus, CBC, RDS (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Stanley Cup of Chowder, Something's Bruin, Days of Y'Orr
I wrote that to acknowledge the forthcoming Eastern Conference finals match-up with the Boston Bruins. It was posted five days ago here on Raw Charge, and it feels like an outright eternity now. What is the precedent of a 10-day layoff during the playoffs in the NHL? That's how long it's been between the Lightning's sweep of the Washington Capitals (and nine days since Boston swept away the Philadelphia Flyers). Since then, we've waited for the Western Conference to finish their respective playoff series.
But at 8 PM Eastern Daylight Time, the 2011 NHL Playoffs continue with the beginning of the Eastern Conference finals. The good news is that this time off has afforded players (...for both teams) the opportunity to heal and recuperate. The bad news is that it wasn't enough time to cure Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina, or Bruins center Patrice Bergeron who are both suffering from concussion issues.
I'm so hesitant to throw out stats because, as I repeat and remind over and over again during the playoffs, each series technically starts at 0. While Sean Bergenheim, Vincent Lecavalier, Steve Downie, Martin St. Louis and even goaltender Dwayne "Get Off My Lawn!" Roloson have played well and made pitches for the Conn Smythe trophy with their individual efforts during these past two series, each man has made those efforts at different times and keyed in at different places.
I'm saying that while there is a total team effort going on here, those earning the limelight haven't been consistently stealing the show... Well, with the exception of Dwayne Roloson and St. Louis (who is chronic in his ability to improve his team offensively).
What I'm also saying here is who will be next for the Tampa Bay Lightning to steal the show? Is Dominic Moore going to get his overdue credit for enabling his line-mate? Will Teddy Purcell or Simon Gagne start showing what they are capable of?
Perhaps, however, it will be Tyler Seguin of the Boston Bruins who introduces himself to the NHL? The 2010 1st rounder will be making his playoffs debut tonight, inserted into the lineup in place of the absent Bergeron for the Bruins.
But let's go back to the statistics I wanted to avoid. The special teams statistics that can be considered null and void because we're starting from scratch here. The Boston Bruins power play unit has been anemic at best during the playoffs, converting just over 5% of their power play opportunities. This comes with them facing the strong netminding of Carey Price (he and the Habs defense stopped all 21 Bruin power play opportunities in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals) and the weak, merry-go-round effort in goal for the Philadelphia Flyers (who allowed 9 goals in 47 short-handed situations all playoffs long).
The Lightning have been the most penalized team of the playoffs, and have thus suffered 54 short-handed situations. The penalty kill, however, during rounds one and two, was indomitable. The Lightning penalty kill percentage is 94.4%. Of those 54 short-handed situations, they've allowed a total of 3 goals. One of those goals was on a long 5-on-3 against Washington... A situation hard to kill off at any time of year versus the Capitals.
So, will the Boston power play continue as weak? Will the Lightning continue their other-worldly penalty kill efforts? I didn't even mention the Lightning's 26.7% conversion rate on the Power Play (going 12 for 45 through the first two rounds of the playoffs). They will be facing Boston's more formidable penalty kill unit (80.5% efficiency) backed up by the efforts of Tim Thomas.
I really don't know what to expect going forward. A physical game, much like what we saw int he 1st round against Pittsburgh... But physical play only gets you so far. And for the Penguins, it got them knocked out of the playoffs after 7 games.
Blair Jones is going to e a healthy scratch tonight, and Dana Tyrell is still hurting. The Lightning will go with the 11-forard / 7-defenseman split this evening. Randy Jones will play, as will Marc-Andre Bergeron.
Here's a reminder for tonight if you don't want to stay stuck at home watching game 1 alone -- join other fans at the St. Pete Times Forum and watch the game in the west plaza. That was a mainstay practice for previous Lightning playoff series. It may come off as a bit nostalgic to the older fans, and it's to be a unique experience for those who have not experienced things before.
We go live with our game thread at 7 PM EDT -- a clear hour before game time. Everyone's invited to participate, but make sure you keep it civil.
Eastern Conference Finals prediction
Tampa bay in 4 Games (26 votes)
Boston in 4 Games (15 votes)
Tampa Bay in 5 Games (46 votes)
Boston in 5 Games (60 votes)
Tampa Bay in 6 Games (251 votes)
Boston in 6 Games (175 votes)
Tampa Bay in 7 Games (90 votes)
Boston in 7 Games (49 votes)
712 total votes