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Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins Preview: Playoff Implications

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With only a few games left in the season, points matter more than ever.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning (39-29-11) at Boston Bruins (43-30-6): Game 79

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: TD Garden, Boston, MA

Broadcast/Streaming: TVAS, NESN, SUN

Opponent SBNation Site: Stanley Cup of Chowder

Preview:

If you asked the fanbase two months ago about their thoughts on how the season has progressed, you would likely get a multitude of different answers. There were the playoff hopefuls, fans who clung to the potential of a postseason berth. And the tankers, fans who were ready to lose, get a high draft pick, and enjoy a long offseason of recovery for a injury prone roster.

Well, flash forward to April and it seems now that the majority of fans who favored the tank can’t help but get a taste of the playoff hype. That being said, let’s take a look around the division.

The Bruins currently have 92 points with two games left to play after tonight. Boston’s schedule after this? Two home games. One against Ottawa. The other against the Caps. As for the Bolts? 88 points with three games after tonight.

The Senators were able to grab an overtime lose against Detroit last night, giving them 92 points on the season with four games to play. And then of course you have Toronto. The Maple Leafs, who grabbed a win last night against Buffalo, have 93 points and four games to play.

You often hear about “must-win games.” However, this week’s schedule with Boston tonight and Toronto Thursday very well may determine the season success. So much for the first 78 games right?

As for tonight’s matchup, it really can be anyone’s game. Boston is coming off a big win against Chicago Sunday evening and will likely give the Bolts a tough game seeing as it’s at the Garden. Look for special teams to play a big part: the Bruins are 7th in powerplay percentage and 2nd on the penalty kill in the league. Although the Bolts powerplay is something to be reckoned with, they will have to play a much smarter, defense-first style of hockey, unlike their play of late. Bolts have to keep turnovers to a minimum and possess the puck to create chances and sustain pressure. But that’s the key to every game, right? Let’s hope Nikita Kucherov continues his powerplay madness and sets up some needed scoring help for the Bolts.

The Bolts themselves are coming off a 6-3 win against Dallas. And although Tampa Bay was sloppy against a team with a sub .500 record, they got a great game out of Adam Erne, and if nothing else, a win.

Can the Lightning grab a win, get Steven Stamkos back before the end of the season, and stay healthy? These questions seem like a microcosm of the season as a whole.

Lines will be updated after morning skate.

Comparison Chart

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Vladislav Namestnikov - Jonathan Drouin

Adam Erne - Tyler Johnson? - Yanni Gourde

Gabriel Dumont - Greg McKegg - Cedric Paquette

Defense

Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin

Anton Stralman - Luke Witkowski

Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr

Goaltender

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Boston Bruins

Forwards

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Backes

Drew Stafford - David Krejci - David Pastrnak

Matt Beleskey - Ryan Spooner - Jimmy Hayes

Dominic Moore - Riley Nash - Noel Acciari

Tim Schaller

Defense

Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid

John-Michael Liles - Kevin Miller

Joe Morrow - Collin Miller

Goaltender

Tukka Rask

Anton Khudobin