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.
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.
Flanked by fiancée Michelle Rodriguez, Shazier made the walk from the corridor to the stage after being introduced by commissioner Roger Goodell.
Shazier, who underwent spinal stabilization surgery in December after a Week 13 hit against the Cincinnati Bengals, has made incredible progress the past few months. He was released to outpatient treatment two months ago and attended Ohio State’s spring game earlier this month.
Asked how the Shazier appearance came about, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert cited the linebacker’s personal goals.
“When he was ready to walk, he was going to make that determination,” Colbert said. “Since he had been working with us in the draft preparation, we thought that would be a good opportunity. It was up to him. He did great. It’s amazing.”
The Steelers traded wide receiver Martavis Bryant to the Raiders on Thursday night for a third-round draft pick, a move that Bryant called “a blessing.”
Colbert said he would let Shazier tell the rest of the story.