The Bruins face arguably their biggest test of the season tonight against the league leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Bruins have been fighting injury adversity admirably despite some recent setbacks, but the Lightning are pacing the league with 43 points. The Bs will need their best to survive the Lightning storm and secure two points.
Bruins’ Line Juggling
Bruce Cassidy can’t seem to find the right formula to sustain success for the Bs. With all due respect to the benchboss, Cassidy is grasping at straws right now.
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson will replace Chris Wagner in the lineup and JFK will center Ryan Donato and Noel Acciari. This is an extremely questionable line as both JFK and Donato are far from proven and have had significant struggles in their young careers. Acciari is a solid player, but can’t make up for the defensive deficiencies of these two line-mates, which may make them susceptible to the Tampa attack.
Steven Kampfer will go into the lineup to replace Connor Clifton. Kampfer will most likely be paired with John Moore, which will put Torey Krug with Brandon Carlo and Jeremy Lauzon with Matt Grzelcyk, at least to start.
The only assignment likely to remain intact is in net. Tuukka Rask will get the start. However, that may also be subject to change, if the Lightning heat up and chase Tuukka from the net.
As previously mentioned, the Lightning are lethal throughout their entire lineup. They lead the league in goals on the season with 112 and are averaging 3.86 goals per game. They also deploy the 4th best power play in the league.
The offensive attack is led by Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Braydon Point whose 20 goals is tied for second in the league. These superstars sometimes overshadow some other stars in their lineup such as J.T. Miller and Tyler Johnson. Then comes Yanni Gourde, Cedric Paquette, Ryan Callahan, and Bruins killer, Alex Killorn. Scary.
The Lightning blue line is just as scary. Leading the charge from the back-end is the 2018 Norris Trophy winner, Victor Hedman.
Following arguably the best defenseman in the league, Tampa deploys two former NY Ranger stalwarts, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonough.
If there is any weakness to be found throughout the Lightning lineup, it may be in net as their number one netminder, Andrei Vasilevskiy, is injured, so Louise Domingue is expected between the pipes. However, Tampa hasn’t slowed down at all without Vasilevskiy and has continued their ascension to the top of the league.
Keys for Bs
Tuukka Rask. If I haven’t said it enough, the Lightning are really good. Therefore, Tuukka Rask is going have to be better. It is going to take his best for a chance to come out of Florida with two points. It’s simple math – the Lightning average four goals a game, so the Bruins 1.) need more offense 2.) need to hold the Lightning to three goals or less. Rask will need to be the backbone of this effort as the Lightning are likely to get their chances.
A strong start. The Bruins of yesteryear built a reputation of resiliency, and were capable of coming back in any game against any opponent on any given night. This isn’t the case this season.
The Bruins haven’t been able to fully find their footing this season, which is largely due to the injuries and rotating door in the lineup. The Bs are 9-1-2 when scoring first and 5-8-2 when the opposition scores first.
The Bruins haven’t shown the same comeback ability this season, so it would behoove the Bs to play to their strengths and work their hardest to secure an early lead.
Leaders need to produce. This is an obvious statement for a struggling team, but that’s for a reason. The “Leaders” doesn’t just encompass David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. They need more from David Backes, David Krejci, Torey Krug, and third year blue-liner, Brandon Carlo. Backes will need to be a physical presence against a heavy Tampa team.
Krejci needs to pick up more of the slack left by Bergeron’s absence by moving his feet to make plays. He is becoming too content on the perimeter looking for a pretty pass. Shoot and drive the net. Krug and Carlo need to provide more consistency on the blue line and make cleaner breakouts to avoid turnovers in the defensive end.
Crash the net. Bruins need to have more of a presence in front the opposition’s net and drive there instead of circling the zone looking for passes, which often ends in a shot with no traffic in front. They won’t beat the lightning with four pretty goals. They will need to earn a W the hard way – by going to the dirty areas and battling for goals.