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A pace for the record books; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Boston Bruins preview

46 wins is the best Tampa Bay has done in a singel season... That record could fall in the final 10 games of the NHL season.

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Where:  Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
When: 5 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Stanley Cup of Chowder, Days of Y'Orr

Back in late January, in a preview for the Lightning's contest against the Carolina Hurricanes, I pointed out the even-number of remaining games in the NHL season for the Lightning at the time (34) and what it'd take to have a .500-or-better record in the post-All Star game second half of the season (17 wins).

With 10 games remaining on the season now for the Bolts, they've managed a 14-8-2 record since play resumed on January 27th, or a .583 winning percentage. At that pace, they're due for another 5 wins in the season (for a total of 19 wins since January 27).

That's setting up for the Lightning history books right there.  The club's record for wins in a season is 46 games, achieved in 2003-04, 2010-11 and 2013-14.

While the Lightning need all of 2 more victories to tie that mark, they need four victories if they want to tie the number in ROW - regulation/overtime wins, minus the shootout.  The Bolts have two victories this season in the shootout.  They only had 40 ROW in 2010-11 (six shootout victories) and last season they had 38 regulation/OT wins.

It's been written a few times, comparing this season's Lightning team with the 2003-04 club, the reason I cite the ROW is because the 2003-04 club didn't have the shootout to work with. They got 46 wins with regulation and overtime alone.

Getting to or beyond 46 wins in a season is one hell of an accomplishment regardless if the wins were attained with or without the shootout. Tampa Bay is on a pace for 50 in the season.  Too bad winning pace in the regular season mean absolutely jack in the playoffs.

All of this goes through Boston too. Tampa Bay has two more games against the B's this season, both at Amalie Arena and not the dread fort known as TD Garden where the Lightning are woefully awful (in record; their last game against the Bruins in Boston was actually a pretty great affair that ended in a shootout loss). After this early-evening affair, which is the flip-side of back-to-back games for the Bruins, the clubs will meet again to close out the season on April 11th.

Whoever came up with the schedule had to be looking at the standings from last season and trying to put games that mattered on the docket for April 11th and 12th.... The thing is that the weight of the game may be more on Boston than Tampa Bay. After the results of last night's contests, Boston is a single point in front of the Ottawa Senators for the final wild card slot in the Eastern Conference and Ottawa has a game in hand (it'll be two games after tonight in Tampa).  The Florida Panthers are still only 4 points out of contention as well, but it's Ottawa with the more torrid pace to contention than either the Bruins or Panthers.

As for the Lightning and tonight's game, line combos for the Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday during practice were the same from the latter stages of Friday's victory over the Red Wings; Jonathan Drouin on right wing on the top line, Ryan Callahan playing on the third line, J.T. Brown on the fourth, and the TKO trio up to their usual antics on the Bolts second line. Drouin turned heads with his effort Friday; with head coach Jon Cooer lauding the rookie with praise and saying he earned the opportunity. The question is now when will #27 once again light the lamp? Drouin has not scored a goal since December 15th in Pittsburgh.

Tuukka Rask started last night in Sunrise. Will he play again? Possibly, but it's also possible Niklas Svedberg gets the nod in net for Boston. It's not like Svedberg's numbers don't warrant a chance to start in net: a .920 save percentage, a 2.32 GAA and a 7-5-1 record. This is a vital game for Boston (trying to pad their lead over Ottawa) so putting their best foot forward is important... But doesn't that lie in the more rested goalie? His last start in net was on March 17, a shootout loss to the Sabres.

It hasn't been confirmed but odds are it will be Andrei Vasilevskiy starting in net for the Lightning. Vasya has seen starts at least once a week and hasn't started in a week... Timing says the 20 year old gets the nod. Vasilevskiy has played in 13 games and compiled a 6-4-1 record, a 2.35 GAA and a .918 save percentage. Having Andrei start more of these remaining 10 games than Ben Bishop makes more sense (as reddogbluedog put it in comments) - rest Bishop so he's ready for the playoffs.  It was overwork that doomed Bish by way of injury and brought the Bolts playoff season to a halt before it even started last season.

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