It is one of my favorite times of the year: playoff hockey. Thanks to cutting the cable cord and the NHL’s lack of vision in building an ad-based online streaming network I will be stuck with highlights the next day and NBC’s weekend coverage. I never thought I would be so happy to see Pierre Maguire and his dancing hands of doom.
Eastern Conference Finals
#3 Boston Bruins vs. #5 seed Tampa Bay Lightning
This is not an easy one for me to remain objective on: I hate both teams. The Bruins, well it is ingrained. Being a Sabre fan for most of my life many a spring evening ended with me to sobbing myself to sleep on a tear soaked “Empire Strikes Back” pillow, all thanks to the hated Bruins.
From the cruelty of 1989′s ouster in five games after a Game 1 rout by Buffalo to Adam Oates faceoff goal in 1992 the Bruins along with the Habs scuttled my youthful dreams of a Buffalo Stanley Cup for the better part of my youth. I will never forgive either team.
Even the post-season success against both franchises in the 90s and aughts could not wash away the stain of hatred I have for both teams. I hate the Bruins and Habs, even in my post-Sabres life I hold onto it. I likely always will, with the faux superiority of being an “Original Six”…well hooray for the Douglases.
It is also tough to root for the Bruins with Boston sports fans being so spoiled. Each of the other three major teams have won titles this decade; it would be nice if the Bruins kept the Chowds somewhat grounded.
However, it is hard for me to root for Tampa Bay. I still have not forgiven them for beating my favorite non-Sabres playoff team of all time: the 2004 Calgary Flames. It seemed so wrong that such a complete squad lost the Cup to the flashy, superstar dependent Lightning team.
That series gave us one of the most obnoxious celebrations by a homer broadcaster in sports history. It is just awful. Dave Mishkin, you should be ashamed.
That alone might be enough for me to root for the Bruins; I cannot stomach the thought of another bush league call like that. Not even Bob Uecker would go that low, I think. Not that the Bruins TV squad is much better, these two teams had the worst announcers to deal with when we had the Center Ice package in 2005-2006: just putrid.
Onto the hockey, if I can removed the bile in my throat from that Mishkin call.
I love their defensive depth. I hate Zdeno Chara, but the dude is a beast. The Bruins roll out three solid pairings (Love Seidenberg and Ference, rugged playoff defensemen) and have a difference making goaltender in Tim Thomas.
Up front I love the role players. Chris Kelly has deep playoff experience from his time in Ottawa. And I can see Rich Peverly being a potting a few against the 2nd and 3rd Lightning defensive pairings.
This team is in trouble if it becomes a shootout as Rollie the Goalie is better than all the Philly goaltenders combined and the Bruins have a pop gun offense.
I don’t see Steve Downie, Teddy Purcell and Sean Bergenheim having the same success they had last round against the loosey-goosey Caps. It will be up to St. Louis and Lecavalier to carry the day. It would also be helpful for the Lightning if Steve Stamkos would wake up. Tampa has little chance if their big three cannot break through and light the lamp on a regular basis.
I admittedly underrated the Lightning D when I reviewed them in the first round preview. The squad is solid 1-5, with Eric Brewer, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Mattias Ohlund providing solid play on the back end. The latter two also offer the occasional offensive spark.
Rollie the Goalie is the key. If he can keep up his play and frustrate the B’s then the Lightning have a great chance of pulling out a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals.
I like the Bruins defensive style for this time of year. That, combined with a lethargic Stamkos will doom Tampa. I can’t see him waking up against this physical group. I will take the Bs in six games.
“Mark it Dude”