The Eastern Conference Championship and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals are on the line this Friday night at the TD Garden when the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins wrap up their best-of-seven series with a winner-take-all Game 7. The puck drops at 5:30 p.m. (PT) and the game will be broadcast nationally on VERSUS.
Tampa Bay took full advantage of the power play to grind out a 5-4 victory on Wednesday night as a 125 home favorite to take this series to the limit. It scored two goals in the second period and one early in the third with a one-man advantage to help force a Game 7. The Lightning are now 11-6 overall in the postseason and 6-3 on the road. They are 7-3 as an underdog and the total has gone ‘over’ in ten of the 17 games.
Boston opened as the 150 favorite in Game 7. The Don Best odds screen lists 5½ for the total and shaded to the 'under.'
The stars were out for the Lightning on Wednesday night with Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell each scoring twice and Vincent LeCavalier adding two assists in the winning effort. These three have now combined for 22 goals and 56 total points in the postseason. Steve Downie and Steven Stamkos also came up big with a combined one goal and three assists for the highest scoring team in this year’s playoffs.
Tampa’s recent revolving door at goalie spun back to Dwayne Roloson for Game 6 and while he did give up four goals on 20 shots, he stood tall in net to hold off a furious Boston attack at the end of the third period to preserve the win. His performance should earn him the start on Friday, but Tampa Bay also has Mike Smith waiting in the wings.
The pressure in this game falls back on Boston, which is in danger of getting eliminated after blowing a series lead for the second year in-a-row. It had a 2-1 and 3-2 lead in this series but could not maintain the edge. The Bruins are now 11-6 overall this postseason and 6-3 at home. They are 8-4 as a favorite and the total has gone ‘over’ in 10 of the 17 games.
You cannot blame Wednesday’s loss on David Krejci. The center recorded a rare playoff hat-trick to keep the Bruins in this game. He now has 10 postseason goals and along with Nathan Horton, leads the team with a total of 16 points. Boston will also look to Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, who have also been a big part of the offense with a combined 27 points, to come up big on Friday night.
The outcome of Game 7 could very well rest on the shoulders of Boston goalie Tim Thomas. He came into this series with a stellar goals-against-average of 2.03 and a .937 save percentage, but has given up five goals in four of the six games. To his credit, he held the Lightning to one goal on 65 shots in the other two.
Past trends do not favor the Lightning in this game as they are 16-35-5 in their last 56 games against the Bruins and 4-20-4 in their last 28 games in Boston. Both teams have already won a Game 7 this postseason, but this one will come down to the Bruins’ ability to keep Tampa Bay’s big guns in check as they did twice before in this series. Stick with Boston and Thomas to get the job done one more time to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.