|Bruins, Lightning 'start over again' in series opener|
TAMPA, Fla. -- There's a recent familiarity between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins, who meet in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs after playing each other twice in the final 12 games of the regular season.
"It's like starting over again," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of the series that begins Saturday at Amalie Arena. "There's a little bit of the unknown. You have to develop a little of that hatred, or passion, whatever the word is against a similar opponent every night. I assume that will happen fast."
The Lightning won the division title and have the top seed in the Eastern Conference after edging the Bruins by a point in the standings. The pivotal game was the fourth and final meeting, when the Lightning posted a key 4-0 victory in Tampa.
The matchup initially is about rust vs. rest -- the Lightning got a full week off after eliminating the New Jersey Devils in five games, allowing them time off while the Bruins needed a full seven games to advance past the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I think the guys are excited," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "You always say you want time off, and we've had six days. The guys want to get back into it. There's a lot of 'Let's get this going.'"
Boston won the first three meetings in the regular season by a combined score of 10-4, so the Bruins can have confidence going into the matchup, regardless of seeding and home-ice advantage.
The Bruins are a well-rounded playoff team, ranking in the NHL's top six in scoring, goals allowed, power play and penalty kill.
The Lightning are a tiny bit better in scoring, leading the league with 3.5 goals per game, and barely better on the power play, converting 23.9 percent of their opportunities.
Tampa Bay's special teams were a strength in the series against New Jersey -- their penalty kill, once a liability, killed off 16 of 19 Devils power plays, and the Lightning went 5 of 9 on power plays in the first three games before an 0-of-10 drought in the final two, both Tampa Bay wins.
Nikita Kucherov set a Lightning record for points in a playoff series with five goals and five assists, but Boston's David Pastrnak can trump that, getting five goals and eight assists in his series against Toronto. Steven Stamkos, quiet overall in scoring in the last series, was a team-best plus-4 when on the ice just the same.
Tampa Bay finished the regular season with momentum coming off the 4-0 win over Boston, which carried into the New Jersey series.
"In the end, our team had to pick up our play," Cooper said. "I don't know that we were at the same intensity level."
Game 1 and 2 are Saturday and Monday in Tampa, with the next two games in Boston, before alternating the final three games if necessary.