The East’s best collide when Lightning takes on Bruins

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It’s the series most everyone expected to watch, even if it’s a round earlier than was figured.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins meet Sunday in Toronto to kick off their Stanley Cup playoffs conference semifinal series. It’s a clash of the top two Eastern clubs from the regular season.

When the league paused in March, the Bruins were atop the NHL standings, the lone 100-point team, and the Lightning stood second in the Eastern Conference. From the round-robin mini-tournament, Tampa became the second seed while the Bruins fell to fourth. Even so, their expected showdown should be a doozy.

“Usually they’re one-goal games and usually there’s some kind of fireworks in the games,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of the previous matchups.

Boston won a conference final matchup that went the distance in 2011 en route to a title, while the Lightning claimed a second-round meeting in five games two years ago. Sure, there are several Bruins from the Cup winning team of 2011 still in place, but they have some revenge on their minds this time around.

“This is what makes the Cup worth it, because you’ve got to play teams like Tampa,” said Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

“They have a bit of a different make-up now. They compete a lot harder. They are a lot more physical and, obviously, they have a ton of talent. They’re very fast, have a great goalie, they have everything.”

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