East final all about defence

Flyers forward Scott Hartnell jostles with Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara during Game 4 of their NHL...

Flyers forward Scott Hartnell jostles with Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara during Game 4 of their NHL Eastern Conference semifinal series in Boston, Mass., May 6, 2011. (ADAM HUNGER/Reuters)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:34 PM ET

So, you look at the stats and you wonder: What's the over/under for the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference final?

Something like 7.5?

Not for Game 1, for the series.

This matchup pits the two best defensive teams in the playoffs so far, with the Bruins and Bolts tied for the best goals-against average in the 2011 post-season at 2.18.

They are both 8-3 and coming off sweeps over higher-seeded opponents in the second round -- the Lightning over the Washington Capitals and the Bruins over the Philadelphia Flyers.

These are teams that have been getting contributions from throughout their lineups and with two veteran goalies with something to prove.

Both know how to lock it down: The Bruins, under coach Claude Julien, were second in the NHL during the season in goals against, backed up by Vezina Trophy favourite Tim Thomas.

The Lightning has been thriving in the post-season under coach Guy Boucher's 1-3-1 defensive system which helped them claw back from a 3-1 disadvantage against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1 and then stifle the offensively gifted Washington Capitals.

So, this shapes up as a goaltending/defence battle, despite the presence of some pretty gifted offensive players such as Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos on the Tampa side, and David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic -- who became a force late in the Philly series -- for the Bruins. The Lightning leads the playoffs in goals a game (3.46) and the Bruins are third (3.36).

Statistically, this shapes up as an incredibly close series.

It might not be pretty to watch given how the two teams can play defence. The drama in this one will come from how close it is going to be.

A lot has been made of Boucher's 1-3-1 forecheck, but I think the Bruins have the smarts on the back end (Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg) and the size (Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton) and speed (David Krejci, Mark Recchi, Brad Marchand) to cope with it. A big key will the Bruins' ability to get their own forecheck going and choose where the battles are going to be fought. The Bruins forecheck made a shambles of the Philadelphia Flyers defence (granted, the Flyers didn't have Chris Pronger).


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