2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals – Tampa Bay Lightning vs Boston Bruins Series Odds, Predictions and Preview: The Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins both decided to try a different approach during their semifinal matchups. After both teams needed seven games to advance out of the opening round, the Lightning and Bruins both delivered dominating sweeps in the second round. After some much-needed rest, two of the hottest teams will do battle with a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals on the line.
Led by a surging offense, Tampa Bay enters the series coming off a sweep of the top-seeded Washington Capitals. Since being down 3-1 in the opening round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Lightning have reeled off seven wins in a row. The Bruins were firing on all cylinders as well during their sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers in the semifinals. A slumbering offense awoke, and superstar goaltender Tim Thomas shutdown the Philadelphia attack.
In many ways, this series will pit strength against strength. The Tampa Bay offense features Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. Stamkos finished the regular season with the second-most goals in the NHL, and St. Louis finished the year second in both assists and total points. Meanwhile, the Bruins are powered by their defense. Thomas is without question the top goalie in the league, and defenseman Zdeno Chara uses his massive frame to make scoring even more difficult for the opposition. It is a bit cliché, but the team that is able to impose their style of play is going to win this series.
The two X-factors for the Lightning are goalie Dwayne Roloson and left wing Sean Bergenheim. Roloson was average during the regular season, but he has saved his best hockey for when it matters most. If he can continue to give up three goals or less, the Tampa Bay offense can do the rest. Bergenheim has been a big part of that offensive attack lately. After scoring just 14 goals during the regular season, he has netted seven goals in 11 games this postseason. If he continues to score at his current rate, he gives the Lightning offense an added dimension that is tough to stop.
For the Bruins, the play of Milan Lucic is going to go a long way in determining whether or not they advance to the finals. Lucic led Boston in scoring during the regular season, but he has just two goals and five points in the 11 playoff games. If he continues to struggle, the opening round was proof of just how stagnate the Bruins offense can become.
At the end of the day, Boston’s title hopes live and die with Thomas. He can single-handedly shutdown an opponent when he is playing at the top of his game. Thomas showed in the semifinals that he can stifle even the hottest of offenses, and the Lightning could be the next team to find that out first hand. It is tough for any team to win when they are only scoring one or two goals, especially a team like the Lightning that has a clear disadvantage in the net.
In a best-of-seven series, Thomas is likely to rise to the occasion more often than not. Tampa Bay may have a game or two when St. Louis and company unleash a scoring barrage, but it is much easier to play consistent defense than consistent offense. The Bruins defense has been one of the best defenses in the NHL all year, and it is good enough to carry them into the finals.
Prediction: Boston Bruins Win in 6 Games
2011 NHL Playoffs – Series Prices from SBG Global Sportsbook
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Boston Bruins
Tampa Bay Lightning +120
Boston Bruins -140
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