Tonight will be the final meeting between last season’s playoff combatants as the Bruins look to even the series and prepare for the playoffs. Boston hit some poor form earlier in the season but has entered a purple patch just at the right time.

Tampa Bay Lightning (35-33-7)

If you think Tampa Bay Lightning, you’ve got to think Steve Stamkos.  In an age of oversized goalie pads, towering defensemen and traffic jams in front of the net, Stamkos has managed to net 53 goals and give this Lightning squad a chance, albeit remote, to advance to the playoffs. 

Last night Tampa Bay skated in to Philadelphia and skated out with a 5-3 victory.  Martin St. Louis, the happy helper who routinely feeds Stamkos, notched the go ahead goal in the 3rd period and who else, but Steve Stamkos, contributed early in the game with his 53rd goal of the season.  Dwayne Roloson also played an integral part, stopping 35 Flyer shots and keeping the Lightning in the game until they cracked it open in the final frame.

Scoring has not been an issue this season as Tampa is currently ranked 9th, averaging 2.8 goals per contest but the defense and goaltending has been suspect to say the least as they are dead last in goals against, allowing 3.4 per game and their penalty killing unit has been almost equally abysmal, ranking 28th out of 30 teams.

Tim ThomasBoston Bruins (44-28-3)

Boston is rocking and rolling to another Northeast division crown as they are now three points ahead of Edmonton with two games in hand.  The Boston Bruins have vacillated between a playoff bound club and one who exhibits the apathy of a team headed for vacation once the postseason commences.  Some have opined that this Bruins team was so good earlier this season that they read their own press clippings and the lethargy kicked in.  Whatever the case, Boston appears to be rounding into playoff form as they reeled off 4 wins in 5 games with their latest triumph on Sunday night where they got a fine performance from the recently signed Marty Turco en route to a 3-2 victory over Anaheim.

Tim Thomas will be getting the nod in net this evening and he should be well rested, even if he only had one night off, as his soon to be 38 year old body has borne the lion’s share of the load this season.  He will be looking to atone for a poor performance when he was summoned in relief for the bewildered Marty Turco who got his first start in the NHL spending this season with Red Bull Salzburg of the Austrian Hockey League before signing with Boston.

Analysis:

The Bruins are 29-5-0 with six ties all-time at home against Tampa Bay and scored a 4-1 victory in their last meeting in Boston on October 8th, but dropped the next two in Tampa Bay including the previously mentioned 6-1 loss on March 13th .

The NHL odds makers are accounting for that domination as the B’s are currently -260 in most offshore books but we see the Bruins dominating this game after ramping up for the playoffs over their last several games.  In case the roof falls in at the Garden, we will avoid laying the ridiculous lumber and believe that Boston is more than a goal better than their Southeast division rivals. 

Play the Bruins -1 ½ goals (+110)