The two hottest teams in the National Hockey League clash tonight in Boston as the Bruins host the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. Neither team has tasted defeat in regulation time in nearly a month, with the Bolts riding a 10-game win streak and 12-0-2 spurt while the Bruins are 10-0-4 in their last 14.
Adding some extra spice to this matchup will be the fact that this is Tampa Bay’s first trip to Beantown since eliminating the Bruins in five games in the second round of last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Although Boston is 19 points behind Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division standings, oddsmakers at Bovada have taken the bold stance of making the Bruins a -120 favorite to take down the Lightning tonight. The total sits at 6 with -115 juice on the Over and -110 on the Under.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper made the bold move last night of starting #1 netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy last night at Madison Square Garden, rather than resting his top puckstopper for tonight’s showdown with the Bruins. That means we’ll likely see Louis Domingue in net for the Bolts, and it also suggests Cooper isn’t pulling out all the stops in order to win this one.
We shouldn’t sleep entirely on the abilities of Domingue, a castoff from the Arizona Coyotes who has won a Tampa Bay franchise-record 11 consecutive starts. However, he’s still a big dropoff from Vasilevskiy, especially in a spot where the Lightning may need their goalie to steal them a victory. Not only is tonight Tampa Bay’s second game in as many nights and third in four, but the Bolts also look like they’re letting down a bit. Despite the fact that their last three games were against likely non-playoff teams (Rangers, Kings, and Sabres), the Lightning needed overtime to secure each of those victories.
Last year’s playoffs aside (when Boston may have been worn out from a tough seven-game series versus Toronto in the opening round), Tampa Bay has struggled in Boston for years. The Bruins won both regular-season meetings with the Lightning in 2017-18, and have won 32 of the last 43 meetings contested in Massachusetts.
The Bruins aren’t lacking for motivation in this one, either. While Tampa Bay has top spot in the Atlantic Division (and the Eastern Conference) essentially clinched, Boston is battling with the Maple Leafs for second in the Atlantic — which would mean home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. And even though it’s been nearly a year since Tampa Bay ousted the B’s from the post-season, Bruins fans will be sure to give the visiting Lightning a rude reception tonight.
It’s not often that you’ll find Tampa Bay available at plus money, but I’m not falling for the bait. Boston’s a favorite here for a reason, especially playing with one day’s rest while the Lightning is coming off three straight OT games and playing its third in four nights. The Bruins get the job done in a low-scoring affair. I’m taking the Boston Bruins -120 on the moneyline at Bovada.