This week starts a test of back-to-back games for the Tampa Bay Lightning, playing tonight in Boston against the Bruins and tomorrow against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Including tonight and tomorrow, the Bolts will play a total of five games in the coming eight days, with the Dallas Stars (Oct. 15), Sabres (Oct. 17) and Predators (Oct. 20) the other teams to flesh out the week. The Stars and Sabres games will be at Amalie Arena and the Nashville game is part of a road trip through the Central Division.
First things first, though: Boston.
In a grander perspective of the Atlantic Division at the moment, the Montreal Canadiens lead the division simply by way of games played/victories (3/3) and leading the goals-for and goals-against differential (10-4, +6). I bring this up because Boston is on the other end of the spectrum, having played in only two games, winning neither, and having the worst goal differential (4-10, -6) of the Division. Fairness says that it's not wise to judge any team by only two games, and a realization is needed that the NHL season is not yet a week old. Still, that doesn't change the fact things ain't great in Boston.
Zdeno Chara missed the first two games for the Bruins, Brad Marchand is hurting, Milan Lucix was traded over the offseason to Los Angeles, and the team has brought in Zac Rinaldo for some flavor. GM Dan Sweeney's oversight of the club seems a bit different than what former GM Peter Chiarelli put together... But it remains to be seen if a vast rebuild is in the cards for the Bruins as things go on. The big names are still part of the equation: Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask minding the net and our old friend Brett Connolly part of the lineup while Claude Julien as head coach... It still feels like something's missing or changing in Boston and not for the better. That might not stay the perspective as the season progresses, but for the moment? Down and out in Beantown seems an apt description.
If Boston is flying low at the moment, it might be wiser for the Lightning to start Kevin Poulin in net tonight at TD Garden and save Ben Bishop for tomorrow against the more challenging adversary in the Red Wings. At the same time, if the blueprint how Jon Cooper has used Ben Bishop in the past is followed, Bishop may be tabbed to start both games -- with Poulin filling in at one point or another in the second game of the back-to-back series. Bishop has a 1.48 GAA in his two games and a .940 save percentage (47 saves on 50 shots).
In the lineup, Cedric Paquette's return to the lineup could happen tonight or tomorrow in Detroit. Head coach Jon Cooper stated days ago that Paquette will return to the lineup during the road trip; he's been missing from the lineup since blocking a shot during preseason.