NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’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 game between two of the best teams in the NHL is always worth noting, whether the Lightning (87 points) really have a chance to catch the Bruins (94), or not. When you consider that the two teams are expected to be on a collision course for a possible second-round playoff matchup (despite, again, easily ranking among the NHL’s best), it only makes each matchup more interesting.
With Tuesday’s meeting in Tampa Bay on NBCSN and Saturday’s bout in Boston, the Lightning and Bruins get two chances to see how they measure up against each other. Which … again, also translates to how they measure up among the best of the best.
“I look at it more as ‘We haven’t seen them in a long time’ and Tampa has been a really strong team since I’ve been here,” Bruce Cassidy said, via NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty. “For us, it’s a measuring stick maybe. Here’s one of the best teams in our division — and I’d put us in that category as well — and let’s see what they’ve got. It’s less about that if we win this, we can start counting down [to a divisional title].”
Torey Krug believes the games will have a “playoff-type feel” to them. Fittingly enough, there are also reasons why the Lightning and Bruins will be going through a “feeling-out process,” including Tuesday on NBCSN.
[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]
Lightning, Bruins continue to deal with trade deadline transitions
Want an idea of how hectic it can be when you’re traded? Consider that life doesn’t just hit the pause button for someone like Blake Coleman, whose baby girl arrived just around the time he went from the Devils to the Lightning.
These games provide a chance for the Bruins and Lightning to see how new additions and alignments might work in strength vs. strength situations. Actually, they also get the chance to see if other things work, like sending a more defensive-minded unit after one of those “strengths.”
Coleman and Barclay Goodrow are charged with finding their footing with the Lightning, not exactly an easy roster to crack. Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie face similar challenges easing in with the Bruins.
Now, there’s some relief in that all four forwards weren’t expected to be team-altering players. No doubt, Kase could really tie the room together, and the Bolts paid big enough for Coleman and Goodrow to expect strong play. But these aren’t the sort of additions teams expect to revolutionize an offense or patch up a shaky defense.
Instead, the goal is for the rich to get richer, and these rosters are about as talent-rich as you’re going to see in the salary cap era.
Can Kucherov stay hot without Stamkos?
Of course, the Lightning are poorer with Stamkos out for the rest of the regular season, and probably a chunk of the playoffs.
It’s far from ideal timing, although Tampa Bay at least gets time to tune up without him. (It probably would’ve been nice to know about this loss before the trade deadline, though, mind you.)
While the Lightning boast other stars like Brayden Point and Victor Hedman, many eyes will be on reigning Art and Hart winner Nikita Kucherov. Lightning fans should be soothed to know that Kucherov can flourish without Stamkos, even if it’s only natural for there to be some drop-off.
DYK? @86Kucherov has collected over 100 points in 112 career regular-season games without Steven Stamkos in the @TBLightning lineup (49-52—101). #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/5Fyu1HH6ER
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 29, 2020
The Lightning possess a 57-32-13 record in 112 games played with Kucherov but without Stamkos. So there’s experience there, even if they don’t want to perpetuate such experiences.
It will be fascinating to see if Kucherov can stay hot, because he’s on a torrid run. Kucherov is currently on a personal 19-game point streak with 14 goals and 31 points during that span. Overall, Kucherov has generated 80 points in 63 games.
Bruins begin tough stretch with Tuesday’s NBCSN game vs. Lightning
Two matches against the Lightning in one week already sounds like a tall order for Boston. The challenges go further than that:
If the Lightning took both of this week’s games in regulation, and also took advantage of their game in hand against Boston, then you can see how the Bruins’ buffer could shrink in no time. Virtually every team on this schedule faces even greater urgency than the B’s, so this will be a gut-check stretch.
A … measuring stick, if you will. It should be a good one between the Bruins and Lightning on NBCSN Tuesday.
NBC Sports will take fans inside the sounds and passion of hockey with a one-hour special – “Wired: Stadium Series – Kings vs. Avalanche” – this Wednesday at 12 a.m. ET on NBCSN, immediately following coverage of Ducks-Avalanche on Wednesday Night Hockey.
Following Wednesday’s premiere, the show will be available on demand on the NBC Sports app. The special will also encore on NBCSN on Thursday, March 5, at 10:30 p.m. ET following NHL Overtime, and on Wednesday, March 11, at 6 p.m. ET.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.