It all comes down to this.
The Boston Bruins need to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in Saturday’s regular-season finale, preferably in regulation, to have any chance of reaching the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Boston doesn’t control its own destiny after losing in regulation to the Florida Panthers on Thursday, but it still can clinch one of the two wild-card playoff spots in the Eastern Conference if the Ottawa Senators and/or Pittsburgh Penguins lose Saturday. Even if the Senators secure one point and a playoff spot in the afternoon, Bruins-Lightning will still mean something because the Penguins-Sabres game also affects the race.
The Lightning could still finish first in the Atlantic Division, but they need a win and a Montreal Canadiens regulation loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Here’s a preview of Bruins-Lightning.
TV, Radio Information: NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub
Season Series: Boston 2-1-0
Record: Boston (41-27-13, fifth in Atlantic), Tampa Bay (49-24-8, second in Atlantic)
Bruins Player To Watch: Tuukka Rask will need to give the Bruins one more excellent performance for a chance of clinching a playoff berth.
The Lightning pose plenty of challenges with a deep, talented group of forwards that make up the league’s highest-scoring offense at 3.2 goals per game. That said, Rask has given up two goals or fewer in 44 of his 69 games this season, along with the third-best save percentage in the league since Jan. 1.
He also will become the first Bruins goaltender to make 70 appearances in a season since 1963-64.
Lightning Player To Watch: Vladislav Namestnikov scored a goal and added an assist when the Lightning defeated the Bruins 5-3 on March 22. The former first-round draft pick has scored six goals with three assists in his last 16 games and gives Tampa Bay excellent speed and offensive skill on the third line.
Key Stat For Bruins: The Bruins have a minus-5 goal differential in the last three games (three goals for, eight against) despite a plus-48 shot attempt advantage in all situations during that span. Boston’s three goals have come on 205 shot attempts.
Key Stat For Lightning: After struggling on the power play for large portions of the season, the Lightning have scored with the man advantage in a season-high five straight games, including an impressive 3 for 8 performance in Thursday’s win over the New Jersey Devils. Tampa Bay is 11-1-0 when it scores twice on the power play.
Thumbnail photo via Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports Images