The No. 3 seed Boston Bruins and the No. 5 seed Tampa Bay Lightning will clash in the Eastern Conference final beginning tonight. Here are 10 items for your consideration about this matchup.
10. The Dwayne Roloson / Tim Thomas backstory. This week, Boston's Vezina Trophy nominee recalled the decision he made to choose the University of Vermont over UMass-Lowell to play his college hockey. When Thomas was making his choice, Roloson was about to return for his senior season at Lowell, meaning the Bruins goaltender would have had to redshirt his freshman year. After Vermont came in late, Thomas decided on the Catamounts, where he played with Lightning forward Martin St. Louis, and the rest of his journey is history.
9. Vintage Vinny. How much fun is it to see Vinny Lecavalier playing like his old self? Tied for third in points with 12, Lecavalier has contributed in all but two of Tampa's games so far.
8. Sean Bergenheim is in the running for the "John Druce Award". You probably didn't know much about Bergenheim before April. Now you probably know all there is about him. One of the unheralded breakout stars of the playoffs so far, Bergenheim has scored in seven of Tampa's last nine games after going quiet in their first three against Pittsburgh and is now tied for the playoff lead with seven. His contributions are a nice surprise as St. Louis and Lecavalier lead the way, while Steven Stamkos has rebounded after a slow start to the playoffs.
7. Tampa's kill vs. Boston's power play. What happens when you get the best remaining penalty kill (94.4-percent) against the worst remaining power play (5.4-percent)? That'll remain to be seen, but Patrice Bergeron's presence will be missed as the Bruins appeared to have begun slowly busting out of their power slump. Boston is two for their last seven on the power play after beginning the playoffs 0-for-30.
6. Guy Boucher versus Claude Julien. If Boucher is a James Bond villain with his facial scar and psychological tactics, does that make Julien Joe Cabot from "Reservoir Dogs" just by sheer resemblance?
5. No more Jack Edwards. The conference finals means no more local television broadcasts, which means no more Jack. Love him or hate him, no announcer delivers better soliloquies than the NESN play-by-play man.
4. Hockey > Buzz Lightyear. St. Pete Times Forum was originally booked from the 18th to the 22nd with a Toy Story 3 / Disney on Ice show. Now with the the Lightning making the Eastern Conference final, five shows between Thursday, Friday and Saturday have been canceled to make way for Games 3 and 4 of the series.
3. Eric Brewer. When Brewer arrived from the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 18, his presence quickly settled down a mediocre blue line. His leadership has helped improved Tampa's penalty kill and is the team's go-to guy in shutting down the top players from opponents. Brewer leads all Tampa players with 43 blocked shots, 32 hits and time on-ice with 26:09. The next highest is Victor Hedman at 21:58. It's no surprise that the Lightning went 22-6-2-3 after acquiring him.
2. Patrice Bergeron's absence. Despite some belief out there that Bergeron will return at a later point in the series, the truth is that he suffered his third career concussion in Game 4 against Philadelphia. It can be labeled as "mild", but in this day and age of concussion awareness and Bergeron's history, it should be treated much more seriously than "mild". The Bruins are following NHL protocol and while he has yet to partake in any physical activity, Bergeron did skate this morning at TD Garden. That loss is a blow to every aspect of the Bruins' game. Will it be a rallying point for the team? Can a bumped up Chris Kelly and newly-added Tyler Seguin fill that hole adequately?
1. Prediction: Bruins in six. Both teams won't have to worry about coming into the series tonight tired considering they've had over a week off to heal and rest up. The key for the Bruins will be to stay out of the penalty box and keep things 5-on-5 where they've found their most success in the playoffs (31 goals). Tampa's special teams are superior and they've scored almost a third of their goals on the power play. If Boston can play smart, they'll be able to fight their way through what should be a very tight series.