BOSTON -- Heading into the Eastern Conference finals series between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning, there were plenty of comparisons between the Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens, against whom the Bruins struggled in the first two games of the conference quarterfinals but adapted to and ended up beating in seven games.
There is no denying some of the similarities between the teams. Both can clog up the area in front of the net as well as the neutral zone, blocking shots and executing the trap. Both can beat you with speed and skill. Both have goalies who, when in the zone, can become bigger between the pipes, especially when playing with the lead.
But as the Bruins found out in Game 1 -- and as the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins found out before them -- the Lightning aren't the Canadiens, and that's why they're three wins away from the Stanley Cup finals.
"Every team is different and they might have guys who are the same size or as fast as other guys on different teams, but for the most part we're playing against Tampa," Bruins rookie Brad Marchand said. "They're not the same as any team in the league, they're one of four teams left. They have a lot of skill, a lot of size and a lot of work ethic. So we don't compare them to anyone. They're in their own category and they're a tough team to play against."
Forward Chris Kelly concurred, and as he and his teammates have done game by game and series by series, the Bruins are doing their best not to compare the teams and instead focus on the task at hand.
"Montreal is in the past. We're playing the Tampa Bay Lightning and they're a good hockey team," Kelly said. "Obviously they showed that [Saturday] and we just need to be prepared for Game 2 and come out with a better start and follow that up. We knew they were a hard-working team. They capitalize on their opportunities and that's exactly what they did."
That's why the Bruins are telling themselves that just because they came back from that 2-0 deficit against Montreal, that doesn't mean they can do it against the Lightning. There is no problem with learning from the series with the Habs or even the second-round sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers, but as Kelly pointed out, each series is a new experience against a different team with more at stake, in this case a trip to the Stanley Cup finals.
"Everything is a new situation and a new experience, but it's great to go through those," Kelly said. "You play 82 games for a reason. You go through experiences and lessons learned.
"Each round is a lesson learned, but that being said, every round is a new experience, a new team and I think this group is anxious to take advantage of these new experiences. For a lot of guys, this is the first time in the conference final and this is a great opportunity for us."
The Bruins also realize they are facing a coach in Guy Boucher who seems to be coaching like a seasoned veteran. Marchand knew from his days in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where Boucher was an opposing coach, just how good Boucher could become.
"Every team that I ever played against when he was there, he always had a great team," Marchand recalled. "One year they had 16- and 17-year-olds and they ended up being one of the top teams in the league just because they worked so hard. They were really well-coached, and I hated going to their rink because you just knew it was going to be a battle and one of those games that you just didn't want to be in."
Marchand sees Boucher having the same effect with the Lightning.
"They're a tough team to play against," Marchand said. "Obviously they respect him over there and they play his system night in and night out, and they don't ask any questions. So they're similar to our team. We play the same way for Claude [Julien] and you have to have faith in your coach if you're going to go a long way."
While the Bruins know they can come back from a 2-0 series deficit, they also know that the task will be that much more difficult against Boucher and the Lightning.
"You can kind of look back and say that we came back from that, but we don't want to be in the same situation, that's for sure," Marchand said. "We're down by a game and all we have to do is bounce back and it's 0-0 and we go from there.
"We know that the second game is going to be so important. They're not going to sit back and they're really going to want to steal that second game. It's huge for both teams. It's going to carry a lot of momentum going into Tampa, so we have to make sure we're the ones who get that momentum and we don't sit back. Just because they took the first one they're not going to let up on the second one."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.