TAMPA — Oh, how disappointing to not get to go one-on-one with “The Mullet.” When Barry Melrose was hired as the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning more than a decade removed from his last NHL head coaching stint, I wondered if he would still be behind the bench by the time the Boston Bruins landed here.
Well, that question was answered last month, when general manager Brian Lawton dismissed Melrose and promoted former assistant Rick Tocchet to interim head coach. Alas, the removal of the former ESPN talking head has not changed the club’s fortunes. The Lightning are 1-3-4 under Tocchet. And the club’s propensity for losing one-goal games has continued. The Lightning are 4-4-8 in one-goal contests, including 0-0-4 under Tocchet.
But that doesn’t mean the Bruins can take this game lightly. Obviously, any club that sports Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis on its front line and Andrej Meszaros on its back line has potential to produce a solid outing, at least now and then.
Player to Watch: It’s always exciting to get a peek into what the NHL’s future holds, and tonight the Bruins get their initial first-hand look at 2008 No. 1 overall draft pick Steve Stamkos, who has posted 3-8-11 totals through his first 24 games at the sport’s highest level. Since the coaching change, Stamkos has one goal and six assists and he’s even been used at the point on the power play.
What they’re writing: Damian Cristodero of the St. Pete Times filed a progress report on Stamkos up to this point of the season.
Quotable: Tocchet knows his team will have its hands full with the Bruins. He gave a lot of credit to Bruins coach Claude Julien for getting his team to buy in, and maybe even took a slight shot at his players’ inability to all get on the same page.
“It’s like last year, he had this system. And this year, like last year, they’re starting to buy in,” Tocchet said after his team’s morning skate. “There’s not one thing I’d say they’re unbelievable in but they’re solid in every aspect. (They’re) a good road team, playing well at home, they’re defense is playing great, they’re goalie’s playing great. And they’ve got four solid lines. It seems like they’re all buying into their coach. When you have that, it’s a pretty good recipe for wins.”