The threat of elimination might not hover over the Bruins until the NHL’s augmented playoff format is whittled down to 16 teams, but that doesn’t mean that Boston plans on simply shaking the rust off during the league’s scheduled round-robin tournament.
There’s still plenty to play for during the competition — which features the top four teams in each conference and will be held during the “play-in” round featuring 16 other clubs.
Even though some of the advantages of home ice will be negated due to neutral-site venues this year, the seeding at stake for these four teams in the round robin still holds significant sway — both in terms of determining last change and the perk of reseeding taking place after each playoff round this summer.
As such, the onus should be on the Bruins to fight tooth and nail to hold on to their No. 1 seed, given that Boston could make it all the way to the conference finals before having to square off against a club like the Lightning or Capitals in the best-of-seven series.
But it won’t come easy for the B’s, given that they need to sit atop the standings against the likes of Tampa, Washington and Philadelphia if they want to put themselves in the best possible position for a deep Cup run.
With the Bruins now in the midst of Phase 2 of the NHL’s return, here’s an early preview of how the Bruins match up against the rest of the field in the round-robin tournament. Let’s wrap up this series with a look at Boston’s top hurdle in the East — the Lightning.
Here's a list of our other early previews of what awaits Boston in the round-robin tournament:
Tampa Bay Lightning
Record: 43-21-6 (92 points — 2nd in Atlantic Division)
Goals Per Game: 3.47 (1st in NHL)
Goals Against Per Game: 2.77 (8th in NHL)
Power-play Percentage: 23.1 (5th in NHL)
Penalty Kill: 81.4% (14th in NHL)
Bruins' record against Tampa Bay this season: 1-2-1
The Bruins’ top line managed to land a few punches against the Bolts in this matchup, with David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand generating a combined three goals and seven total points in this TD Garden matchup.
And yet, despite Boston cashing in on three of its five chances on the power play, the absence of David Krejci due to injury and the lack of any additional secondary scoring allowed Tampa to hang around in the contest, which eventually went to a shootout.
As has been the case throughout the 2019-20 season, Boston was unable to exit the shootout with a pair of points secured, as Tampa emerged with the victory against Tuukka Rask, who still turned aside 33 of the 36 shots that came his way — including three stops in a frantic OT stretch.
A slumping Bruins club ran into the buzzsaw that is the Lightning’s power play in this matchup — with the B’s PK relinquishing a pair of goals in an eventual 3-2 loss.
Yes, at this point in the season, the Bolts had cashed in on an absurd 34.5% of their power-play bids at Amalie Arena, but Boston didn’t exactly make it tough on the home club — as highlighted by this blast from Steven Stamkos.
With this defeat, Boston dropped five consecutive games for the first time since March 15-24, 2016.
After close to three months without any head-to-head matchups, these two Atlantic Division titans crossed paths again down in Tampa Bay — with both clubs featuring a slew of new faces in Ondrej Kase, Nick Ritchie, Blake Coleman, Zach Bogosian and Barclay Goodrow.
While the box score might tell the story of a slim, one-goal victory for the Bruins, Boston spent most of this contest hemming the Bolts in their own zone.
David Krejci’s line held an 18-5 edge in shot attempts and a 12-3 advantage in scoring chances against Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point in 10:34 of 5v5 ice time through the first two periods. Sean Kuraly and the B’s fourth line generated five scoring chances in just 2:25 of 5v5 ice time in the first period.
And even after Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk gave Boston a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes, the Lightning failed to land much of a punch in the final period of regulation — with only seven of their 22 shot attempts even making it to Tuukka Rask.