Bruins continue beat-down of first-place Lightning

Bruins continue beat-down of first-place Lightning
November 11, 2013, 7:30 pm
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BOSTON - Nobody would blame the Tampa Bay Lightning if they’d rather skip the fourth and final scheduled regular season meeting with the Bruins set for March 8 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The Bruins have thoroughly curb-stomped the Lighting, going three-for-three through the first 17 games of the regular season after taking a 3-0 win Monday afternoon at TD Garden. They’ve outscored the Lighting by a whopping aggregate total of 11-1 in those three aforementioned meetings, which means that Tampa has posted a commanding 12-2 record against everybody in the NHL not named the Bruins.

“When you play a good team, you have to prepare well," Gregory Campbell said. "The coaching staff has done a good job at preparing us and what [Tampa Bay’s] tendencies are. Often when we play within the system and we work hard at it, we have success.”

Do they ever have success against Tampa Bay.

Some of it is clearly matchup problems. Tampa Bay defensemen like Victor Hedman, Keith Aulie and Eric Brewer don’t fare all that well against the power/skill combination brought on by so many of Boston’s forwards, and Marty St. Louis and Steve Stamkos have to deal with Zdeno Chara at the other end of the ice. Before Stamkos was forced to leave with a broken right tibia in the second period, it had looked like another quiet night for St. Louis and Stamkos vs. the Black and Gold.

The Lightning are also a team that relies quite a bit on their power play to do damage, and the Bruins specialize in shutting down high-powered special teams attacks as long as they don’t feature fearsome players like Adam Henrique and Eric Gelinas.

Tuukka Rask is an amazing 3-0-0 with a 0.33 goals against average and .988 save percentage in the three games vs. Tampa Bay this season, but he made clear following Monday’s game that it’s not all about the goaltender.

“I think we’ve played pretty good games against them, so I haven’t had to be like unbelievable out there and make back door saves all the time,” said Tuukka Rask, who made 28 saves for his second shutout of the season, which have both come against – you guessed it – Tampa Bay. “I think some of the best games we’ve played have been against them, and that obviously helps the goalie.”

Beyond Boston’s aforementioned match-up advantage over Tampa Bay, there’s also the simple NHL phenomenon of one team having the other one’s number over the course of a season. In recent years the Bruins have gone for stretches of more than a season without losing to the Ottawa Senators or Toronto Maple Leafs.

Now, it would appear that it’s the Bolts that are in the Black and Gold divisional house of horrors. Claude Julien prefers the more logical, and perhaps more ho-hum, explanation that circumstances have lined up for the Bruins – and against Tampa Bay – in each of their three tilts this season.

“I think a lot of it may be circumstances," Julien said. "The first one was [the season opener] here, and I think everybody knows you’re going to be excited and ready to go into an opener. The other one was coming off a pretty . . . I guess you could call it a disappointing win in Florida, where I really thought our team was really getting away from our game. So we needed a bounce-back type of game, and we did that in Tampa. Tonight, it’s pretty obvious they’re ahead of us in the standings, there’s a lot at play, and we wanted to pull closer up to them. We did that.

“We needed a good game out of our team, and we wanted to continue to build on the way we played last game, and get a little bit better. So I think [it’s] circumstance probably more than just the team we played against.”

Both sides might even really believe it’s simple coincidence binding three completely one-sided hockey games this season, but one would bet that the Bruins wouldn’t mind seeing Tampa Bay when the NHL calendar turns to the playoffs.

So perhaps it’s just a little more than dumb hockey luck that’s made the Bruins look like world beaters to Tampa Bay, and the Lightning play that role for just about everybody else.