BruinsLightning preview: Facing a high-powered opponent

701572.jpg

BruinsLightning preview: Facing a high-powered opponent

While most of the Tampa Bay Lightning roster must be wondering what they got themselves into as they watched the snow fall on Friday night, the Bolts are ready and waiting for Saturday nights Nemo" showdown at TD Garden. As of Saturday afternoon the game was still going to be played as scheduled and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was lifting the travel ban as of 4 p.m., so it appeared the stars were aligning for the Bruins and Lightning to play their Saturday game.

The Lightning started the season off piping hot and averaged more than five goals per game through the first two weeks, but the regular offense and the vaunted power play has hit the skids in three straight losses to the Devils, Rangers and Flyers. The Bruins are hoping to keep their Black and Gold thumb down on the Lightning by pressing their size and strength advantage. A victory would extend their win streak to three games against another team that looks like it will be a contender in the Eastern Conference this season, but the Guy Boucher and the Lightning have shored up their traditional weaknesses in the areas of defense and goaltending.

I dont think theres a ton of change to their system or the way they play as much as theyve just got more depth, said Claude Julien. Their goaltending has been pretty solid: Anders Lindback has been solid and theyve got a good No. 2 guy in Mathieu Garon. Theyve still got some really good players up front.

As always, stopping Tampa Bay comes down to quieting Marty St. Louis, who has 11 assists in his last seven games and is at the heart of the playmaking that powers the Lightning offense. Thats a lot easier said than done for a team that also boasts potential Calder Trophy candidate Corey Conacher along with the normal usual suspects, and is one of five Tampa Bay players also with double-digit point totals this season.

For comparisons sake the Bruins dont have one single player thats yet to crack double-digit points this year, so getting into a shootout with the Lightning isnt advisable on a snow Saturday evening in Boston.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: The entire Tampa Bay Lightning team could use a confidence booster as theyve lost three games in a row and scored less than two goals a game in the defeats at the hands of the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers. The Lightning power play did go 0-for-4 in the loss to the Devils on Thursday night as their offense has slowed down a bit after a blazing hot start.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: I dont think theres a ton of change to their system or the way they play as much as theyve just got more depth. Their goaltending has been pretty solid: Anders Lindback has been solid and theyve got a good No. 2 guy in Mathieu Garon. Theyve still got some really good players up front. When you look at that core group that is producing for them offensively and you add a young guy like Corey Conacherthat just adds to the danger of the goals they can score. Claude Julien, wary of a Tampa Bay team thats scored more goals than any other team in the NHL this season.

KEY MATCHUP: The Tampa Bay Lightning are averaging 4.2 goals per game and their power play is firing off at a 29.5 percent success rate that places them second in the NHL this season. Just as the first order of business against the Montreal Canadiens was pressuring Andrei Markov on the power play to hold the Habs man advantage off the board, the same will be true with neutralizing Stamkos and St. Louis on special teams. Stamkos leads the Bolts with three PP goals and eight PP points and as always keeping from firing one-timers from the face-off dot is the best way to contain Tampa Bay.

STAT TO WATCH: 42 the number of goals scored by the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, which leads the NHL and is powered by a combined 33 points from Marty St. Louis and Steve Stamkos.

INJURIES: Tampa Bay is without forward B.J. Crombeen (head), who left Tuesday's game against the Flyers after a fight with Zac Rinaldo left him down and out on the ice after a big punch to the head from Crombeen. Shawn Thornton (concussion), Dan Paille (eye) and Brad Marchand (shoulder) are all potentially available for the Bruins with Paille standing the best chance among the three forwards of playing.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask had only 20 saves against the Montreal Canadiens in a win Wednesday night, but his first period performance was the difference between a win and a loss. Mathieu Garon appears to be ready to get the call in relief of starter Anders Lindback, and has already performed well in a pair of appearances for the Lightning this season with a 2.03 goals against average and a .939 save percentage.

Cassidy: Bruins 'will be fine' if they simply take care of business

Cassidy: Bruins 'will be fine' if they simply take care of business

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins took Wednesday off and returned Thursday with assurances they weren’t thinking about history repeating itself for a third straight season. 

The easy parallels are there, of course. 

The Bruins lost 9 of their final 14 games and missed the playoffs by a point two years ago. Last season they went a pathetic 3-8-1 in the final 12 games and once again missed the postseason by a single point.

So their recent three-game losing streak has set off some warning bells and whistles, as has the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs have passed them and pushed the B’s into the second wild-card position. Boston holds a slim two-point lead over the New York Islanders for that final playoff position, and is facing huge games against the Tampa Bay Lightning (tonight) and the Isles (Saturday).

So with all that in mind, has interim coach Bruce Cassidy’s message changed at all to his players? 

“These are teams [close to the Bruins to the standings, so the games] get more magnified and rightfully so,” said Cassidy. “We accept that and we know what’s at stake. The last two didn’t go the way we wanted them to, but the things we do well, we need to keep doing well. We’ve created some looks at the net. We’re generating some offense. We need to finish a little better, and those pockets of the game that get away from us . . . we need to minimize those. We had a few too many of those [moments] against Ottawa. 

“We’re aware of it. We know who won and who lost last night. But we need to take care of our business. If we do, we’ll be fine. We really will. If we take of our business, it doesn’t matter what this team does or what that team does.

"That’s a fact. That’s the message. It’s quite simple. If we take care of business, we’ll be fine. If we don’t, then we’re hoping.”

Clearly taking care of their business includes dispatching both the Lightning and the Islanders. Hoping is what the Bruins ended up doing in each of the previous two seasons, and it left them fully out of luck once the music stopped.


 
 

Thursday, March 23: Sidney Crosby, junk dealer

Thursday, March 23: Sidney Crosby, junk dealer

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while having never said “break a leg” for good luck to fellow Stoneham, Mass., native Nancy Kerrigan on social media, or otherwise.

 *A brief video history of Sidney Crosby spearing, or otherwise targeting, opponents in the crotches prepared with care and thought by the Puck Daddy himself, Greg Wyshynski.

*Elliotte Friedman has his 30 thoughts for the week and a few of them centered around new Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy.

*Could the NBA’s star-resting phenomenon reach into the NHL when it comes to getting in-season time off for the superstars?

*Give the Leafs credit because they picked up coach Mike Babcock when he made a rare screw-up against the Blue Jackets.

*Check out the sick USA/Russia skating kicks on Alex Ovechkin, who had them custom made for a charity event.

*Speaking of Ovechkin, could T.J. Oshie and not Ovechkin actually lead the Capitals in scoring this season?

*For something completely different: Hide the women and children, the Scorpions and Megadeath are going on a North American tour together.