During the 2022-23 season, the Tampa Bay Lightning will play their Atlantic Division foes 26 times, including four games against the Boston Bruins. Last season they went 1-2 against the Bruins, with the last loss coming at the end of a three-game losing streak in March 2021. Since losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round last season, this Bruins team has changed a little.
The most notable of the changes include the hiring of Jim Montgomery, who replaced Bruce Cassidy. Montgomery spent the past two seasons as an assistant for the Blues. Before that, he coached the Dallas Stars for two seasons before being fired in December 2019 because of unprofessional conduct. He later said he had been receiving counseling for alcohol abuse and had checked himself into an in-patient residential program.
Like the Lightning, Montgomery will inherit a team with cap issues. Boston general manager (GM) Don Sweeney could only make a few moves in the summer, although they will retain a talented roster from last season that should make for some challenging games for the Lightning when they meet for the first time in November.
Bruins Have Experienced and Talented Forwards
When the two teams first meet, the Lightning will probably not see one of the best agitators in the league. Brad Marchand had offseason surgery on both hips that will keep him out at the beginning of the season and is expected to be out until December. To help fill this void, the Bruins brought in Pavel Zacha on a one-year, $3.5 million contract after acquiring him from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward Erik Haula. The 25-year-old is expected to skate on the first line with Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk.
Another change Montgomery is expected to make is to separate his top scorers and have them skate on his first two lines. Taylor Hall, David Krejci, and David Pastrnak should form one of the better second units in the NHL. There are many who feel that this may be the Bruins’ most productive unit to start the season, given that they will carry over some positive chemistry from previous seasons. Krejci returns to the Bruins after spending a season playing in his home country of Czechia.
With the Bruins forwards, the Lightning defensive group will have their hands full this season. Even if they are missing some of their better players when they meet in November, they are expected to post higher-than-average offensive numbers in 2022-23. The return of Krejci is extremely important, as the 36-year-old posted 36 assists and 44 points in 51 regular-season games in 2020-21. Zacha should improve on his numbers from New Jersey, especially playing with Bergeron, who routinely puts his linemates in good positions to score goals. With two lines that could be high scoring, all of the Lightning’s defensive players will face tough tasks in trying to contain the Bruins in their three matchups.
Bruins Have Key Injuries on Defense
The Bruins will be without their best blueliner, Charlie McAvoy, until at least early December. They will also be without veteran Matt Grzelcyk, to start the season, but he could return when they meet the Lightning in November. This will put pressure on the rest of the Bruins’ defensive unit to start the season. The top defensive pairing on opening night is expected to be Brandon Carlo and Hampus Lindholm, who they acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks last season at the deadline. As for the other four defensemen, there will likely be a great deal of shuffling in training camp and early in the season to see what combinations may work.
The Lightning’s forwards may be looking forward to this matchup expecting some solid production against this unit, especially since McAvoy may miss their first two matchups. Also, the Bruins do lack some scoring punch from their blueliners, as only McAvoy and Grzelcyk scored over 20 points last season. Overall, especially if the Bruins are missing both or either one of their key defensemen, the Lightning should be able to find ample opportunities to put the puck in the back of the net.
Bruins Have a Solid Goaltending Tandem
Last season was an interesting year for the Bruins and their netminders. After Tuukka Rask missed time due to a shoulder injury, they used Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark. However, after only four games into his return, Rask announced his retirement. The return of the Swayman/Ullmark tandem provided mixed results after that, as together they finished with the fourth-best goals-against average (2.66 GAA) in the NHL during the regular season and tied for the eighth-best save percentage (.913). Ullmark struggled in the playoffs, while Swayman won all three home games and posted a 2.63 GAA and .911 save percentage (SV%).
When the Lightning play the Bruins in November, they will more than likely face whichever of the two goaltenders are playing the best. However, it will be interesting to see how either goaltender fares with key injuries to defensive players in front of them. As a result, the Lightning’s offense should be able to put great pressure on the Bruins’ defense and goaltenders during their two November contests.
The Bruins may not have sufficient elite-level depth to overcome one-quarter of the year without two of their best players in Marchand and McAvoy. However, this is still a team good enough to challenge for the playoffs and will provide stiff competition for the Lightning in 2022-23.
Jim Bay writes about the Tampa Bay Lightning for THW. A retired Special Education Teacher, Jim enjoys writing about hockey and all sports when he is not slashing his way around local golf courses. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Jim on Twitter. (https://twitter.com/baysports007)