By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Boston Bruins may be on a 14-game point streak that’s elevated them to the second-most points in the Eastern Conference (and third-most points in the entire NHL), but they’ve actually lost ground on Tampa Bay Lightning.
Since Jan. 29, the Bruins are a dynamite 10-0-4, and are fresh off the heels of spanking the San Jose Sharks in a 4-1 victory on Tuesday. But over that same span, the Lightning boast a 12-1-2 record and plus-22 goal differential. Break it down by points and the Lightning have actually gained two points on the second-place Bruins, who come into play 19 points behind Tampa Bay for first place in the Atlantic Division. If that doesn’t tell you how much of a wagon the league-best Bolts, with wins in 10 straight games, have been since the jump this season, I don’t know what else could.
“We saw it last year firsthand,” B’s coach Bruce Cassidy said of the Bolts’ wagon. “We know how good they can be, certainly no weaknesses. The fact that they’re No. 1 on the power play and penalty kill…goals for, top of the league.
“That’s special. Usually, you have a deficiency somewhere, but it doesn’t look like they do, and we’re going to find out.”
The Lightning, of course, defeated the Bruins when these teams first linked up earlier this season, a 3-2 final in Tampa on Dec. 7. But it’s feel worth mentioning that the Bruins skated without both Patrice Bergeron (Colby Cave, no longer with the organization, skated in his place) and Zdeno Chara in that game, while Charlie McAvoy was making his return from almost two full months off due to concussion issues. The B’s were quick to point this out when discussing tonight’s game.
There’s also the fact that the B’s seem to rise to the challenge of skating against the league’s best.
“We’ve played against some teams at the top of the league and I think that’s when we tend to bring out our best performances,” said McAvoy. “I’m really looking forward to tonight and seeing us all show up and bring our best game.”
McAvoy’s not wrong there, as the Bruins actually come into tonight’s game with wins in 17 of 29 games against the league’s top 15 teams, including wins in eight of their 11 head-to-heads with the league’s five-best teams.
This is the first of three head-to-heads the Bruins will have with the Lightning over their final 19 games of the regular season.
Here are the complete expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Danton Heinen
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Marcus Johansson
Joakim Nordstrom – Charlie Coyle – David Backes
Sean Kuraly – Noel Acciari – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – John Moore
The game can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub, beginning with the Dunkin Pregame Show at 6:30 p.m.