February 28 – Day 136 – The Bolts won’t stop winning!

It took five games for the Predators to beat the Blues, but they made up for it by scoring five unanswered goals in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The winning tally was the only one of the first period.  Third Star of the Game Craig Smith’s wrister found the back of the net at the 5:39 mark, assisted by Mike Ribeiro and First Star Filip Forsberg (his 20th helper of the season).

Only 54 seconds into the second, Nashville doubled their lead with a Forsberg wrister.  He was assisted by Petter Granberg and Smith (his 10th helper of the season).  4:45 later, Forsberg struck again with another wrister, assisted by Smith and Ribeiro, for his 25th tally of the season.  The lead become 4-0 with 5:11 remaining as Forsberg’s snap shot, assisted by Ribeiro (his 36th helper of the season) and Roman Josi, earned him a hat trick.

The final goal entered the net at the 4:37 mark of the third, courtesy of Colin Wilson’s wrister (his fifth goal of the season), assisted by Viktor Arvidsson and Anthony Bitetto.

Second Star Pekka Rinne earns the shutout victory, saving all 28 shots he faced.  Jake Allen takes the loss, allowing four goals on 23 shots (82.6%).  He was replaced by Pheonix Copley at the 15:34 mark of the second period for this first NHL action.  He made five of six saves (83.3%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 61-33-12, favoring the home sides by 33 points over the roadies.

To close out the week, there’s seven games taking place this Sunday.  The first of those drops the puck at 12:30 p.m. eastern when Washington visits Chicago, followed two and a half hours later by two matchups (Florida at Minnesota and St. Louis at Carolina).  6:30 p.m. eastern features the puck drop of the Tampa Bay at Boston game, trailed 30 minutes later by San Jose at Vancouver.  At 9 p.m. eastern, Los Angeles visits Anaheim, with this evening’s nightcap, the New York Islanders at Edmonton, dropping the puck half an hour later.

Three of the games are between division rivals (Tampa Bay at Boston, San Jose at Vancouver and Los Angeles at Anaheim), and another set of three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Washington at Chicago, Tampa Bay at Boston and Los Angeles at Anaheim).

Although the WashingtonChicago game is very tempting, the game that has the most immediate impact on the standings actually occurs in New England, as the Bolts and B’s are currently tied for second place in the Atlantic Division.

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This evening’s game will be Tampa Bay‘s 13th in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 8-3-1 record.  Their most recent under our scrutiny was their 4-0 victory in New Jersey on Friday.  Boston has also been featured this week, as they beat Pittsburgh 5-1 on Wednesday, which set their series record at 5-7-1 in 13 games played.

The 35-22-4 Tampa Bay Lightning currently sit in second place in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  They’ve no doubt earned that position, as they play the sixth-best defense in the league paired with the ninth-best offense.

Thanks in part to Victor Hedman’s team-leading 102 blocks, the Lightning have allowed only 1727 shots to reach 25-17-3 Ben Bishop and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.1% for only 149 goals against, sixth-fewest in the league.  That strong defensive play has continued to the penalty kill, as Tampa‘s 82.97% kill rate for only 31 power play goals against ranks eighth-best in the NHL.  That rate improves even more when the Bolts‘ short-handed goals are taken into account, of which they have five (led by Brian Boyle’s two), one more than the league average.

The offense trails right behind, led by Steven Stamkos’ 170 shots for 1775 attempts on goal, of which a solid 9.4% have found the back of the net for 169 tallies (led by Stamkos’ 27 tallies), ninth-most in the league.  It has been the power play where Tampa Bay‘s biggest weakness can be found, as they connect on only 16.98% of opportunities (fifth-worst in the league) for 36 power play goals (led by Stamkos’ dozen).  To make matters worse, the Bolts have also given up six shorties on the season.

Tampa is currently riding a five-game winning streak, the second-best active streak in the NHL right now.  Their most recent showing was the four-goal shutout at The Rock Friday night.  In addition to breaking their tie with the Bruins for second place, a win also has the potential to pull the Bolts within two points of the in-state rival Panthers should they lose to the Wild.

The 34-22-6 Boston Bruins currently occupy third place in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  Their efforts have been almost entirely on the offensive end, as the defense and goaltending have allowed the 11th-most goals.  A more in-depth analysis of their game can be found within Wednesday’s article.

The Bruins are currently riding a two-game winning streak, with their most recent being their 4-1 victory in Carolina Friday night.  Just like Tampa, a win by Boston earns the Bruins outright ownership to second place in the division, with them potentially trailing Florida by only two points for the division lead.

The season series is currently tied at 1-1-0, with both teams earning a win on the road.  Their most recent meeting Halloween, when the Bruins won 3-1 in Tampa.

Some players to keep an eye on in this evening’s game include Boston‘s Brad Marchand (32 goals [tied for third-most in the league]) and Tuukka Rask (four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (2.09 GAA [second-best in the league], .924 save percentage [tied for seventh-best in the league] and 25 wins [tied for ninth-most in the league])and Stamkos (27 goals [seventh-most in the league]).

Although neither team has been able to defend home ice yet in this season this year, I think Boston‘s poor defense allows Stamkos and co. to earn two points and focus in on catching the Panthers for the top seed in the Atlantic.

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