2011 NHL Playoffs: History Favors The Lightning And Bruins In The Finals

Let's start off by stating the obvious: the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins are facing off tonight in a decisive Game 7, with the winner moving on to the Stanley Cup finals. Meeting them there will be the team that had the best record in the NHL this season, the Vancouver Canucks. It seems to be widely felt that whichever team moves on to the Finals will lose to the Canucks...or at least, that's the driving media narrative.

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Now on to the not so obvious: as we've already seen during this year's playoffs, anything can happen during a seven-game series. Nobody thought the Lightning would make it this far in the playoffs, and if recent history tells us anything, they may have an unexpected advantage in the Finals. From the Nashua Telegraph:

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The last four teams to win a conference final series in seven games all went on to win the Stanley Cup.

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Carolina was the last team to win their conference final in seven games, over Buffalo on their way to the Cup in 2006.

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The Lightning also accomplished the feat two years earlier when they beat Philadelphia in seven games before winning the Cup. There are three players left on their current roster from that 2004 championship team: Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Pavel Kubina.

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Historical facts like this are fun, but they shouldn't be given undo weight in predicting the future. Unique events happen all the time in sports, and just because something hasn't happened in the past doesn't mean it won't happen this time.

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But I do wonder how rest will play into the Finals. With the first game in the Finals scheduled for this upcoming Wednesday, the Lightning or Bruins will be entering the Finals after a few much-needed days off, while the Canucks will have been sitting around for over a week. Could this extra rest come back to hurt them? Might they start the series on a flatter foot than they would otherwise? It's impossible to say at this point, but it's certainly something worth keeping in mind.   

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