No. 3 BOSTON BRUINS (46-25-11) vs. No. 6 MONTREAL CANADIENS (44-30-8).
2009-10 series record: Montreal 4-2 (one win in overtime).
Playoff History: Montreal 24-8. Last meeting: Boston 4-0 in 2009 conference quarterfinals.
BOSTON: The Bruins showed great resilience in winning the Northeast Division title after becoming just the third NHL team to blow a 3-0 series lead when they lost to Philadelphia in the second round last year. Even worse, the Bruins led 3-0 at home in Game 7 before falling. … Tim Thomas will be counted on to lead the way after setting an NHL record with a .938 save percentage, edging Dominik Hasek’s .937 set in the 1998-89 season. He also posted a league-low 2.00 goals-against average. … These longtime Original Six rivals have more bitterness between them after Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty that left the Canadiens forward with a concussion and fractured vertebra on March 8. The teams also had a fight-filled game on Feb. 10, won 8-6 by Boston. … The Bruins’ offense will be paced by Milan Lucic, who scored 30 goals for the first time and had 62 points. He finished tied in team scoring with playmaking center David Krejci, who got to 62 on the strength of 49 assists. Nathan Horton had 26 goals, and Patrice Bergeron was next with 22. Ageless forward Mark Recchi had another strong season at age 43 with 14 goals and 48 points in 81 games.
MONTREAL: Boston hasn’t cornered the market on strong goaltending as Montreal’s Carey Price tied for the NHL lead with 38 wins. … The Canadiens will have to counteract the Bruins’ strong edge in goal differential. Boston was a plus-51, while Montreal finished at just plus-7 and scored the fewest goals at even-strength and overall among playoff teams (216). … The Canadiens do own a better power-play efficiency (19.7 percent to 16.2 percent) and penalty-killing percentage (84.4-82.6). … Pacioretty is not expected to play until next season, and that is a tough loss for Montreal because he scored four goals against Boston _ one fewer than team leader Brian Gionta. … The Canadiens held onto the sixth seed, despite late challenges by Buffalo, the New York Rangers and Carolina, even though they stumbled to a 7-7-1 finish. … Top scorer Tomas Plekanec finished with 57 points but has scored only three goals in 22 games since Feb. 10. … Scott Gomez is no stranger to the playoffs, going for the 10th time in his 11 seasons with three teams, but he scored a career-worst 38 points in 80 games and was a minus-15.
OUTLOOK: Thomas is too tough against an average Montreal offense. Bruins in 6.
No. 4 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (49-25-8) vs. No. 5 TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (46-25-11).
2009-10 series record: Series tied 2-2.
Playoff History: First meeting.
PITTSBURGH: The biggest question of the playoffs remains: will Penguins captain Sidney Crosby play in the first round after being sidelined since Jan. 5 because of a concussion. He is definitely out for Game 1 on Wednesday. Pittsburgh already knows it will be without leading forward Evgeni Malkin (knee) for the rest of the season, but losing Crosby as well could be too much to overcome in a short series. … Crosby managed to finish in a 14-place tie in the NHL with 32 goals, despite playing in only 42 games. … Marc-Andre Fleury is playoff-tested with one Stanley Cup title and another trip to the finals in consecutive years. Fleury went 36-20-5 with a 2.32 GAA in 65 appearances in the regular season. He has 38 career postseason wins in 62 games with a 2.52 GAA. … Pittsburgh took a step back last season with a second-round elimination against No. 8 Montreal.
TAMPA BAY: Lightning return to playoffs after three-year absence. … Steven Stamkos, who finished in a tie with Crosby last season with a league-best 51 goals, was second this season with 45. The Lightning also saw a resurgence in Martin St. Louis, who posted 99 points to top the team. Vincent Lecavalier had a strong finish, too, and totaled 25 goals and 54 points in just 65 games. … Tampa Bay scored 247 goals, the third most in the Eastern Conference, and had an East-leading 20.5 percent efficiency on the power play. But the Lightning also allowed 234 goals. … The home team won all four regular-season meetings, but the Lightning were outscored 13-2 in the two meetings in Pittsburgh. They held a 7-4 goals edge at home. Tampa Bay, however, was a strong road team elsewhere this season, going 21-14-6. … Former Penguins forward Ryan Malone, a Pittsburgh native, returned to the lineup at the end of March after being sidelined by a groin injury for more than a month and was used sparingly down the stretch. … Dwayne Roloson was a welcome addition for the Lightning when the 41-year-old goalie was rescued from the lowly New York Islanders on Jan. 1. He went 18-12-4 with a 2.56 goals-against average with Tampa Bay. In 33 career postseason games, Roloson is 18-12 with a 2.56 GAA.
OUTLOOK: Lightning strike down Crosby-less Penguins, win first series since 2004 Stanley Cup title. Lightning in 6.