NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Thursday night’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
A lot of ink has been spilled this year on the record-setting Tampa Bay Lightning, and for good reason.
They win basically all of the time, they have the guy who’s running away with the Hart and the other guy who’s running away with the Vezina. They haven’t lost a game in their past 10 outings and have points in their past 14. There’s plenty to write home about here.
But not lost on the rest of the NHL is how well the Boston Bruins have been playing as of late. Sure, the second-place Bruins are 19-points back of the Lightning in the Atlantic Division. There will be no catching them. But Boston, too, has points in their past 14 games. And like the Lightning, they haven’t lost in regulation in February.
And while Tampa has benefitted from a relatively healthy lineup this season, and has been without top names like Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, the Bruins have had to forge ahead without their leading scorer (at the time of his injury).
David Pastrnak‘s thumb injury (and subsequent surgery) could have had a devastating impact on the Bruins. He left the team with 31 goals and 66 points in 56 games when disaster struck on Feb. 10. It’s just standard fare to believe the Bruins might struggle without the guy but they’ve done anything but.
The Bruins will enter Thursday’s matchup against the Lightning with a 6-0-1 record since Pastrnak began his absence, and scoring hasn’t hit a snag during that time — the Bruins are average 3.71 goals per game in that span.
The key to any team succeeding in the face of a major injury to one of its best and most productive players is others stepping up to fill the void. For Boston, David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk heard the rallying cries loud and clear.
Krejci had 43 points in 56 games (0.77/game) prior to Pastrnak’s departure but has contributed 12 in the seven games since (1.71/game). Similarly, Jake DeBrusk had 19 points in 40 games (0.40/game) before Pastrnak’s ailment and 11 since then (1.57/game). Not surprisingly, the duo is the team’s two top scorers during that time.
Couple that with no slow down in Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron‘s game and you’ve essentially plugged the hole that could have led to a drastic leak. So you have a Boston Bruins team that has been able to hold off the Toronto Maple Leafs and retain that second-place standing.
And the good news is that Pastrnak is back to skating now as of this past Monday. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Pastrnak would be in a cast for the next two weeks (down to a week and a half at this point) and then will return to the lineup as his comfort level allows.
This is all to say that a very good Bruins team is getting their best player back just in time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Kenny Albert (play-by-play), Mike Milbury (analyst) and Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from TD Garden in Boston, Mass. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Paul Burmeister alongside Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter.