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Five key matchups for Lightning vs. Bruins in second round

Scoring by Kucherov, Marchand could decide Eastern series, statistics show

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins will play in the Eastern Conference Second Round, with Game 1 at Amalie Arena on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS).

Here are five key matchups that could decide the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series:

 

[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Bruins series coverage]

 

Kucherov vs. Marchand

The team that advances is often the one that gets more out of its leading scorer. In Tampa Bay's case, that's forward Nikita Kucherov, who has 302 points (135 goals, 167 assists) in 279 games over the past three seasons in the regular season and playoffs combined.

In a five-game, first-round win against the New Jersey Devils, Kucherov led the Lightning with 10 points (five goals, five assists) and three game-winning goals. He had 100 points (39 goals, 61 assists) in the regular season.

Video: NJD@TBL, Gm5: Kucherov beats Schneider from the point

Playing right wing, Kucherov will often match up against Boston forward Brad Marchand, who plays left wing on the Bruins' top line and led them in regular-season scoring for the second consecutive season (85 points; 34 goals, 51 assists in 68 games). 

The key to Marchand's scoring is having an advantage in shot attempts. Since 2011-12, the Bruins have outshot their opponent 7,630-5,549 at 5-on-5 with Marchand on the ice, a shot attempt differential (SAT) of plus-2,081 that ranks fourth in the NHL. Linemate Patrice Bergeron is second at plus-2,293, between Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (plus-2,355) and center Anze Kopitar (plus-2,134).

Video: BOS@TOR, Gm4: Marchand buries Pastrnak's feed

 

Point vs. Krejci

When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and reached the Cup Final in 2013, center David Krejci led the NHL playoffs with 23 points and 26 points. He scored eight points (two goals, six assists) in a seven-game, first-round win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Krejci has the most playoff points among active Bruins, 85 (31 goals, 54 assists) in 103 games, and is two points behind Cam Neely for seventh in Boston history.

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm2: Krejci tips in Pastrnak's slap pass

As the center on Tampa Bay's shutdown line, Brayden Point will be matched up against Krejci. In the first round, Point's most frequent opponent at 5-on-5 was New Jersey's leading scorer, Taylor Hall, for 36:52, according to Natural Stat Trick. Point helped the Lightning outscore the Devils 4-2 in that time.

Video: NJD@TBL, Gm2: Point lifts beauty over Kinkaid

 

Hedman vs. Chara

The outcome of a series also is often decided by who gets the most out of their top defenseman, who can be in direct on-ice competition.

Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman is among the finalists for the Norris Trophy for a second consecutive season, which could give the Lightning the edge. Hedman ranked fifth among NHL defensemen with 63 points (17 goals, 46 assists) in 77 games and with an average of 25:51 per game.

Boston's top defenseman is captain Zdeno Chara, who led the Bruins at 22:54 per game in the regular season and 23:27 in the playoffs. He won the Norris Trophy in 2008-09 and was a finalist on five other occasions.

Shutting down Toronto center Auston Matthews was one of the keys in Boston's first-round victory. Matthews spent 68:15 of his 102:19 minutes at 5-on-5 with Chara on the ice, and the Maple Leafs scored one goal, according to Natural Stat Trick.

 

Stralman vs. Pastrnak

Boston forward David Pastrnak scored 13 points (five goals, eight assists) against Toronto, which was tied with Crosby and Penguins forward Jake Guentzel for most in the first round.

Shutting down Pastrnak will be assigned to Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman, who played a Tampa Bay-high 47:16 minutes against Hall at 5-on-5 in the first round, with the Lightning leading the Devils in shot attempts 49-35.

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm7: Pastrnak scores pretty goal to pad lead

Stralman's challenge will be greatest when Pastrnak and the Bruins are on the power play, which was 7-for-22 in the first round but 2-for-12 in the last five games. In four seasons with the Lightning, Stralman has played 774:11 shorthanded, which ranks 16th among defensemen. Tampa Bay killed 16 of 19 New Jersey power plays.

 

Killorn vs. Krug

When the top players cancel each other out, a series can be decided by which team gets the most scoring from secondary sources.

The Bruins will be relying on Torey Krug, who led their defensemen for the third consecutive season with 59 points (14 goals, 45 assists) in 76 games. Krug scored nine points (two goals, seven assists) in the first round, tied with Marchand for second on Boston behind Pastrnak. Five of Krug's assists came on the power play.

A key player for the Lightning in the first round was forward Alex Killorn, who scored four goals against the Devils, three on the power play, after getting 47 points (15 goals, 32 assists) in 82 games during the regular season.

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