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NHL: Boston Bruins @ Tampa Bay Lightning preview

Atlantic Division rivals Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins meet for the first time this season at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, with both aiming to prove their Stanley Cup contender status.

The Lightning are -105 to be victorious, with the Bruins -115.

Under new coach Jim Montgomery, the Boston Bruins - +650 to be crowned NHL champions - have started the season on fire and lead all NHL teams with a 16-2-0 record and 32 points. They are +175 to remain in top spot and win the Presidents' Trophy.

Meanwhile, after having their Stanley Cup three-peat dream dashed by the Colorado Avalanche last season, the Lightning - +1250 to regain the cup - have gone 11-6-1 to begin the new campaign which ranks third in the Atlantic Division.

The Lightning are 6-2-1 at home and the Bruins 5-2-0 on the road.

Coaching match-up

Fifty-three-year-old Montgomery was hired by the Bruins in the off-season to replace Bruce Cassidy, who was sacked following six seasons in charge.

Cassidy, now of the Vegas Golden Knights, led Boston to the playoffs in each season, but after a first-round defeat to Carolina Hurricanes in 2021/22 it was decided his time was up.

The Bruins won the first Wild Card spot into the playoffs last season by finishing fourth in the Atlantic Division with a 51-26-5 record and .652 points percentage.

With Montgomery in charge, Boston have improved to .889 which ranks best in the entire NHL and he is +800 to win the Jack Adams Award.

In his second job as an NHL head coach (previously Dallas 2018-20), Montgomery comes up against the longest reigning coach in the NHL, Jon Cooper who has led the Lightning since 2013.

Cooper has taken Tampa to the playoffs in eight of his nine seasons in charge, which has included four runs to the Stanley Cup Final, winning back-to-back in 2019 and 2020.

On top of his playoff success, Cooper holds the record for fewest regular season games needed to reach 400 wins (659) and his 426 wins are the most in NHL history through 700 games.

Boston hold the upper hand

The Bruins have won six in a row and are 9-1-0 in their past ten games and, while the Lightning have won four on the bounce and are 7-2-1 in their past ten, Boston hold the upper hand in key departments ahead of the fixture.

Boston lead the NHL with an average of 4.11 goals-per-game and 2.06 goals against per-game. With a 3.39 average, Lightning are tenth in goals for and 13th for average goals against with 3.06.

The Bruins have scored on their powerplay at a rate of 28.8% (fifth in the NHL) and have killed 89.5% of their penalties (second). The Lightning's powerplay is 24.7% (eighth) and penalty kill 79.7% (13th).

With the experienced Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci performing excellently in the face-off dot, the Bruins hold the second-best face-off win rate in the league (56.2%). Five-time Selke trophy winner Bergeron has won 61.2% of his draws and Krejci 55.2%. 

With the Lightning sitting a lowly 22nd of all teams by winning just 48% of their face-offs, there is a big disparity between the teams which the Lightning must lessen on the night to avoid the confident Bruins having the majority of possession and being able to dictate play.

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Goalie battle

Linus Ullmark has established himself as the Bruins starter ahead of exciting prospect Jeremy Swayman, 23, who he shared games with last season, his first with the franchise.

Ullmark has started 13 of Boston's 17 fixtures this season and leads the league with a .937 save-percentage and 1.89 goals-against-average.

Standing at the opposite end at Amalie Arena will be Andrei Vasilevskiy who is widely considered the best in the world and who has continually set the standard for the likes of Ullmark to try and match.

Vasilevskiy, 28, is in his ninth season with the Lighting and in 13 games this season has a .909 save-percentage and 2.84 GAA and is +800 to win the Vezina Trophy.

Like the Lighting in general, Vasilevskiy has taken time to grow into the new season, but history has proven that the bigger the game, the better he performs.

And derailing the Bruins' charge and outdoing the league's leader in both key goalie categories will no doubt offer motivation to prove who the top dog is.

Players to watch

David Pastrnak leads the Bruins with 28 points and 11 goals while the Lightning are led by Nikita Kucherov who also has 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists).

Pastrnak has three goals, five assists in his last five games, and Kucherov four goals, three assists and are two superstars to keep an eye on.

Also, key will be which of two hot defencemen can make a bigger impression on the game.

Both Hampus Lindholm (Bruins) and Mikhail Sergachev (Lightning) have four goals, 14 assists for 28 points and lead their team's offence from the blue-line.

Lindholm sits second on the Bruins for points and assists and Sergachev is joint third on the Lightning for points and second for assists.

Last season

The Bruins were 3-0-1 against the Lightning in 2021/22 and outscored them 12-8.

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