Saturday, May 14, 2011
Bruins need power-play surge vs Lightning
By Vince Masi
The last time the Boston Bruins played for the right to go to the Stanley Cup Final, "Lethal Weapon 3" was big at the box office and Kris Kross was getting people to wear their clothes backwards.
The Bruins are playing in their first Conference Final since 1992 after they disposed of the Philadelphia Flyers in four games on May 6. They will face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who last got to this round in 2004 - and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Amazingly, they are the most recent winner of the Cup among the four teams remaining in the field (the Bruins last won in 1972 while the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks have yet to win the trophy).
After receiving very little production in the Conference Quarterfinals, the Bruins' top offensive line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton came alive in the second round. The trio combined for 19 points with eight goals and 11 assists after the trio had just six points combined against the Montreal Canadiens in the previous series.
Boston has enjoyed its playoff success with very little support on special teams. So far this postseason, the Bruins have scored two power-play goals in 37 chances (5.4 percent). One of the goals came on a 5-on-3 situation in Game 3 against the Flyers when the result was well decided.
Now they face the Lightning, who have been one of the more dynamic squads this postseason, especially on special teams. Tampa Bay has only allowed three goals in 54 power-play chances (94.4 percent) and at one point killed off 32 consecutive penalties from Game 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins to Game 3 against the Washington Capitals.
The Lightning's power play has been equally effective. They are the only team in double-digits in playoff power-play goals (12) and their 26.7 power-play percentage is the highest among teams that advanced past the Conference Quarterfinals.
But while the Bruins will have to be aware of stars like Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos, they also have to focus on another more surprising player -- Sean Bergenheim, whose seven goals is tied with for the postseason lead.
He has been the Lightning's most productive player, and has done so with only a slight increase in ice time (43 seconds) from his regular-season average. He's also doubled his points per game in the playoffs (.363 during the regular season to .727 in the postseason).