The 2011 Eastern Conference Final (ECF) is right around the corner, and the two teams left have battled their way through some intense hockey to make it this far. Here is a brief-as-can-be summary of each teams “road to glory” thus far.
The Bruins landed 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference this year. Round 1 in the playoffs matched them up against a tough Montreal Canadien team. The two gave it their all, making it to the final game of a best-in-7 series. The teams were so closely matched that even game 7 saw overtime action. Although the number 6 seeded Habs fought hard, the Bruins were able to pull away with the W and advance on to the second round where they would meet the Philadelphia Flyers, who finished 3rd in the league this past season. Although the B's were the underdog in this series, they were able to successfully sweep the Flyers in a major upset 4 games to none and take a confident step into the ECF.
Tampa Bay Lightning:
The Bolts finished the regular season strong with a (7-3-0) record in their last 10, and placing them 5th in the East. They were even able to shut down my Carolina Hurricanes chance at getting into the playoffs in their last game of the season. Moving into the first round, the Bolts would face an injury ridden Pittsburgh Penguins team. The Lightning were able to defeat the Pens in a tough 7 game series and advance on to round two where they would face a powerhouse in the Washington Capitals (who finished 1st in the East last season, 2nd overall in the league). With complete odds against them, the Bolts unleashed fury against Alex Ovechkin and his giant of a team. Call it how you want it, but unbelievably the Bolts were able to sweep the Capitals 4 games to none, making them the first team to advance into the ECF.
Playoff Stat Leaders:
Goals: Brad Marchand, Nathan Horton, David Krejci, all with 5.
Assists: Patrice Bergeron, 10.
Points: Patrice Bergeron, 12.
Plus-minus: Zdeno Chara, +11.
Goaltending: Tim Thomas, 8-3, 2.03 goals-against average, .937 save percentage, 0 shutouts.
Goals: Sean Bergenheim, 7.
Assists: Martin St. Louis, Steve Downie, Teddy Purcell, 10
Points: Martin St. Louis, 13
Plus-minus: Steve Downie, plus-9
Goaltending: Dwayne Roloson, 8-3, 2.01 goals-against average, .941 save percentage, 1 shutout.
Let’s take a quick look at how evenly matched these two teams actually are, stat wise:
Bruins: Finished 3rd in the East, 7th overall in the league.
Bolts: Finished 5th in the East, 8th overall in the league.
Both teams shared the exact same record: 46-25-11 (W-L-OT) with 103 points.
The only major difference between the two teams was the goal differential. The Bruins scored 246 goals for throughout the season and allowed 195, leaving them at +51. Whereas the Bolts scored an equivalent 247 goals, but allowed 240, finishing them at +7. The amount of goals scored for each team signify that offense was not the problem for the Bolts, but rather lied in a somewhat less structured back end.
This can be seen in the four matches during the regular season where these two teams squared up. The Bruins were able to win 3 out of 4 attempts against the Lightning, only losing their first, but coming back in their second game with a whopping 8-1 win. The goals scored between the two teams favor the Bruins, 15-8.
These two final teams are so closely aligned, that I am not only predicting a 7 game series, but also and intense single, or DOUBLE overtime. I have never really been a fan of the Bruins, but that's not the only reason I will be rooting for the Lightning the rest of the Championship. They are also a part of the SouthEast division, where my favorite team, the Carolina Hurricanes, are also located. We all know what kind of rep the SouthEast division already has, seeing the Bolts go far only makes us look better.
Share your thoughts and feelings on the ECF still ahead. May the best team win!
**Also, tune back in to see a preview of the Western Conference Finals following the completion of the 2nd round in the West.