Erik Erlendsson covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Tampa Tribune.
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Lightning 5 things to watch against Boston Bruins
Posted Nov 22, 2010 by Erik Erlendsson
Updated Nov 22, 2010 at 02:23 PM
Sorry for not having a video for today, home games tend to be a bit different than road games, and I had a meeting to get to, so I was a little more rushed than normal this morning. But that hasn’t stopped me from giving you the 5 things to keep an eye on for tonight’s game against the Boston Bruins.
1. Tampa Bay has won three consecutive games heading into tonight. The last time the Lightning won four in a row was Feb. 2 to Feb. 9 of last season, with the last three in that set coming on home ice. That was the high point of last season, as Tampa Bay finished the rest of the way with a 8-15-1 record to fall out of playoff contention. There is also a common belief in hockey circles that the first game back from a road trip can be a difficult game to get through, and the Lightning are coming off a three-game road trip. But the last time Tampa Bay came off a road trip (defined as three or more games) the next home game turned into a 4-0 victory against Toronto. Will they be able to come forth with the same effort against a much tougher Boston team.
2. Can Steven Stamkos find space with 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara on the ice? No doubt the Bruins will try to match up as much as possible with Chara out there against Stamkos and Marty St. Louis, so those guys are going to have to find some holes in the Bruins zone to find the scoring chances. And don’t be surprised if the line combinations get moved around, something Boucher likes to do anyway, but I would expect those two guys to wind up being double shifted on different combinations, particular if Boucher opts to dress 11 forwards.
3. Mike Smith had a solid game on Saturday in a 2-1 victory at Buffalo, but he has been rather inconsistent, to say the least, so far this season. The defense was much better in front of their own net on Saturday than the previous game in Philadelphia in which Tampa Bay allowed seven goals. Smith has been looking to find an opportunity to put a string of games together, and based on his third period in Philadelphia and again Saturday in Buffalo, he’s being handed another chance to try to take advantage of it.
4. Adam Hall and Nate Thompson have had major scoring impacts in the past three games, with Thompson getting an empty-netter in New York, finding the third-period winner in Philadelphia while Hall has a goal in each of the past two games, including the winner on Saturday. Tampa Bay has looked for some balanced scoring the past few weeks with Simon Gagne and Vinny Lecavalier out of the lineup, and Hall and Thompson have helped to provide that. To beat a stingy Bruins team that has posted five team shutouts this season, a goal from the so-called bottom line players would be a big boost.
5. Tampa Bay’s power play ranks third in the league and first overall at home; the Bruins are second overall in penalty kill and four on the road. Somebody’s special teams are going to take a hit tonight, and whichever comes out on top likely gains an advantage in securing the two points.