Fourteen years later, here they are, having led their teams into the Eastern Conference Finals. This is one of the many intriguing, and probably best, storylines of what should be a terrific match-up.
Each team's journey in getting this far mirrors the career paths of Thomas and St. Louis. Boston overcame an 0-2 hole against Montreal in the first round and won the series in seven. Tampa Bay came all the way back from a 3-1 first-round deficit against Pittsburgh. Both teams are coming off sweeps in the second round, and both have red-hot goalies.
As good as Thomas has been this postseason at age 37, the guy who might call him "kid" -- 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson -- has been even better. Roloson enters the series with a league-best 2.01 goals-against average and .941 saves percentage. Thomas is at 2.03 and .937 respectively. Both teams like to clog things up defensively in the middle, but both also feature dynamic offensive players. While Tampa Bay has bigger names than Boston's up front, with St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos, the Bruins have a deep group of forwards that can zip the puck around the ice.
Tampa Bay's first-year coach Guy Boucher has gotten plenty of
Both teams also enter the series with worries about concussions to one of their top forwards. Patrice Bergeron, arguably Boston's most skilled when healthy, was knocked out of Game 4 of their second-round series against the Flyers with what was called a minor concussion, and he hasn't practiced since. Tampa Bay's Simon Gagne also has missed time lately due to a concussion, but he may be ready to go for Game 1.
One final statistic to consider: Tampa Bay almost never wins in Boston: 4-22-9 over the years at either the old Boston Garden or the new building.