(Photo Credit: Charles Krupa-AP Photo)

By: Theo Lander | Follow me on Twitter @lander_theo

The Boston Bruins will look to remain unbeaten on home ice as they take on the perennial east coast powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning. 

In their first meeting of the season, the Bruins cruised to a 5-3 victory going away on the heels of a dominant second period. Boston ended Tampa’s four-game winning streak and extended their own to seven. This game also marked the contest in which Patrice Bergeron notched his 1,000th career point, becoming the 94th player in NHL history to reach the milestone.

This will be the 13th home game of this season for the Bruins, who previously set the record for the best regular season start at home in NHL history. The Lightning will come into this game at less than 100 percent, as they play the Sabres in Buffalo the night before. So far, they are 2-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.

The Lightning have yet to live up to expectations thus far into the season, as they were given the fifth-best odds to win the Stanley Cup before the season began. Currently, they sit at 13th in the league standings. The Bolts have struggled mainly with goaltending, as starter Andrei Vasilevskiy has had a down year. Through 15 games this year, Vasilevskiy holds a .905 save percentage with a 2.94 goals-against average. He has no shutouts so far and has given up three or more goals in ten of those 15 games. This includes his performance against the Bruins last week, where he surrendered five goals on home ice.

Nikita Kucherov has been an essential bright spot for this team. Through 20 games, he has ten goals (tied for 26th in the NHL), 21 assists (tied for third in the NHL), and 31 points (tied for fifth in the NHL). Steven Stamkos (23 points) and Brayden Point (21 points) are also playing above a point-per-game level. 

This season’s surprise for the Tampa Bay Lightning has been the play of 27-year-old winger Nicholas Paul. Paul is an eight-year veteran of the NHL and a former fourth-round draft pick to the Dallas Stars in 2013. His best previous season in the NHL was last year when he notched up 16 goals and 16 assists for 32 points through 80 games. In just 20 games this year, he already has nine goals and six assists while leading the team with a +13.

The offensive play of Mikhail Sergachev has also been a blessing for this team. Sergachev was previously known for his ability to score beforehand, but this year he has exploded to become the eighth-highest-scoring defenseman in the league thus far with four goals and 15 assists for 19 points. He is projected to nearly double his career best in season point totals this year and is only 24 years old. 

Overall, one would expect the Bruins to win this game. Boston has all the momentum in the world right now, with no glaring weaknesses. In addition, they’ll be the much better-rested team, with the Lightning having to travel to Boston from Buffalo after playing there the night before. Expect Tampa to bring their best effort early against the best team in hockey right now, but as the game goes on, I’d wager their energy decreases significantly.