NHL Picks: Lightning vs. Bruins Series Odds and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 5/13/2011
By the time the Lightning and the Bruins start their series in Boston on Saturday night they may have forgotten how to skate. This has to be one of the longest breaks between series for two teams we have ever seen. Boston beat Philadelphia in four games last Friday, and it was Wednesday when Tampa Bay put the last nail in Washington’s coffin. That means that both teams have had more than a week to get ready for their next opponent — and to lose whatever edge made them so incredibly good in their last series.
Lightning and Bruins Betting Story Lines
The similarities are striking. Both teams struggled to get past their first round opponent. Both teams couldn’t possibly have looked better in the second round against a couple of pretty good teams. Both teams have an experienced core and some exciting youth. Both have been riding on the backs of goaltenders that are in the groove. It may not have seemed like these were necessarily the two best teams in the East heading into the playoffs, but there is no doubt at this point that the winner of this series — and that could certainly be either team — is going to be the best possible representative of the conference in the Cup.
You have to start with the goalies because they are going to be the story here. Tim Thomas is the best goalie on the planet right now, and his playoff performance has done nothing to challenge that opinion — his 2.03 GAA and .937 save percentage in the postseason are ridiculous. It’s no fluke, either — his .938 save percentage in the regular season was the best in league history. He’s as reliable as it gets.
Thomas is getting long in the tooth for the NHL at 37, but he’s a baby compared to his counterpart — Dwayne Roloson is 41. Unlike Thomas, Roloson did not come into this season with massive expectations. He started the year as one of the seemingly hundreds of goalies on the Islanders’ roster, and he didn’t join the goalie-starved Lightning until a trade on New Year’s Day. He was solid during the season, but has stepped his games up about eight levels in the playoffs — his 2.01 GAA and .941 save percentage are incredibly good. Despite how he has played, though, the layoff is more of a concern for him than Thomas because his play has been further from expectations.
Both teams have stellar veterans and nice depth. The series could come down to two of the younger players in the series, though. Tampa’s Steven Stamkos is perhaps the best pure goal scorer in the league, but he has been nearly invisible in the playoffs. If the Lightning want to move on they will need him to be nearer to full strength. It should help that linemate Simon Gagne, who missed the last series with a concussion, will be back for this one. For Boston all eyes are going to be on Tyler Seguin, the second overall pick in the last entry draft. He was raw during the regular season, though he showed flashes of brilliance. He has been a healthy scratch through the playoffs, but a concussion for Patrice Bergeron will have him on the sidelines and will force Seguin to step in as the second or third center. Bergeron is a spark plug in the offense, so the pressure will be on Seguin to maintain his team’s productivity while not making mistakes when he doesn’t have the puck.
The most interesting storyline in this series for hardcore hockey fans may be the general managers. Boston’s Peter Chiarelli is as good as anyone in the business. Since taking over in 2006 he has built Boston into a consistent top-tier team, and he’s done so with sharp moves — like robbing Toronto in the deal that led to the Seguin pick. Tampa Bay’s Steve Yzerman is new to his job, but the hockey legend has quickly shown just how astute he is — deals for Roloson and Eric Brewer during the season are difference-makers. These teams are built to win, and they are following very clear, well-defined visions.
Lightning and Bruins Betting Odds and Trends
Boston is favored to win the series at BetUS at -140, with Tampa Bay is at +110. At this point it seems likely that the home team will be favored in every game unless something changes significantly.
This is the first playoff meeting for these teams. Boston was heavily motivated against Philadelphia by the revenge factor, so it remains to be seen if the absence of that anger is an issue.
Boston is 8-4 against the Lightning in the last three years, and were 3-1 this season.
NHL Picks: Lightning and Bruins Series Predictions
I like Tampa Bay. A lot. I also like the idea of them as an underdog. Ultimately, though, I just can’t bet on them. They have the offensive edge, but that advantage is less significant when faced with Boston’s two bigger edges — defense and in net. Boston has more recent experience in the playoffs as well, and clearly matches up well with the Lightning. It’s going to be a very entertaining series, and it won’t likely end quickly, but Boston is very well positioned to come out on top.
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