Where: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
When: 7 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports, NHL Network (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Stanley Cup of Chowder, Days of Y'Orr
Head coach Jon Cooper invoked it after a loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in December, but it applies here: Standings don't mean s-with-a-t. Standings would have you think that the Lightning have a game against a middling-but-on-the-upswing opponent in the Boston Bruins tonight. Boston's won their past three games and is six points up on the Florida Panthers in the wild card race in the Eastern Conference. The Standings have the Lightning a single point behind the Montreal Canadiens for the Atlantic Division lead and five points in front of the Detroit Red Wings.
The Bolts have 12 points on the B's... 90 - 78. And standings don't mean s-with-a-t. You know this better with tonight's opponent than you did with Columbus, or playing-down-to-opponents-level games in middling efforts against Edmonton or Buffalo or Carolina in games this season. Standings mean nothing... especially if you're letting a name and reputation dominate your perception.
That's Boston, and perhaps Pittsburgh too; an opponent where the name, the colors, the history and past failings seem to get in the way of the contest at hand. The games get played, yeah, and the Lightning makes a show of it... But they also tend to get lost trying to match Boston (or Pittsburgh).
They don't need to match in the sense of throwing checks and grinding or being overly physical. Yeah, some fans would probably rather see that type of play, but you know what? That's not what's gotten Tampa Bay 42 wins this season. While they stick up for themselves when challenged physically, they have their own game that's led to success.
Getting lost in the physical game is getting away from their style of play. Don't let Boston set the tempo, don't let Boston set the tone. Set your own and have Boston forced to play catch-up and attempt to match it.
All that aside, the Lightning are hurting today in a painful fashion as it's been revealed extended away time is in store for Braydon Coburn, Ondrej Palat and Cedric Paquette. Paquette is out for perhaps two weeks with an upper-body injury. Palat's out time in 2-3 weeks while Coburn's injury proves to be the most disappointing. The newly acquired defenseman is out 4-6 weeks with a lower body injury. While the Bolts have the forward depth in the system to endure the loss of both Palat and Paquette, the loss of Coburn stings not-so-much because of lack of defensive depth as much as knowing the soon-to-return Matt Carle won't be paired with the top-4 defenseman that was obtained to play with him.
Painful yet it's going to create opportunity for Vladislav Namestnikov and rookie Jonathan Drouin; both young forwards may find their way into the Bolts top-six line combos as lines are juggled to compensate the losses sustained with Palat and Paquette.
On the other side, Jon Cooper pointed out in press remarks this morning that the three injuries will do a job on the Lightning penalty kill where Coburn, Palat and Paquette were all contributors.
It also means the Syracuse Crunch may or may not be raided once again in coming days. One recall has transpired this morning as Crunch center Mike Angelidis will be joining Tampa Bay in Boston. Angelidis, team captain for the Crunch, has 17 goals and 16 assists (and 138 penalty minutes) with the Syracuse this season. Where Angelidis fits - in a role on the third line vacated by Paquette or the fourth line, filling in for J.T. Brown who ascends to compensate the loss of Paquette and other line shifts - isn't quite clear.
Getting away from the immediate, there's a coincidence or a flipped déjà vu going on here. The Lightning has played Boston and Montreal back-to-back in recent seasons after incurring major losses. The one that comes to mind immediately is the November 2013 games where the Bolts lost Steven Stamkos. They overcame Montreal on the flip-side of that game. It can be done here too.
Other Game Coverage:
- Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview
- Bolts by the Bay
- Full coverage on SB Nation
- Live stream of Tampa Bay Lightning coverage on Twitter