Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: NHLNetwork, BSSUN, NESN
Opponent SBNation Site: Stanley Cup of Chowder
A sixty-minute effort. That’s all everyone from the coaching staff to the players to the fans want to see tonight. In their last outing against the Washington Capitals there were sparks, fleeting glimpses, that the Tampa Bay Lightning were getting back into the style of play that has made them one of the more successful teams over the last few years, but it wasn’t enough.
With only twelve games left in the season the Lightning need more. More discipline with the puck, mostly. Most of the issues that they’ve faced over the last month or so are of their own doing as they’ve turned the puck over way more than we’re accustomed to seeing them. They finish off their stretch of three games against potential playoff partners tonight against Boston and they are still searching for their first points.
The Bruins have leapfrogged them in the standings and knocked the Lightning down to the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. However, with a win tonight, the Bolts can move back into the third spot (and a potential meeting against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round). In order to make that happen, the Lightning will need a full 60-minute effort, it’s that simple.
The two teams met up on the 24th of March with Boston emerging with a 3-2 win thanks to David Pastrnak’s (who is out for tonight’s game) hat trick. While the final score was close that was primarily thanks to Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Bruins led comfortably in shot attempts (64-45), high-danger chances (13-8) and expected goals (3.42 - 1.89).
The Lightning have to get back to what makes them successful. Namely defending their net first, and building their attack from their own zone. The forwards have to stay close to allow their blueline partners options for clean breakouts so that they can transition through the neutral zone. Once they do that they have to keep the puck in the opponent’s zone. There have been too many one-and-done efforts, or worse zero-and-done efforts where they turn the puck over before getting any shots off.
Puck retrieval and winning battles along the boards will be key. When the Bolts are on their game, they are first to the loose pucks and able to reset their offensive formations to keep the other team off balance. That means getting the rebounds in front of the net, or emerging from the corners with the puck. That hasn’t been happening enough lately.
A solid effort tonight would be a sign that this team has turned things around and is trending in the right direction. The schedule does ease up a bit as the Lightning have games against Buffalo (surprisingly frisky), Dallas, and Anaheim upcoming. Buffalo and Anaheim are out of the playoff races, but Dallas is making a charge for a wild card spot in the West. These are three teams the Lightning should beat, but winning isn’t good enough, they need to win by playing their game (process over outcome).
There is still plenty of time for them to work through this, but it would be nice to see them do it tonight against a playoff team.
Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Brandon Hagel - Anthony Cirelli - Alex Killorn
Nick Paul - Steven Stamkos - Ross Colton
Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Mikhail Sergachev - Erik Cernak
Zach Bogosian - Cal Foote
Boston Bruins Potential Lines
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Jake DeBrusk
Taylor Hall - Erik Haula - Marc McLaughlin
Trent Frederic - Charlie Coyle - Craig Smith
Nick Foligno - Tomas Nosek - Curtis Lazar
Mike Reilly - Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk - Brandon Carlo
Derek Forbort - Connor Clifton