The Bruins proved Thursday night they can hang with, and even beat, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Boston beat its Atlantic Division rival 3-2 at TD Garden thanks to a David Pastrnak hat trick, a nice debut from defenseman Hampus Lindholm and another solid performance between the pipes from Jeremy Swayman.
Oh yeah, this also happened without Patrice Bergeron, who missed his fourth straight game with an infection in his elbow.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy and the rest of the Bruins remained humble after improving to 2-0-1 against the Lightning this season because they know Tampa Bay isn’t a defending two-time Stanley Cup champion for nothing.
“This is the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, so we’re excited we won and played well, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves here. We know who Tampa Bay is, they know who they are, and the road runs through them eventually,” Cassidy told reporters after Thursday’s win, per team-provided audio. “But this is good. It’s good for the guys in the room to know that if we play a certain way, we have a chance to beat them and outplay them in certain areas.”
Still, Boston took the Lightning to overtime in December without Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy and beat them by three in enemy territory Jan. 8. The Bruins are proving they still can compete with some of the league’s best teams without some of their best players.
Right now, everything seems to be clicking for the Black and Gold between Erik Haula quietly going on a hot streak, Lindholm fitting right in with McAvoy, and Swayman continuing to put himself into the Calder conversation.
There’s still a lot of hockey left to be played, yes, but if the Bruins can continue this trend, that only will spell bad news for their opponents.