After three games through the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning hold a 2-1 series lead over the Boston Bruins. With both teams missing key players to their roster, it has been a battle for both sides. Being down Tuukka Rask or Steven Stamkos would hurt any team in the playoffs, these are two of the best-equipped teams to deal with such absences. After Boston was able to take Game 1 led by Brad Marchand, the Lightning stormed back in Games 2 and 3. The Bruins have had to rely on their top players a lot to be in this series, as was expected.
We will break down what Tampa has to do to close out the series to move onto the Eastern Conference Finals and what the Bruins have to do to bring this series back.
Brad Marchand Keeping Boston Bruins in the Series
The Boston Bruins Strengths So Far
Through the first three games, Brad Marchand has been incredible for the Bruins thus far. With four of the Bruins seven goals belonging to Marchand, he has been an important piece for the Bruins. With an ixG of 2.04, Marchand has been leading the way for the Bruins offence. While it’s no surprise that a player on the “Perfection Line” is dominating in scoring, it’s to the degree that Brad Marchand is doing it that is so impressive. Marchand is one of the biggest reasons the Bruins are still in this series against Tampa Bay.
Charlie Coyle has also had a strong series so far for the Bruins, at 55.4% xGF%. He has been one of the few to maintain a positive xGF% through the first few games. While he only has one goal so far for the Bruins, he has not been hindering them while he is on the ice, and for the Bruins this series, that’s a plus. At the third-line centre position, being flanked by John Moore and Nick Ritchie, being positive in xG and not hindering your team seems like a win.
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Strengths So Far
I have often criticized the Lightning’s depth for their lack of production through the playoffs thus far. This series seems to be different. Players like Blake Coleman, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, and Yanni Gourde have all been contributing in this series. This is a roster that pays it’s depth a lot of money, and for them to step up against the Bruins is making them worth the money. If this continues, the Lightning have a roster that will not be able to be stopped. It’s performances like these that make the absence of Steven Stamkos less noticeable.
The Lightning’s defence has even been able to contribute. Mikhail Sergachev with a goal and two assists, Victor Hedman with two goals, and Zach Bogosian making some of the best plays of his NHL career. The entirety of the Lightning lineup has been on this series. It can be a terrifying thing when this roster comes at you with everyone firing on all cylinders, and that’s exactly what Tampa has been doing.
The dynamic duo of Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov continues to have an incredible playoff run. Even when Kucherov wasn’t able to generate anything in Game 1, he was still able to manage eight shots on goal. Point managing one goal and four assists and Kucherov had two goals and three assists… they just continue to dominate. Now that they aren’t the only two players generating offence, the team just looks a lot more impressive overall.
The Boston Bruins Weaknesses So Far
While Brad Marchand is dominating, Patrice Bergeron has no goals and only a single secondary assist through the three games. It was mostly from a terrible Game 1 from Bergeron, he is at 39.8% xGF%. Bergeron may have been better in Games 2 and 3, it’s the lack of actual production that makes him stick out. If the Bruins are to win this series, Bergeron needs to begin producing like the elite centre he is.
The overall defence for the Bruins this series has been rough. Unable to manage anything lower than 3.47 xGA, the Bruins have been getting crushed in an area that is normally a strength. The Bruins’ offence hasn’t even been particularly bad in generating quality chances. They’ve just been allowing Tampa to generate better chances. The Bruins need to tighten up defensively and keep Tampa from running over them in the Bruins’ zone.
The team has consistently been getting caved in overall, with very few players above 50% in xGF%. The entire team, forwards and defencemen, need to come together to play the elite defence the Bruins are known for.
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Weaknesses So Far
The Lightning have not had many glaring holes in their roster this series. One big weakness that can be pointed to is Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s inconsistency. Possibly one of the most infuriating parts of their roster, Vasilevskiy has shown flashes of brilliance and the potential to steal games. He just doesn’t do it as consistently as one would hope. Bouncing from a .903 in Game One, to and .880 in Game 2, and all the way up to a .958 in Game 3, Vasilevskiy just needs to be more consistent. If he were to find that, or even pull out the flashes of brilliance out at the right times, the Lightning have a very real chance of winning the Stanley Cup.
To sum up, in order for Tampa to close out the series they just need to continue playing how they have. If they keep getting contributions from up and down the roster there should be no stopping them. Goaltending needs to pull itself together more often than current, which is very doable. For the Bruins to turn this around, they will need to play as they did in the regular season and tighten up on defence. They have an incredibly talented roster that is more than capable of beating a peak Tampa team, but only if their players play at maximum capacity. The Bruins can’t continue to rely on Brad Marchand exclusively for the rest of the series.