It’s been a surprising road to get here. If you go back and look at my first round predictions and my second round predictions you can see that I did not think I would be looking at these match ups. But here we find ourselves looking at the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning playing for the Eastern Conference title and the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks playing for the Western Conference title.
And I think these are going to be two very exciting series.
Prince of Wales Trophy (Eastern Conference)
Boston Bruins versus Tampa Bay Lightning
It has been an impressive showing from both the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning to get here. The Lightning have won seven games in a row, sweeping the Washington Capitals to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bruins went to an epic game seven against the Montreal Canadiens and swept the Philadelphi Flyers, along with the demons from their elimination at the hands of the Flyers last year. Both teams have had phenomenal goaltending: the Bruins have Tim Thomas and the Lightning have Dwayne Roloson. This will definitely be a clash of titans, and not just because Victor Hedman is 6’ 6” and Zdeno Chara is 6’ 9”. The Bruins and an incredibly powerful defense and the Lightning are an incredibly powerful offense.
So what will be the difference maker?
I think it is going to come down to special teams. During the regular season the Lightning ranked 6th on the power play and 8th on the penalty kill. In the playoffs they have gotten even better, ranked 3rd on the power play and 2nd on the penalty kill. The Bruins on the other hand were 20th on the power play and 16th on the penalty kill. Things haven’t been any better for them in the playoffs, ranking 14th on the power play and 10th on the penalty kill.
The reason I think special teams will be the deciding factor is that the Bruins play a very physical game, the team is famous for it. Combine that with the intensity of emotions that the playoffs bring out and this could lead to the Bruins being on the penalty kill more than they will be able to handle.
Tampa Bay in 6
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl (Western Conference)
Vancouver Canucks versus San Jose Sharks
The Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks are two impressive teams. Both teams can put big numbers on the scoreboard. Both have goaltenders that are riding momentum right now. Both teams have defense that can turn around and score goals. Both teams have a very bad history in the playoffs.
And that is what is going to be the deciding factor of this series in my opinion.
Either one of these teams is good enough to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. I didn’t think this about the Sharks before, but after they managed to beat the Red Wings, I can see that they just might be capable of pulling this off. There is no question that Canucks are a Stanley Cup caliber team. They were ranked 1st on the power play and 3rd on the penalty kill during the regular season. Not to mention they one the President’s Cup for having the most points of any team in the league during the regular season. So, umm…they’re pretty good.
So which team is going to crack mentally? Who is going to let the demons of their past eliminations rise up and defeat them? That’s the question. And given that the Sharks very nearly did this very thing during their last series against the Red Wings, I think they will be the ones to crack under the pressure.
But I do think it will be a hell of a show.
Vancouver in 6