Yes, it is true the Tampa Bay Lightning played on Wednesday night (in overtime, no less) while the Boston Bruins were sitting at home and resting ahead of Thursday’s game.
The Bruins, based on that alone, were obviously going to be the fresher team.
Yes, it is also true that the Lightning have almost nothing to play for at this point in the season having pretty much wrapped up the Presidents’ Trophy and top seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Bruins are still competing to secure home-ice advantage in the first round.
Of course the Bruins were going to be the team with some extra motivation.
But none of that should take away from Boston’s convincing 4-1 win over the Lightning because this was a complete and total beatdown of the league’s best team, and a pretty big statement that the Bruins are also a force to be reckoned with at the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins received goals from four different players (Jake DeBrusk, Noel Accairi, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand), while Tuukka Rask stood tall in net stopping 20 of the 21 shots he faced and recording an assist on the Bruins’ first goal of the night.
Rask was definitely solid, but the real story was just how strong of a performance this was by the Bruins. This was a Lightning team that entered the night with only 11 regulation losses on the season.
A team that had already eclipsed the 100-point mark for the season and is running away with the top record in the league and the conference.
A team that was riding a 10-game winning streak.
And the Bruins just completely shut them down, limiting them to only 21 shots on goal (and only nine through the first two periods) and putting more than 40 on net. It was just the fifth time all season the Lightning failed to record at least 22 shots in a game.
With that game in the books, and with the Bruins on an incredible run that has seen them go 11-0-4 over their previous 15 games, we should probably start paying more attention to them as a contender.
It is not just about this game, either. It is about the fact they have the third-best points percentage in the NHL, have a handful of All-Stars at the top of their lineup, and maybe found a little bit of depth with the additions of Charlie Coyle, Marcus Johansson, and the continued emergence of DeBrusk. When healthy their defense is very good, and they have two different goalies that are playing like a top-tier starter this season. It is getting harder and harder to find a truly glaring weakness on this roster.
The Bruins are a contender, and they showed why on Thursday night by taking the league’s best team and running them out of the building.