Bruins-Lightning preview: A better Bolts team

Bruins-Lightning preview: A better Bolts team
October 19, 2013, 2:30 pm
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(USA Today Sports Images)

TAMPA – The Boston Bruins have been tormenters of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the recent past. The B’s have taken five straight games from the Lightning including all three matchups during last year’s strike-shortened campaign, and everybody remembers Boston dashing the Bolts’ Stanley Cup Final hopes three years ago in a highly entertaining series. This Tampa team is in a much different place than the Guy Boucher clubs of the last few years, and might be in for a few more ups and downs through the season as a young team.

"We're feeling pretty good about ourselves now and it brings a little bit of an attitude in the room," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "You look at teams like the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and the L.A. Kings and they lose a game and they're almost like, 'what happened out there?' and that's the direction we're going."

That being said, the Lightning are sitting above the Bruins in the Atlantic Division standings and riding a hot goaltender in former University of Maine standout Ben Bishop, who has won all five of his appearances while posting a .943 save percentage and 1.57 goals against average. He’s one of the new breed of goalies at 6-foot-6 inches tall while filling up the net behind him, and he’s also been the beneficiary of a bit tighter defense being played in front of him.

The Bruins will be on the lockout for all of it as they look to start putting together complete efforts where there have been only bits and pieces through the first six games. Defensively the Bruins are in a decent place, but offensively they could use a little finish work around the net.

“They’re a different team with the coaching. They’ve brought in some new players, and some of their young players are getting better. We’re not just talking [Steve] Stamkos here, and they’re awfully healthy,” said Claude Julien. “They’ve always had the offense, and I think defensively they have a goaltender that’s playing extremely well. Their D-zone on man-on-man is something they’re really good at. It explains their success a little bit.”
 
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Jarome Iginla leads the Bruins with 21 shots on net and has enjoyed umpteen scoring chances in his six games with Boston, but hasn’t been able to make any of them count as of yet. He did make a nice play on the penalty kill that turned into a pass setting up Chris Kelly for an important goal in the win over the Columbus Blue Jackets last weekend, and he certainly appears to be the strong-on-the-puck power forward as advertised to Boston. But a goal would ease some of the pressure after he’s missed on some power play chances in recent games.
 
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “The other night [win vs. Florida] wasn’t a complete 60 minute game from our hockey club. I thought we had some spurts that were better than others, and some letdowns. Two points is two points, but there are certainly areas that we need to be better.” –Gregory Campbell, on a Bruins team that is still looking for early season consistency.  
 
KEY MATCHUP: It’s always about the penalty killers when it comes down to the matchups against the Tampa Bay Lighting featuring Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, though it’s Teddy Purcell that’s been able to do the damage thus far with three power play goals on the season. It will be up to a Boston PK unit, one that’s ranked second in the NHL while allowing only a scant two power play goals in 16 chances thus far this season, to neutralize a strong Tampa Bay PP that features the usual suspects along with the Sami Salo bomb from the point.  
 
STAT TO WATCH: 24-13 – the number by which the Lightning outscored their opponents over the last six games while watching Ben Bishop carrying the mail for Tampa Bay.  
 
INJURIES: Carl Soderberg (sprained ankle) is ready to return after missing the first six games of the season, and has been cleared to play by the medical staff. Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is on the long term injured reserve, and is again expected to miss the entire season.
Defenseman Dan Lee and energy forward Tom Pyatt are both out for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
 
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask became the highest paid goaltender in the NHL after signing an eight year deal this summer that will pay him $7 million per season, and it looks like he’ll be making his seventh straight start to open the season. Rask allowed a bit of a soft goal on the game-tying score Thursday night in Florida, but has otherwise been excellent for a Bruins team that’s second in the NHL in goals against average. Rask is 4-2 with a 1.51 goals against average and a .947 save percentage that both stand as impressive numbers. 
He’ll need to be sharp on Saturday night as the Bruins are facing the NHL’s hottest goalie in Ben Bishop, who is 5-0-0 with a .943 save percentage and a 1.57 goals against average in wresting away the starting job from Anders Lindback. Lindback was the losing goalie on opening night against the Bruins in Boston, so it should be a different team Boston is preparing for in front of the former Black Bears standout netminder.