Predicting Which Atlantic Division Teams Will Give Tampa Bay Lightning Problems
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The Tampa Bay Lightning have their work cut out for them in the newly-aligned Atlantic Division which includes a few teams that will make things tough. Much like in the Wizard of Oz, the Lightning “aren’t in Kansas anymore,” no longer blessed with the relative ease of the Southeast Division.
The Bolts join a division that included five playoff teams last season and four in 2011-12. Tampa Bay joins the Atlantic, which has four of the Original Six teams in the league. It is the ultimate opportunity to prove that hockey can belong in warm climates.
The 2013-14 campaign will not be easy for the Bolts in the new division, but these are the teams that will give the Lightning the most problems this season.
3. Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings haven't been kind to the Lightning in the past. Now as division opponents, Tampa Bay looks to turn the tides.
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The Detroit Red Wings are one of the premier franchises in the history of the NHL. With 22 consecutive playoff berths, the Red Wings are a tough game every night—especially at home. The Bolts’ last win against Detroit came in the preseason of the 2007-08 season—a 4-3 decision in Tampa Bay.
Formerly inter-conference opponents, the teams only met up once per season. The last time Tampa Bay recorded a regular-season point against the Red Wings was during the Stanley Cup-winning 2003-04 season. The Lightning and Red Wings tied at one on March 8—part of a 10-0-1 stretch for Tampa Bay.
Detroit finished seventh in goals-against average in 2011-12 and fifth last season. That defense could cause a lot of problems for the Lightning this season.
2. Montreal Canadiens
The Lightning and Habs have been a part of some heated exchanges in the past. That should make things fun in the Atlantic Division.
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The Montreal Canadiens are another formidable foe for the Lightning in 2013-14. As reigning Atlantic Division Champions, the Canadiens beat Tampa Bay in three one-goal games last season. In 2011-12, the teams split four meetings.
The Habs were one of the best five-on-five teams in the league last season with a 1.25 goals for/against ratio. The Lightning finished ninth.
With one of the league’s best plus/minus-ratings, the Canadiens will be a headache for a lot of teams in the Atlantic Division. With players like P.K. Subban, Alex Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty and Carey Price, Montreal will be tough to match up with.
1. Boston Bruins
Martin St. Louis and Zdeno Chara led their teams to one of the best playoff series in recent memory. That drama continues in 2013-14.
Just the thought of the Boston Bruins could make Tampa Bay fans cringe. The opponent for one of the most exciting playoff series in franchise history, Boston is going to be a troublemaker for the Bolts.
Boston hasn’t finished lower than fourth in the Eastern Conference pecking order since 2009-10 when they finished sixth. If the Bolts want to make a playoff run, the path will go through Boston.
The B’s are one of the smartest teams in the league led by coach Claude Julien. The Bruins finished third in the league in defense last season, second in shots per game and won over 73 percent of games they scored first. All three of those categories bring up a few issues for Tampa Bay.
The Lightning struggle at keeping pucks away from their net, trying to outscore the Bruins simply won’t work and falling behind for a savage third-period comeback doesn’t seem like a solid plan.
Tampa Bay will find out early as they travel to Boston for the season opener on Oct. 3.