|Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Win By Less Than a FOOT||Panic Mode in Full Effect, Minutemen are Struggling||Patriots Survive Gritty Challenge From Jets||Smart Era Gets Off to a Good Start with Win over T’wolves|
Fresh off their 3-0 shutout win over the Flyers less than 24 hours ago, the Bruins (13-8-2) return home Thursday evening to face off with Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning (14-8-3).
The win Wednesday night marked the fifth shutout of the season already for goalie Tim Thomas, who put up an impressive 41-save performance at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly. Thomas improved to 9-0-0 on the road this season, which marks the best road start for a goalie since Chicago’s Glenn Hall won his first nine roadies back in the 1965-66 season.
As for the ‘Ning, Tampa won their last game in stunning fashion, topping Toronto Tuesday night, 4-3 in overtime. Martin St. Louis lit the lamp twice in the third period, his second coming with just under nine seconds remaining, to send the game into overtime. It didn’t take long from there, as Simon Gagne delivered the game-winner, just over a minute into the extra session. It was Gagne’s first game back in action, after missing the previous 18 games with a neck injury.
From here, let’s take it now to some pre-game notes, to get you ready for Thursday’s skate at the Garden…
- This will mark the second of four meetings for these two squads this season. The Lightning struck with three second period goals last week to beat the B’s down in Tampa, 3-1.
- Time now for our daily Marc Savard update… Savard is officially listed as a “game time decision” for Thursday’s tilt, but it’s expected that he won’t make his return to the Bruins lineup until Saturday at the earliest, when the team takes on Phil Kessel and the Maple Leafs up in Toronto. Savard has been participating in all of the team’s practices and game day morning skates this week, meaning he shouldn’t be too far from game action.
- As for Tampa’s walking wounded, captain Vincent Lecavalier remains out with a hand injury, along with defenseman Matt Smaby, sidelined with a bad ankle. Both men remain on injured reserve.
- Tampa’s scoring is of course led by Stamkos, who leads the NHL with 21 goals to go along with his 19 assists. He sits just one point behind Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for the league points lead. Behind Stamkos on the Tampa stat sheet is winger Martin St. Louis (10G, 21A), who ranks in a tie for fourth in the points race with his total of 31.
- The playing time for the goaltending tandem of the Lightning is nearly even so far this season. Dan Ellis (6-4-3, 2.86GAA) got the start Tuesday against Toronto, so odds are we may see Mike Smith (8-4-0, 3.36GAA) Thursday in Boston.
- These two teams are polar opposites when it comes to defense. Boston’s 1.91 goals against per game mark currently is the best in the league, while Tampa’s 3.20 GA/g ranks 29th, only beating out Edmonton’s putrid 3.71 mark.
- Scoring first remains a top priority for the B’s this season. Boston is the only team remaining that is unbeaten when scoring first in a game. Also, they and the Red Wings are the only two teams left that haven’t lost a game when leading after the first period.