Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning Fight for First

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 17: Brayden Point
TAMPA, FL - MARCH 17: Brayden Point /

With two weeks left in the Boston Bruins’ season, tonight’s game could very well be the game that determines the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

I bet if you asked most Boston Bruins fans in October and early November, no one would have guessed that the B’s would be contending for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.  The Bruins have transformed from one of the most inconsistent teams in the NHL to one of the most dominant teams in the league.

The Bruins (47-17-11, 105 points) are coming off a shootout loss against the high-flying Winnipeg Jets.  This was a game that very easily could have been a regulation loss, were it not for the Bruins will-to-win and never say die attitude.  This mentality has kept them in many games they could have and should have lost.

The Tampa Bay Lightning (51-21-4, 106 points) are on a two game losing streak, having suffered defeats at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes and New Jersey Devils.  These losses have allowed the Bruins to creep within 1 point of the Lightning, who have led the Atlantic Division since the beginning of the season.

The who, what, when, and where

Well, the “who” for the Bruins has been in constant flux recently.  The Bruins recalled Tommy Cross from Providence on an emergency basis and sent down Paul Postma.  Cross will apparently play if Matt Grzelcyk can’t play, after getting leveled on a dirty hit by Josh Morrissey on Tuesday night.  Here is the current injury situation in Boston:

David Pastrnak is on a 3 game goal scoring streak and Brad Marchand has 7 points in his last 3 games.  I’m sure it helps having Patrice Bergeron back in the fold.  Here’s hoping he can get back to full speed quickly and pick up where he left off before his injury.

There’s not other way to say it.  Tonight’s game is huge for both teams.  The Bruins are only one point behind Tampa Bay in the conference with a game in hand.  So, here are the possible outcomes and the impact they will have on the standings come tomorrow morning, taking into account that the Bruins will have a game in hand:

  • Bruins win in regulation:  Bruins will take 1st place in the Eastern Conference.
  • Bruins win in OT/shootout:  Bruins and Lightning are tied for 1st place in the Eastern Conference, with Boston being in 1st place based on points percentage.
    • Ultimate tiebreaker is ROW (regulation and overtime wins), and TB has 45 to Boston’s 44.  If Boston wins in OT, they will both have 45.
  • Lightning win in regulation:  Lightning stay in 1st place in the Eastern Conference, extend lead to 3 points and extending ROW lead to 2 games.
  • Lightning win in OT/shootout:  Lightning stay in 1st place in the Eastern Conference, extend lead to 2 points, and if they win in OT, extend lead in ROW from 1 game to 2 games.

Next: Bruins return home eyeing first place

Needless to say, tonight’s game at 7:00 pm at the TD Garden in Boston, MA on NESN Plus will be one of the most important games of the season for the Bruins.  The B’s currently control their own destiny, but don’t exactly have the easiest end of the season.  A win tonight would certainly help things.