TAMPA — The top two teams in the league are on their way to Amalie Arena. The Lightning take on the Bruins on Thursday and the Capitals on Saturday in one of their toughest sequential matchups of the season.
So far in this measuring-stick week, the Lightning committed costly mistakes against the Islanders and then won on a strong defensive effort against the Panthers. What will they do against the league’s top two goal scorers?
Boston’s David Pastrnak (25) and Washington Alex Ovechkin (21) lead the league through Tuesday’s games. The lead up to Wednesday’s Bruins-Capitals game in Washington was a mutual admiration society, as both said nice things about the other in interviews.
Ovechkin told reporters: “I’m happy for guys who get those results. The league’s changed. You can’t be always No. 1. At some point, somebody going to get you and you just have to try to do your best thing that you can do.”
And from Pastrnak: “Four goals for Ovi is nothing. Obviously he’s an unbelievable goal scorer, and he’s been doing it for a lot of years. We all know what he’s capable of. He’s a big key for their team.”
The Lightning have a goal scorer of their own, but Steven Stamkos’ numbers aren’t very flashy at this point. He has 11 goals, putting him in a tie for 42nd with 24 other players (including three Capitals). Stamkos is on a mini-streak, though, with four goals in the last three games.
The point is that Bruins and the Capitals both bring potent offenses that will challenge the Lightning’s defense.
The Lightning clearing out the zone, limiting scoring chances and making Andrei Vasilevskiy’s job in Tampa Bay’s 7-1 win over San Jose Saturday was encouraging but came with an asterisk. The Sharks’ 89 goals rank 20th in the NHL.
Doing so against the Panthers (fourth in the league with 106 goals) was more impressive. But the Bruins and Capitals will be a much tougher test.
The Lightning put up a special-teams stinker Oct. 6 against the Bruins in which they barely pulled out a 4-3 win in the shootout. They started the Nov. 29 game in Washington with a lead but fell 4-3 in overtime. These two games are a chance for the Lightning to make a statement.
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at email@example.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.