Playoff picks: Previewing the Bruins-Tampa Bay conference final from both sides of the ice

Gagne is expected back for the start of this upcoming series, Tyrell is nursing what is believed to be a minor foot injury and Downie was given extra time to rest as the team returned to practice recently after some time off since eliminating the Capitals. Downie will go for sure but with Gagne back, Tyrell might find it difficult to once again crack the Lightning lineup, especially if Lightning head coach Guy Boucher goes with seven defensemen, as he often does.

Boucher has also been known to mix and match his lines quite a bit throughout any particular game, though during the playoffs, we’ve seen units staying together more consistently. Here are some combos we’ve seen in the postseason thus far, which is about as best we can do, in terms of what can be expected, given the likelihood of some ongoing alterations (this incarnation involves 11 forwards, to accommodate the expected extra d-man):

Ryan Malone-Steven Stamkos-Martin St. Louis

Simon Gagne-Vincent Lecavalier-Teddy Purcell

Sean Bergenheim-Dominic Moore-Steve Downie

Lecavalier-Nate Thompson-Adam Hall

Boston

After getting just a handful of points – although Nathan Horton’s two overtime goals were the types of plays that history are made of – from their first line in the first round against Montreal, the Bruins rode the hot hand of Horton, David Krejci and Milan Lucic past Philadelphia in the second round. That trio combined for 19 points against the Flyers. With Patrice Bergeron seemingly out for at least one game, if not longer, because of a mild concussion this line will have to handle the bulk of the offense and up its defensive responsibility. Krejci’s line has handled shutdown duties before, but obviously doesn’t tackle that task as well as Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi do when healthy and together.

When Chris Kelly fills in for Bergeron, that second line takes on a whole new dynamic. While he has produced four goals, seven points in the playoffs, Kelly doesn’t usually have the offensive bent Bergeron brings. So this line could become more of a shutdown line. That would leave it up to the third line to pick up the offensive slack. Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley cooled off in the second round but still created tons of chances they didn’t finish. Whether Tyler Seguin is ready for life in the NHL postseason remains to be seen. In a perfect world, he steps in and uses his speed and wicked shot to make the third line as productive as the second line was against the Flyers. However, his unwillingness to go in the corners or get his nose dirty in front of the net earned him his spot in the press box to start the playoffs. This line could really drop off if Seguin doesn’t bring the intensity.

Campbell/By S. Bradley

With Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton finally getting a regular left winger in Daniel Paille toward the end of the regular season, the Bruins once again had one of the league’s top fourth lines when the playoffs started. Campbell and Thornton struggled after Marchand was moved up the lineup and numerous players filled that left wing spot. Head coach Claude Julien used his fourth line sparingly in the first two series, but they had some important shifts – especially in games when Boston was protecting a lead. Their ability to dump pucks in and keep teams hemmed in comes in handy when the Bruins are up.

Despite Kelly’s emergence and Seguin’s insertion, the Bruins still lack the speed Tampa Bay boasts.

Boston’s going to have to use its size to win battles on dump-ins and in front of the net and try to get in Dwayne Roloson’s face as often as possible. Without Bergeron, it also remains to be seen how lines two and three will gel and produce offensively.

Expected lines (with Patrice Bergeron):

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton

Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Mark Recchi

Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley-Michael Ryder

Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton

(without Bergeron):

Lucic-Krejci-Horton

Marchand-Kelly-Recchi

Ryder-Peverley-Tyler Seguin

Paille-Campbell-Thornton

Defensemen

Tampa Bay

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