One team carries a 10-game winning streak into Thursday night; the other brings a 14-game point streak.
One team sits first in the league in points; the other third.
Yet the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning are far apart. But really, no one is anywhere close to the Bolts in the standings as they’re well on their way to securing the Presidents’ Trophy.
There aren’t many flaws in Tampa’s game. Their talent from top to bottom stands out head and shoulders above the rest of the league. Top-end talents like Hart Trophy candidate Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasilevski and captain Steven Stamkos on top of their games. It will take a near-perfect effort to beat the Lightning on any given night
The Bruins, though, are doing fairly well themselves. They’ve gone through a tough gauntlet over the past week having defeated top-caliber teams like the Sharks (twice) and Golden Knights, while also nabbing a point in their shootout loss against the red-hot Blues.
Yet, Tampa is on a different level. Patrice Bergeron and company know they have little room for error.
“I don’t think I need to talk too much about how good they’ve been this year, so we’re all aware of that,” Bergeron said. “The margin of error is always slim and it’s going to be even more so tonight. So, obviously we talk about their power play as well, and we need to be simple and discipline to stay out of the penalty box.”
That potent Tampa power play clicks at just under 30 percent. They could reach that 30 percent plateau Thursday night depending on how things shape out.
The Lightning rank first in nearly every major statistical category. But the Bruins carry some confidence as well. After all, they haven’t lost in regulation since Jan. 19 and have a little more balance in the middle of the lineup with Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson now in the fold.
As good as they’ve been even without leading scorer David Pastrnak of late, the Bruins know they can’t afford an off-night in their matchup with the heavy Stanley Cup favorites.
“They’re opportunistic, perhaps even more than other teams,” defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. “So making sure that the right plays and the smart plays are being made over and over again is going to be crucial. We need to make sure that we’re ready and on time at 7:30 and that everyone is bringing their ‘A’ game tonight.”
Tuukka Rask gets the nod in net. Here’s a look at Boston’s projected lineup.
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Danton Heinen
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Marcus Johansson
Joakim Nordstrom-Charlie Coyle-David Backes
Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari-Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara-Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug-Brandon Carlo
John Moore-Matt Grzelcyk
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