NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Tuesday, as the Tampa Bay Lightning will host the Boston Bruins at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here.
This one is big.
The Boston Bruins travel to Florida to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in a game that could have two very interesting outcomes.
The Bruins (110 points) sit atop the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of the Lightning (108 points). Both teams have clinched, of course, but the division title is the prize here. The Bruins surge over the past couple of months saw them finally dethrone the Lightning from the summit, a spot the latter had held since October.
A win for Boston would likely clinch them the division title, barring them losing their final three in regulation and Tampa winning out. It’s possible, of course, but unlikely given the rate the Bruins are amassing points.
The Bruins lost defenseman Brandon Carlo and forward Riley Nash indefinitely over the weekend and will get Charlie McAvoy back for Tuesday’s game. The rookie d-man has been out since March 3 with an MCL sprain. Defenseman Zdeno Chara returned to action on Sunday after missing nine games.
The Bruin lost a 4-3 overtime decision on Sunday to the Philadelphia Flyers after battling back from 3-1 down in the third period, including a game-tying goal from Patrice Bergeron with 3.8 seconds left in regulation.
“This team, it’s fun to play together,” said Torey Krug. “We have each other’s backs and it doesn’t matter the time or the score, we just keep battling. That’s a great point. There’s things throughout the game we could have done better…thought we created a lot and they took advantage of their chances when they got them. It’s good to get the point and we’ll move onto Tampa now.”
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
Superstar forward Steven Stamkos is questionable for Tuesday’s game after he left a 4-1 loss against the Nashville Predators in the second period with a lower-body injury.
From an entirely objective point of view, everything gets far more interesting if Tampa wins in regulation, even with the Bruins holding a game in-hand.
“It’s probably going to have a big determination of who comes first,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said on Monday. “Let’s be honest, we win the game and we’re right back at it. They win the game and they’ve probably got it. In the big scope of things, it’s game 80 but it’s a big game 80.”
Both teams would be sitting on 110 points with Tampa edging out Boston in ROWs by a 47-46 margin if the Lightning win inside three periods.
Tampa’s remaining two games see them facing the lowly Buffalo Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes, teams that are already eliminated from playoff contention. Boston ends the season with two dates against the Florida Panthers and another against the Ottawa Senators. The Florida games could have real meaning for the Panthers depending on how the New Jersey Devils fair going forward.
Last week’s meeting between both clubs included David Pastrnak fighting and Tuukka Rask starting a brawl. This is gonna be good.
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck