Today’s NHL Predictions features an Atlantic Division matchup. The Tampa Bay Lightning (8-6-1) now ride a two-game win streak after defeating the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. The Lightning scored three late third-period goals to complete a come-from-behind win. Nikita Kucherov is tied for second in overall scoring with 27 points on the season. Furthermore, Brayden Point has the fifth-most points in the NHL with 23.
On the other side of this matchup, the Boston Bruins (13-1-2) continue to dominate the NHL after posting the best regular season of all time in 2023. Despite losing their two top centres, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, Boston has not skipped a beat to open the 2024 season. In addition, many predicted the Bruins to experience massive regression, but this has not happened. David Pastrnak leads the way with 27 points in 16 games for the Bruins. Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha stepped up to fill the vacant centre roles. Coyle has 14 points, and Zacha has 13 points on the season in 16 contests.
Tampa Bay is in for a massive test. The Bruins are an absolute wagon with top-notch goaltending. The Lightning must continue to grab points, or they will quickly fall behind in the playoff race. Here are the keys to victory for the Lightning in this matchup.
NHL Predictions: Tampa Bay vs Boston
Three Keys to Victory for Tampa Bay
Take The Fight To Them
Confidence will play a role in the outcome of this game. If the Lightning go into the game hesitant, the results may be ugly. However, if Tampa Bay treats the Bruins like any of the other 30 teams in the league, they will find success. Despite their first-place rank in the standings, the underlying numbers do not impress in Boston.
The Bruins rank 12th in expected goals for percentage (52.13 xGF%) at 5v5. That is an 11-place drop-off relative to their position in the standings. On the other hand, the Bruins rank first in goals for percentage (62.26 GF%). These stats may be a sign of a lucky start for the Bruins. After all, the Bruins rank 15th in 5v5 shooting percentage (8.89%) and are scoring at their expected rates. The reason for their success has been goaltending. The two-headed monster of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman allow Boston to sit where they are today.
Capitalize On Scoring Chances
Let’s face it, no fluke goals are passing by Ullmark or Swayman. The two-headed monster of a tandem continues to show that last season was not a fluke. Swayman ranks fifth in goals saved above expected (5.7 GSAx) at 5v5. Moreover, Ullmark ranks 11th in goals saved above expected (4.3 GSAx) at 5v5. The tandem combines to rank third in team total high-danger save percentage (88.04%). The numbers and mechanics are elite. Tampa Bay must capitalize on their scoring chances to win this game, and Boston will not give them many.
On a good note, the Lightning have shot five goals over expected in all situations this season. In other words, this team has the ability to finish their scoring chances. Steven Stamkos and Kucherov possess talent in the shooting department. Furthermore, the Lightning uses deception in their offensive chance generation. Tampa Bay can get goaltenders and defenders out of position to leave open nets through their passing skills. They must rely on the superstars to edge out a victory.
Buy In Defensively
If the entire roster does not buy in defensively, the Lightning will walk away empty-handed tonight. Team defence is the kryptonite of this roster. The Lightning surrendered the eighth-most high-danger shot attempts in the league in 2024. Defensive Coach Jeff Blashill switched the defensive scheme to a “box plus one” strategy, similar to what the Vegas Golden Knights played in their Stanley Cup Championship run.
However, the new system has not gone according to plan. The Lightning constantly leaves players wide open and uncontested in high-danger areas, especially in front of Jonas Johansson. Johansson has done everything he can to give this team a chance, and they continue to let him down. The Lightning finally faces an opponent who will expose the defensive zone issues in seconds. The Bruins will make them pay if they are not structurally sound in this game. Often, the Bruins rely on their structure to outperform teams with deeper rosters.
This Atlantic Division matchup features the best record in hockey and a past champion struggling to find their identity. The Bruins are cruising through the regular season after losing their top two centremen. Tampa Bay has not completed 60 minutes of hockey in a long time. In addition, they are still without Andrei Vasilevskiy, Anthony Cirelli, and Conor Sheary. While the Lightning have won two straight, we expect the Bruins to walk away with two points.
Prediction: Boston wins 3-1
Main Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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