After a horrific loss, one of the best things a sports team can do is play again right away.
The 7-3 beatdown at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night qualifies as "horrific", and the Tampa Bay Lightning will get their chance to wash away the taste with a test against a team that has been stiff competition since the Atlantic Division was formed.
However, the Boston Bruins -- once the undeniable beasts of the East -- have slipped considerably this year. They currently reside in the second Eastern Conference Wild Card spot with 50 points in 43 games played and a +2 goal differential, but their .581 points percentage puts them behind 8 other East teams including the Florida Panthers, who sit a point back with three games in hand.
There are still signs of the once-dominant Bruins teams that have manhandled the Lightning in recent seasons and won 8 straight against Tampa Bay dating back to 2010-11, but there's starting to be a bit of fray around the edges; consecutive deep runs in the playoffs has put them right against the NHL's salary cap and forced GM Peter Chiarelli into difficult choices with his roster. The Bruins have watched Johnny Boychuk anchor the New York Islanders' top pairing and into a playoff spot and Tyler Seguin into the NHL league lead for goals with 26.
Meanwhile, the Bruin's don't have a top-30 scorer in the NHL; Patrice Bergeron leads the way with 31 points in 42 games, good for 50th. Their top-6 has been hampered by injuries to David Krejci, the loss of Jarome Iginla in free agency, and a fading Milan Lucic. While Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and Tuukka Rask continue to carry the load, the Bruins are starting to crack a bit under the pressure of the salary cap; their best players are on the wrong side of 25, many on the wrong side of 30, and it seems like only a matter of time before the Tampa Bay Lightning firmly establish the changing of the guard for top dog in the Atlantic.
Tonight marks Tampa Bay's chance to do just that, albeit under difficult circumstances; they played last night in Philly, while the Bruins have been off since a 3-1 win over the Flyers on January 10. The Lightning will also likely be without top contributors Tyler Johnson and Victor Hedman, two of their offensive dynamos this season. J.T. Brown and Nikita Nesterov were healthy scratched last night in Philly, so there are healthy bodies to insert, but the Lightning won't be bringing their best roster to Boston. A call-up or two might also be necessary; Syracuse is a short ride away from Boston and it's unlikely Jon Cooper will want to head into a game without any spare bodies available.