The Boston Bruins have been the NHL’s stingiest defensive team this season, but they’ve yet to encounter the league’s newest breakout offensive superstar in 2010-11.
Although Stamkos was held without a point for just the third time in 20 games in a 2-1 win at Buffalo on Saturday, the 20-year-old center leads the NHL with 19 goals and 34 points.
Boston (11-5-2), meanwhile, is allowing a league-low 1.83 goals per game, thanks largely to Tim Thomas(notes). The veteran fell to 10-1-1 with a 4-3 shootout loss to Los Angeles on Saturday, but he is second in the NHL with a 1.49 goals-against average.
Stamkos, who tied Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby(notes) for the league lead in goals last season, has five points in his last two games against Boston. He scored twice in a 5-3 Lightning win at TD Garden on March 25.
“He’s a young player that’s had a great year, and he’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after that game. “They’re led by a guy named (Martin) St. Louis, who’s the heart and soul of this team. This young player is kind of riding his coattail and soaking in everything he can.”
Playing alongside Stamkos, St. Louis is off to another great start with 26 points.
The Bruins will almost certainly try to match defenseman Zdeno Chara(notes) against Stamkos’ line. Chara has helped hold Washington star Alex Ovechkin(notes) to one goal - an empty-netter - in three meetings with the Capitals this season.
It’s unclear whether Thomas or Tuukka Rask(notes) will be in net against Tampa Bay’s potent attack, but Stamkos has never scored on Thomas, who has stopped all nine shots in four career matchups. Thomas has posted a 3-1-0 record and 1.76 GAA against the Lightning since the start of 2008-09.
Tampa Bay (11-7-2) got a surprisingly strong performance from its goaltender while completing a 3-0-0 road trip Saturday, as Mike Smith(notes) stopped 29 shots to lower his GAA to 3.39. The game had a different look from the Lightning’s previous contest, an 8-7 win at Philadelphia on Thursday that featured a hat trick by Stamkos.
“We wanted to make sure we stayed structured,” coach Guy Boucher said. “We played a very smart defensive game, especially after the game we played in Philly.”
The Bruins tried for a fourth straight win Saturday, erasing a 3-0 deficit but losing 4-3 in a shootout to Los Angeles. Boston may be happy to head back on the road, where it has allowed 15 goals while going 6-1-0.
“He didn’t look like a guy who’s been out for a week and a half,” Julien said. “He seemed to have lots of energy, it didn’t seem like anything slowed him down.”
Krejci has helped linemate and newcomer Nathan Horton(notes) lead the Bruins with 18 points. Horton, who arrived via trade from Florida this summer, has 22 goals and 17 assists in 38 games against his former intrastate rivals.