The 2010-2011 season for 15 Eastern Conference teams has come down to just one game to decide which team will represent the conference in the Stanley Cup finals.
The Bruins, the constant top seed that can never make it to the finals, and the Bolts, the team that's finally back into the elite group after the drought following their 2004 Cup victory, will battle it out on this Friday evening for the Prince of Wales trophy in their respective 100th games of the season.
Boston has won 57 of those games; Tampa Bay has won 57 as well. They're separated by two positions in the seeds, but by nothing in terms of record. But that doesn't matter anymore. The only thing that matters now is how they compare tonight.
Up to this point, the matchups have been all but predictable.
Tampa Bay took Game 1 in Boston with a lopsided 5-2 win. Boston evened it up in Game 2 with a high-flying, chaotic 6-5 victory. The Bruins captured the advantage in Game 3 with Tim Thomas' only shutout of the playoffs to date, 2-0. The Bolts evened the series this time by returning to the high-flying style and winning 5-3.
Back in Massachusetts, the Bruins went one win away from a Finals berth with a quiet 3-1 edge. Nonetheless, they were unable to hold it as Dwayne Roloson improved to 4-0 in elimination games when Tampa Bay held on for a 5-4 win Wednesday night to set up the date here this evening.
This time, we're back at TD Garden, where we might see a great battle between two great veteran netminders, Thomas and Roloson, or a great battle between a slew of talented forwards for both sides. We might see 76 shots and 11 goals, as we did in these two teams' second meeting, or 56 shots and two goals, like in the third meeting. But, for a moment, let's just forget our predictions for how the style of the contest will turn out. Because, really, all we know right now is that we will, no matter what, be watching a truly great game.
Stay tuned for live updates throughout the entire game for those of you who are unlucky enough not to be able to watch it. Since the majority of us hockey fanatics will be glued to our TVs, though, we'll be focusing on reactions, analysis and statistics to go deeper than just the game itself from the pregame to the trophy presentation.