BOSTON — Well, at least they’ll have a chance to win the No. 1 overall pick for a second straight year.
That’s about all the Tampa Bay Lightning have to hang their hat on after their season of disaster. They signed Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Vaclav Prospal and Mark Recchi thinking they’d completely make over their team and rise into the top eight. Some media types even bought the hype — probably distracted by the mullet (briefly employed Barry Melrose) — behind the bench.
What has unfolded, however, has been 180 degrees away from what the Lightning planned. They arrive at TD Banknorth Garden tonight for their battle with the Boston Bruins in 14th in the 15-team Eastern Conference. Sure, ’08 No. 1 pick Steven Stamkos has found his game with 19-22-41 totals and veteran forwards Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis have both reached 25 goals for the sixth straight season. But the bright spots are outnumbered like a liberal in Montana by the things that have gone wrong. While the Lightning can’t rest on injuries as an excuse for all their ills, they can at least take solace that they’d probably be a little better if their starting goaltender Mike Smith and four of their top-six D weren’t on the sidelines.
To dispose of the Lightning, the Bruins just need to play the game they played in Philadelphia Sunday. If they stay out of the box, make simple plays and wreak some havoc on the forecheck, they’ll convince the Lightning not to put up too much of a battle. Hopefully, the sight of former Lightning forward Recchi in black and gold won’t act as a red cape to a bull for Tampa Bay (Ha).
Season series: The Bruins actually managed to lose to Tampa Bay the last time the teams met, 4-3. But Boston won the previous two meetings.
What they’re writing: Recchi tells the Tampa Tribune he feels re-energized.
Tampa Bay player to watch: Ok, you know you’re going to watch former Bruins prospects Matt Lashoff and Martins Karsums to see how they’re faring as NHLers and determine if they have a grudge to settle with Boston. But what about former Bruins forward Brandon Bochenski? Once seen as the Bruins’ goal-scoring savior up front (for about a month and a half), the veteran winger showed up to training camp ’07 bulked up and unable to score anymore. He was soon jettisoned to Anaheim for Shane Hnidy. After spending the bulk of this season in the AHL, Bochenski is up with Tampa and might really be the one looking to send a message to the Bruins.