Top Billing in Eastern Conference on Line as Bruins Visit Lightning

Matthew Jordan

Monday, April 2, 2018 3:41 PM UTC

Monday, Apr. 2, 2018 3:41 PM UTC

Arguably the most important game in the final week of the NHL’s regular season is Tuesday with potentially the East’s top seed on the line as Boston visits Tampa Bay.

Boston (110 points) at Tampa Bay (108 points) Free NHL Pick: LightningBest Line Offered: BetOnline

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":3217065, "sportsbooksIds":[1096,118,999998,169,19], "LineTypeId":2, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]

Hard to believe this is the final week of the NHL’s regular season. The most important game in it is Tuesday night from Tampa as the Lightning and Boston Bruins meet for the final time this season with a puck drop of 7:30 p.m. Although, I expect these teams to square off in the playoffs.

I previewed Tampa’s visit to Boston last week and recommended the Bruins. They won 4-2 behind a goal and two assists from Patrice Bergeron and 26 saves from No. 1 star Tuukka Rask. Tim Schaller and David Pastrnak scored goals 32 seconds apart in the final minute of the first period for a 2-0 lead that Boston, which was without top defenseman Zdeno Chara, never relinquished. Tampa Bay was 1-for-4 on the power play and the Bruins 1-for-2. Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 26 saves for the Lightning, who are 0-3 against the Bruins this season. That gave Boston the overall lead in the Eastern Conference, the first time since Oct. 18 that a team other than Tampa Bay held that honor.

[/]{"component":"video", "type":"youtube", "url":"https://www.youtube.com/embed/RgDheRbWMAw", "videoSize":"Large" }[/]

Winner To Claim East’s Top Seed?

It actually might not matter that Boston has already won the season series against Tampa Bay as a potential tiebreaker should these teams finished tied for the most points in the East. The first tiebreaker in the NHL is superior points percentage but obviously that could be the same. The second is the greater number of games won, excluding those won in a shootout. So that would be the ROW category. The next tiebreaker is points earned head-to-head so Boston wins that.

After this game, the Bruins visit Florida, host Ottawa and host the Panthers on April 8, the only game that day to close the season. Tampa hosts Buffalo on Friday and visits Carolina on Saturday. So, you have to give the easier remaining schedule edge to the Bolts – although Florida might be eliminated from the playoffs by then so the Panthers might not be as challenging for Boston.

The Bruins come off a 4-3 OT loss in Philadelphia on Sunday. Bergeron had sent it to OT with less than four seconds remaining, his 30th goal of the season. Anton Khudobin got the call in net – it surely will be Rask on Tuesday. Chara returned after missing nine games with an upper-body injury. Fellow blueliner Brandon Carlo suffered a broken fibula Saturday so he’s obviously done. Another defenseman, Charlie McAvoy, hasn’t played since March 3 due to a sprained MCL but might go Tuesday. Winger Rick Nash also might; he has missed eight in a row with an upper-body injury. Center Riley Nash (no relation to Rick) missed Sunday after needing more than 40 stitches in his ear, head and neck after getting hit with a puck during Saturday’s game against the Panthers. He could rejoin the team in Tampa.

[/]{"component": "embedHTML", "code": "

We have secured home ice for the First Round and will play Games 1, 2, 5*, and 7* (*if necessary) at @amaliearena.

We’re expecting to host Games 1 and 2 between April 12-15. #StanleyCup

— x - Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) April 2, 2018
\n\n"}[/]

The Lightning lost for the fourth time in five games Sunday, 4-1 at home to Nashville in a potential Stanley Cup Finals preview. Possibly much worse news in that Steven Stamkos left with a lower-body injury. The Bolts’ captain is second on the team with 86 points.

The Bruins have had Tampa’s number in winning seven of the past eight meetings overall, but Boston is missing some key guys, and I have no doubt the Lightning will treat this like a Stanley Cup Finals game as they won’t want to get swept by their bitter rival – not to mention retaking the East lead. Go Lightning for a Tuesday NHL pick even if Stamkos doesn’t play.

comment here