East Semis Game 1: Rested Lightning Should Strike Down Bruins

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, April 26, 2018 5:39 PM UTC

Thursday, Apr. 26, 2018 5:39 PM UTC

The last of the NHL’s conference semifinals to begin is Saturday afternoon (3 ET, NBC) from Tampa as the well-rested Lightning host the Boston Bruins.

Game 1: Boston (4-2-1 O/U) at Tampa Bay (3-2 O/U)Free NHL Pick: LightningBest Line Offered: BetPhoenix

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Each of the four NHL’s conference semifinals has good storylines. Penguins-Capitals is Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin with Ovi looking to reach the conference finals for the first time. Sharks-Golden Knights is all about Vegas and its magical expansion season. Jets-Predators features the two teams with the most points in the regular season.

With all due respect to those, I believe the best matchup is Bruins-Lightning, with Game 1 from Tampa on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC. In this writer’s opinion, these are the two most talented teams in the NHL this season and the winner will bring home the Stanley Cup. At BetOnline, Tampa Bay is the +400 favorite to win the second Cup in franchise history. Boston is +700. To win the East, the Lightning are +180 and the Bruins +333. Finally, on the series line the Bolts are -140 and B’s +120.

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Your #StanleyCup Second Round schedule.

We’ll be seeing you at @amaliearena on Saturday, #Bolts Nation. #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/aR2jTPqtvm

— #GoBolts (@TBLightning) April 26, 2018

Commissioner Gary Bettman needs to alter the playoff format. The first-round setup is fine, but then the league should reseed overall. It’s patently ridiculous that the Lightning and Bruins are playing in the conference semifinals even though they had the two highest point totals in the East. Just like it’s ridiculous the Jets and Panthers are playing in the West semis when they had the two highest point totals overall. It should be Tampa Bay-Pittsburgh and Boston-Washington in this round in the East.

The Bruins, incidentally, have no one but themselves to blame for not having home-ice advantage here. All they had to do was win their regular-season finale at home vs. nothing-to-play for Florida, but the Panthers pulled the 4-2 upset. That gave Tampa the Atlantic Division and No. 1 seed in the East by one point over the Boston.

Too Much Rest for Lightning?

We have the whole rust vs. rest argument here. The Lightning finished New Jersey in five games last Saturday. Is a week off too long? Meanwhile, the Bruins played a draining, but fantastic, seven-game series against Toronto, rallying for a 7-4 home win Wednesday night. Boston outscored Toronto 4-0 in the third period. Sorry, Canada, your Stanley Cup drought continues – look for a story on that here at SBR next week. That was the 26th Game 7 in Bruins history, the most by any team. Their seven goals were the most they’ve scored in a Game 7.

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What a night at @tdgarden.

🎥 Re-live all the highlights from the B's thrilling Game 7 win over Toronto: pic.twitter.com/bRJvoDYAaz

— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 26, 2018

David Pastrnak had a goal and assist Wednesday and leads these playoffs with a whopping 13 points (five goals, eight assists). In Game 2 against the Leafs, the 21-year-old had three goals and three assists, becoming became the youngest player in NHL history with six points in a playoff game. Another 21-year-old, Jake DeBrusk, had five goals and two assists in the series. The Bruins are set up to be good for a long time. The only moderate worry was Tuukka Rask looked shaky at times, finishing with a 2.94 GAA and .899 save percentage. Now he faces the NHL’s No. 1 offense.

It’s the second-ever playoff meeting between these teams; in 2011, Boston beat Tampa Bay in the East Finals. The Bruins went on to win their last Cup, beating Vancouver.

The Bruins won the first three meetings vs. the Lightning this season, but Tampa won the finale at home 4-0 on April 3. Torey Krug led Boston with six points (one goal, five assists) in the series. Pastrnak had two goals and two assists. Rask had a 2.00 GAA and .926 save percentage. No Lightning player had more than three points vs. Boston. Victor Hedman and J.T. Miller each had two goals. Steven Stamkos was held to one point. Hart Trophy candidate Nikita Kucherov, who has 10 points in these playoffs, had three assists vs. the Bruins. Andrei Vasilevskiy had a 2.30 GAA and .928 save percentage.

Fully expect this series to go seven games, but I lean rested Tampa over a potentially gassed Bruins side in Game 1 for a Saturday NHL pick.

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