Boston Bruins: Are the Tampa Bay Lightning still the biggest Atlantic threat?

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 17: Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) skates with the puck as Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) trails the play near Lightning bench during the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins NHL game on October 17, 2019, at TD Garden in Boston, MA. (Photo by John Crouch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 17: Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) skates with the puck as Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) trails the play near Lightning bench during the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins NHL game on October 17, 2019, at TD Garden in Boston, MA. (Photo by John Crouch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 17: Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) skates with the puck as Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) trails the play near Lightning bench during the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins NHL game on October 17, 2019, at TD Garden in Boston, MA. (Photo by John Crouch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

After a record-breaking regular season, are the Tampa Bay Lightning are only sixth in the division. Are they a threat to the Boston Bruins?

The Boston Bruins are at the top of the Atlantic Division right now. In fact, they’ve been the best team in the division pretty much all year.

Given their roster, we all expected the Bruins to occupy a top position in the division. However, take a look underneath and you’ll see a number of surprises.

The biggest surprise in the Atlantic is that the Tampa Bay Lightning are only in sixth place. Tampa is behind Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, and Toronto.

The Lightning enjoyed a record season last year. They finished first in the Atlantic with a whopping 128 points, 21 points ahead of second-place Boston. That’s one of the best regular season marks of all time.

Even after a major playoff failure, most expected the Lightning to bounce back and once again be the best team in the Atlantic Division. Through the first third of the regular season, Tampa is far from that.

Through the first 29 games, the Lightning only have 33 points. If the season ended today, they wouldn’t even be in the playoffs.

With that record, are the Lightning still Boston’s biggest threat in the regular season? The answer is yes.

Tampa Bay still has one of the league’s top offenses

Put the record aside for now and look at Tampa’s roster. The Lightning returned from last year’s record-breaking season with virtually the same roster.

Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point still make up one of the top forward groups in the league. Add in some offensive-minded defensemen, and it’s no surprise that the Lightning are fifth in the league with 105 total goals.

Tampa Bay has the only forward group in the division that can match Boston’s. Toronto is close, but the Leafs don’t have the depth of the Lightning and Bruins. This a big reason why Tampa Bay remains a bigger threat to Boston than Toronto or any other Atlantic team.

With all that talent in the lineup, the Lightning are a threat to score three to four goals every night. Usually that’s enough to win, but that hasn’t always been the case this year.

Goaltending is a bigger issue for the Lightning, but still good enough

One big advantage Boston has over Tampa Bay is goaltending. Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Lightning’s franchise goalie, doesn’t look like the same guy we saw last year. His save percentage and goals-against average both dropped, and they are lower than Tuukka Rask‘s.

Even worse, Tampa doesn’t have a backup nearly as capable as Jaroslav HalakCurtis McElhinney is only 3-3-2 for the Lightning, and he has a sub .900 save percentage. If that doesn’t change, Tampa will continue to face trouble.

That said, the Lightning’s goaltending situation is still good enough to make them a big threat to the Bruins. Vasilevskiy hasn’t shown it this year, but nobody can deny his talent.

Next. Can we expect another winning streak?. dark

The Lightning may only be in sixth place in the division right now, but they still represent the biggest threat to the Bruins. If they make the playoffs, the Lightning will be a tough out for Boston.