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Playoff Preview: How The Lightning Match Up Against Bruins

Tampa Bay Lightning Predictions; Tampa Bay Lightning Playoff Preview

With the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs inching closer, the Tampa Bay Lightning have likely secured a spot with their recent performance. Tampa Bay holds the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference (40-25-7) with 87 points. As of today, the Lightning have four potential opponents they can play in the first round. We will now look at a Tampa Bay Lightning Playoff Preview matchup against the Boston Bruins.

Tampa Bay Lightning Playoff Preview

Analyzing a Potential Lightning vs. Bruins Playoff Series

Offensive Players and Statistics Head-To-Head

The Bruins’ offence is arguably the least dynamic among potential playoff opponents for the Lightning. Tampa Bay has top-notch superstars in Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. Furthermore, the Tampa Bay forward core offers other complimentary scoring threats with Steven Stamkos and Brandon Hagel. Meanwhile, the Bruins have a stud in David Pastrnak. Don’t forget about their captain, Brad Marchand. However, the Bruins’ top six consist of balance with players who play to the strengths of the Bruins’ system.

Looking at the depth of both sides, the Bruins have a great advantage. Morgan Geekie and Trent Frederic are fantastic third-line options, plus many other fourth-line specialists. Jim Montgomery‘s system gives the Bruins plenty of options in the bottom six to keep guys fresh. The Bruins remained silent on the offensive end at the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline, while the Lightning added Anthony Duclair to compliment the top-six. He continues to look amazing for the Bolts every game.

Looking at some offensive rate statistics, the Bruins take the cake. Boston’s actual goal-scoring rates are much better than their expected rates. The Bruins score 2.75 goals per hour at 5v5 (2.75 GF/60), which ranks sixth league-wide. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay scores 2.52 goals per hour at 5v5 (2.52 GF/60), which ranks 19th league-wide. The Bruins record 2.58 expected goals per 60 at 5v5 (2.58 xGF/60), good enough for 15th in the league. As for the Lightning, their 2.42 expected goals per hour (2.42 xGF/60) rank 25th in the league at 5v5.

The two teams have very different offensive styles. The Lightning have more superstar power, while the Bruins have a more balanced approach. With that, we believe the star power of the Bolts would prevail in a potential playoff series.

Offence: Tampa Bay

Defensive Players and Statistics Head-To-Head

On the defensive end, this matchup appears lopsided on paper despite the defensive improvements for the Lightning. Victor Hedman runs the blue line for the Lightning, eclipsing the 1,000-game mark this season. However, the loss of Mikhail Sergachev is not easy to replace. On the other hand, Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm lead an elite Bruins’ back end. Boston is one of the most challenging teams to score on in the league due to these two.

Both clubs added a right-handed defenceman at the trade deadline this year. Tampa Bay acquired Matt Dumba to add depth and physicality to the back end. Andrew Peeke was the target for the Bruins this season, a young defender with a bright future in the league.

Now, looking at defensive rate statistics, the Bruins have a slight edge. Boston surrenders 2.12 goals against per hour (2.12 GA/60) at 5v5, which ranks fourth in the league. On the other hand, Tampa Bay allows 2.86 goals against per 60 at 5v5 (2.86 GA/60). The Bruins and Lightning allow are relatively close in expected goals-against rates, despite Tampa Bay’s shot quality-against rate being significantly better than their actual goals-against rate. The Lightning surrenders 2.49 expected goals against per hour (2.49 xGA/60), good enough for 13th in the league. Meanwhile, the Bruins are elite in this defensive metric, allowing 2.55 expected goals against per 60 (2.55 xGA/60), which ranks 15th in the NHL.

The defensive metrics favor Boston slightly, while they have a clear advantage on paper and systems-wise. Therefore, we believe the Bruins take the defensive head-t0-head comparison.

Defence: Boston

Goaltending With Statistics Head-To-Head

Goalies being voodoo is a common cliche amongst the statistical hockey community, and this statement could not be more accurate. Year after year, goaltenders have the most variable statistical performances in the league compared to forwards and defenders. Goaltending statistics have historically been influential based on team systems or team defence.

However, the Boston goaltending replicated their elite play from the 2022-23 season. Jeremy Swayman ranks tied-fourth in 5v5 goals saved above expected in the NHL this season (14.1 GSAx). Furthermore, Linus Ullmark ties his partner for fourth in goals saved above expected at 5v5 in 2024 (14.1 GSAx).

Meanwhile, the Lightning goaltenders have not played up to caliber this season. Following back surgery and a late return, Andrei Vasilevskiy ranks 89th in goals saved above expected this season (-10.2 GSAx). However, Vasilevskiy continues to show flashes of excellence in recent weeks, and anything is possible for the “Big Cat.” As for the backup, Jonas Johansson ranks 83rd in goals saved above expected 5v5 (-7.3 GSAx). 

While the Lightning goaltending appears outmatched statistically, Vasilevskiy can easily be the difference-maker for the Bolts in crunch time. However, the Bruins’ tandem of two elite goaltenders is impossible to match up against. 

Goaltending: Boston

Final Analysis in this Tampa Bay Lightning Playoff Preview

This Atlantic Division rivalry offers another exciting matchup for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Lightning and Bruins split four regular-season meetings this season. Both rosters have experience and are nearing the close of their cup windows. With an overall scope, we believe the Lightning can pull off an upset against the Bruins.

Current Prediction: Tampa Bay Wins in six or seven games

Raw stats via NaturalStatTrick & MoneyPuck

Main photo by: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports


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