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Bruins will look to stay hot this week on a two-stop trip to the Sunshine State

Bruins goalies Jeremy Swayman (left) and Linus Ullmark celebrate Saturday's NHL record-tying 11th straight home victory to open the season.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

TAMPA — The Bruins haven’t quite qualified to hoist the Stanley Cup just yet, despite the amount of entertainment they’ve provided in the first six weeks of the season.

In fact, they have a couple of show-me games on the schedule this week.

Both losses in the franchise-best start (16-2-0) have come in road games against Atlantic Division rivals. The Bruins were a second-place finisher in Ottawa’s track meet of a home opener, a 7-5 loss on Oct. 18. They also stumbled in a 2-1 loss in Toronto on Nov. 5, a weekend more widely remembered for the Mitchell Miller fiasco.


So here comes two straight-on shots at revamping their division record (3-2-0), both in a Sunshine State that was chilly and rainy on Sunday.

The Lightning and Panthers are waiting to host the Bruins, Monday in Tampa and Wednesday in Sunrise.

Tampa Bay entered the week third in the division, improving to 11-6-1 after Steven Stamkos’s overtime strike on Saturday against Nashville. The win was the Lightning’s fourth straight, the memories of a 1-3-0 start fading.

Like the Bruins, the Lightning have a win over the Panthers, and a star wing who is tied for third in scoring. Nikita Kucherov (10-18–28) has been just as productive as David Pastrnak (11-17–28) in the early going. Kucherov, who banked 20 of his points during an 11-game point streak (6 goals, 14 assists), has been held without a point in just three of his 18 games.

The soft spot, if it can be called that, has been in the net, where all-world keeper Andrei Vasilevskiy has been less than his usual self. The hardware collector (2019 Vezina Trophy, 2021 Conn Smythe Trophy) and backbone of two Stanley Cup teams (2020, 2021) has posted pedestrian numbers, entering the week ranked 33rd in goals-against average (2.84) and tied for 30th in save percentage (.909). He was tied for ninth in wins (7-5-1).


Tampa Bay’s No. 88 has allowed a few shaky ones, including a straight-on look from Nashville’s Nino Niederreiter on Saturday, one that snuck under him. The goal gave the Predators a 2-1 lead five minutes into the third period. A killer deflection from Alex Killorn tied the score, before Stamkos finished it in OT with a signature power-play rocket.

Another meeting of the 88s is on the schedule for Monday, when David Pastrnak's Bruins face goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Maybe this is the start of a downward trend for Vasilevskiy. Last year was the first time in five years the netminder finished outside the top three in the Vezina Trophy voting. He was fifth.

Actually, this is more plausible: Vasilevskiy and the Lightning aren’t mashing the pedal to the floor quite yet. Bet they’ll get up for the Bruins, who were eight points clear of second place Toronto (10-5-4) entering the week.

The Panthers (9-7-2), currently licking their wounds, haven’t been able to string more than two wins together. They went into Sunday’s game against the Blue Jackets on a two-game slide, the product of a dropped shootout decision to Jonathan Huberdeau and the Flames at home on Saturday night. After losing, 5-3, to bottom-feeding Columbus, the Panthers have two days off before Wednesday’s date with the Bruins.

Matthew Tkachuk has been as good as advertised (ninth in scoring, 7-17–24), but missing No. 1 blue liner Aaron Ekblad for 11 of the first 14 games has stressed the Panthers’ defensive depth. Ekblad, who hurt an undisclosed part of his lower body in an Oct. 17 loss to Boston, has two assists in four games since returning.


Brandon Montour, who assumed most of Ekblad’s minutes, has been a revelation. He is tied with Hampus Lindholm for fifth in scoring by defensemen (each had 4-14–18). Montour also was logging a career-high 25:25 on the Panthers’ back line before he played 23:35 Sunday.

Two wins this week would see the Bruins creeping closer to the team record for wins (57) set by the 1971 edition.

You don’t have to spend hours combing the NHL’s archives to find reasons why that doesn’t necessarily mean much.

The 2019 Lightning, who tied the NHL record for wins in a season (62-16-4), were swept by the Blue Jackets in the first round.

The 2022 Panthers, who won the Presidents’ Trophy (58-18-6), barely survived the Capitals in the first round, before the Lightning swept them.

Long story short: we’ve got a long way to go.

Matt Porter can be reached at matthew.porter@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports.