For the first time this season the Atlantic Division leading Tampa Bay Lightning are facing a bit of adversity as they're coming off of a bitter loss to the Flyers and must now travel to face a Bruins team which is 6-1-3 in their last 10 games.
Ice time is set for 7:00 pm ET tonight at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. After a 7-3 loss to Philly in which the Lightning gave up 5 2nd period goals, they're a legitimate betting underdog tonight as the Bruins are -135 and the total for the game is listed at 5.5 on our NHL odds. Can the Lightning bounce back from such an abysmal loss or will we see more of the same tonight?
Occasionally, you can get some confirmation of who's in net, but as of now , it's not confirmed. We'll assume in a game of importance that Ben Bishop will be in net for the Lightning and Tuukka Rask will be between the pipes at home for Boston.
Bishop has been a beast all season long at 21-6-2 with a 2.36 GAA, but he's coming off of a rare poor outing against the Flyers in which he was lifted.
Bishop allowed 3 goals in 12 shots on goal to a sub .500 team, but I definitely expect Bishop to shrug that game off as he's one of the top netminders in the game. As for Rask (17-10-6, 2.47 GAA), this has been a season where he hasn't gotten a ton of offensive support, but he's still one of the better goalies in the NHL. He defeated the same Philadelphia Flyers team that Tampa Bay lost to on Saturday, 3-1. Rask knocked aside 24 ouf of 25 shots on goal and he should be well rested for a clash with the Lightning.
Set Up Men
Boston isn't a team that's overwhelming offensively as their leading goal scorers are Brad Marchand (11 goals and 12 assists) and leading scorer Patrice Bergeron (10 goals, 21 assists). This is a team without a big-time goal scorer, but team depth compensates for that issue as Boston has 7 players with 8 goals or more. Let's not forget that the Bruins have an above average defense, allowing just 2.5 goals per game and Tuukka Rask can be one of the best goalies in the league when he gets the support.
Boston will rely heavily on the offensive aggressiveness of Bergeron. Bergeron leads the Bruins with 122 shots on goal and is a great set up man. Not only that, he's also had 3 goals in his last 5 games including a 2 goal effort against Pittsburgh, which gave Boston an overtime win this past Wednesday. I expect Patrice Bergeron to play well and if Ben Bishop has any ill-effects from the loss to Philly, this could be a long night for the Lightning.
Left winger, David Pastrnak will also be a player to watch in this game. He's only played in 7 games this season, but is coming off of a 2 goal effort against the Flyers on Saturday.
The Lightning will look to forget about their worst effort of the season against Philadelphia as this is the top scoring team in the NHL. For the season, the Lightning average 3.2 goals per game and Rask will be sure to see a lot of work in net.
Boston will have the luxury of not dealing with Tampa Bay's leading scorer Tyler Johnson (46 points). That said, Steven Stamkos has been a goal scoring machine with 23 points and 18 assists this season. Stamkos has scored a goal in each of his last 2 games and with the absence of Johnson, there will be plenty of opportunity on the offensive end for the Lightning. Ryan Callahan has scored in each of his last 2 games and he could possibly play a role in this game as he's had a very solid season.
Tampa Bay is too good a team to be embarrassed again and although they'll miss the presence of Tyler Johnson, this will be a very competitive game. This is a good opportunity to take the better team as the betting underdog for your NHL picks.
NHL Pick- Tampa Bay +115 at The Greek