Bruins Welcome the Slumping Lightning

Game 46: Lightning vs. Bruins

Location: TD Garden Time: 7:30 PM TV/Radio: NESN+/98.5 The Sports Hub

The Boston Bruins will look to rebound from a demoralizing defeat in welcoming the Tampa Bay Lightning to TD Garden Thursday night. Boston has dropped four of its last five games and is on the verge of spiraling out of control just days before the playoffs begin.  Having much to address, facing a slumping Bolts team could really help remedy the numerous ailments nagging this Bruins club. The Black-and-Gold will be in search of the season series sweep over Tampa Bay.

The Matchup

Tampa Bay Lightning: 18-24-4, 40 Points, 4th in the Southeast Division, 14th in the Eastern Conference. 2-6-2 in their last ten games played.

Boston Bruins: 27-13-5, 59 Points, 1st in the Northeast Division, 2nd in the Eastern Conference. 4-5-1 in their last ten games played.

Prior Season Meetings

Saturday, February 9: Postponed due to blizzard conditions in Boston

Thursday, February 21: Bruins 4, Lightning 2

Saturday, March 2: Lightning 2, Bruins 3

Bruins lead season series 2-0.

Sizing Up the Competition

Tampa Bay is far removed from playoff contention and has been for weeks now. They are stuck amidst a horrid stretch of hockey, winning only three games so far in the month of April. Their has been little to cheer about in Tampa this season and justifiably so. The Lightning were a team with immense expectations on their shoulders and have failed considerably in following up their 2011 Eastern Conference Finals appearance in which they lost to the Bruins.

The Bolts are destined to miss the postseason for their second straight year, though they cannot be overlooked. They picked up a victory last time out; knocking of the playoff bound Maple Leafs, 5-2.

Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis have been Tampa’s lone bright spots. They both possess incredible offensive talent and are threats to score at anytime from anywhere on the ice. Stamkos is second in the NHL in goal scoring and leads his team with 29 tallies. St. Louis has had himself quite the campaign. The ageless veteran seems to get better and better as his career progresses. He leads the NHL in scoring with 58 total points (16 goals, 42 assists).

Teddy Purcell (11 goals, 24 assists) and Vinny Lecavalier (10 goals, 21 assists) are also two forces up front that Boston must keep a close eye on. Tampa Bay is third in the NHL in goals forced.

Assessing the Bruins

Boston has been marred with inconsistencies for the better half of the last two months. Tuesday night in Philadelphia was arguably the tipping point for the Bruins. Their careless puck possession was exploited by a much hungrier Flyer attack. A lack of focus doomed the Bruins, as they practically gave the puck away on numerous occasions.

The B’s offense has been comparable to a disappearing act. Great chances have been there; the goals just have not come. That has been the main issue in several of the Boston shortcomings in recent weeks. Stellar goaltending and sound defensive play has kept the Bruins in many of their tilts. The ineptitude of the goal scorers has proven costly, always appearing to be step behind or second to late.

Fortunately for Boston, Tampa Bay ranks near the bottom of the NHL, having allowed 94 goals on the season. Their penalty killing has also been sub par, sitting amongst the bottom half of the league. The sluggish Bruins offense finds itself with a perfect opportunity to rejuvenate themselves, squaring off against one of the game’s weaker defenses.

Keys to the Game

First and foremost, the B’s must cherish each possession and play every shift like the game depends on it. Another game filled with poor decision-making will all but most certainly lead to a loss. The Lightning know better that anybody what to do with gift-wrapped giveaways.

Secondly, Boston must buy into their offensive system. They have to get to the dirty areas of the ice, win puck battles along the boards, and establish a net front presence early and throughout this hockey game. The more pucks and bodies heading toward the goal, the better Boston’s chances will be in finding their winning ways.

Lastly and most importantly, the entire Bruins lineup must commit to a determined, physical, sixty-minute effort. It’s something that has eluded Boston for some time now. If there is to be any success had in the playoffs that has to be shown.

Bruins to Watch

Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin:

Marchand has 2 goals and 1 assist against the Lightning this season. Bergeron has 1 goal and 2 assists. Seguin has 1 goal and 1 assist.

Dougie Hamilton has added three assists against Tampa Bay.

Look for Jaromir Jagr and Carl Soderberg to continue their recent success. Jagr has points in two straight while Soderberg has recorded an assist in each of his last two outings.

Tuukka Rask is 1-0 vs. Tampa Bay and is coming off a 28 save shutout in his last start against Florida. Rash has posted a phenomenal 1.92 GAA in the month of April.

Is tonight the night Milan Lucic snaps out of his drawn out sleep-walking episode? We will have to wait and see. Boston’s hopes depend on his production.

 

Projected Lineup:

Lucic-Krejci-Peverley

Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin

Kelly-Soderberg-Jagr

Paille-Campell-Thornton

Chara-Seidenberg

Hamilton-Boychuk

Ference-McQuaid

Rask/Khudobin

Frank O’Laughlin – NHL Contributor – TitleTown Sports

 

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