Power Play on Words
Penalties have come to the forefront for both the Lightning’s Guy Boucher and the Bruins’ Claude Julien, who both chose to comment on the officiating as of late. Boucher expressed his thoughts on the lopsided number of penalties against his club heading into Wednesday night’s Game Six:
“24-9 against, right? Yes, I’m aware of it. Very aware of it. Very, very aware of it. It has been a part of our discussions quite a few times in the last game, the last games we did have that particular ref. It is lopsided. But the only thing we can control is what we do on the ice and hope that things will be fair like it is with everybody else.”
Claude Julien responded to the subject after the Game Six loss, hinting at Boucher’s comments earlier in the day:
“They scored three goals on the power play and it took us a long time to get our first one, and that certainly dictated the game. And what was more disappointing is probably the fact that, you know, I don’t know if I agree with those calls. And hopefully what was said today didn’t have any impact on that, because if it did, I’d be really disappointed.”
Special teams play certainly has been a factor for both clubs. Tampa’s power play continues to be extremely potent against the Bruins, converting three times in Wednesdays 5-4 win to force Game Seven. St. Louis, Stamkos, and Lecavalier are the barrel of a gun that nobody wants to be looking down a man short.
The Bruins still continue to struggle in their man up situations despite bringing in Tomas Kaberle late in the season with the intent of him quarterbacking the power play. Instead Kaberle is becoming more hated in Boston than Dennis Wideman and the former Maple Leaf has only been in town for a few months. Kaberle certainly hasn’t come as advertised but there are four other players in the zone with him. Sure blame him for the bone headed turnovers in the defensive end, but this Bruins power play has looked doomed with or without him.
Bottom line, though power plays are an undeniable advantage to teams with the right means, an even better team will find ways not to take penalties. If the Bruins keep their emotions in check the game should be left to more full strength play where they are creating the majority of their best chances.
Game Six featured two goaltenders who couldn’t seem to make a big save for their team to save their life. Just when the Bruins got some steam, Thomas couldn’t hold the Lightning back. Just as the Lightning created some breathing room, Roloson failed to keep the Bruins at bay.
Tim Thomas may have had the save of the year in a 3-1 game five and a shutout in game three, but other than that the Vezina trophy candidate has been less than his normally stellar self. Through six games Thomas has let in 21 goals. This compared to 17 through a full seven games against Montreal and seven through the sweep of Philadelphia. Thomas is hard to analyze because he lets in some softer goals more strict butterfly goalies would stop, but also makes up for it in what Guy Boucher calls “miracle” saves. He’s an endangered species. He’s not worth scouting for other teams. Unpredictability serves as both an assent and his hindrance
Dwayne Roloson seems to be an easier case to judge. The elder statesmen who carried the Lightning through the first round seems to be plain old running out of gas. Pucks that Roloson once easily snagged out of the air now seem to give him fits. Where Thomas has had spots of strong play in net this series, Roloson seems to have struggled throughout being pulled in game four and then straight up replaced by Mike Smith in game five. Given the chance to redeem himself in Game Six, Roloson failed to fully do so stopping only 16 of 20 shots, though he still remains unbeaten in elimination games.
More than likely, if Roloson or Thomas bring their best effort for Game Seven, their respective team will have an extreme advantage. In a game where momentum has the ability to swing back and fourth, a goaltender who can smother the attack and make a couple big saves will make all the difference.
Bruins coach Claude Julien recently commented that he “wished all his players could be like Patrice Bergeron.” This doesn’t mean that Julien wishes that all his players had Bergeron’s skill set. It means that he wishes his entire team would play to their full potential every game. It seems very rare that all units of the Bruins are clicking, there is always talk of one line or a few prominent players being invisible. When we do get a glimpse of a fully functional Boston Bruins, its been scary good to say the least.
For all of the questions, drama, and story arcs over every Bruins season as of recent, the one constant is Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron is consistently the best player on the ice for the Bruins on a nightly basis. This doesn’t necessarily translate to the scoreboard, though he often shows up there. Bergeron is a player whose true value is a combination of his work ethic, heart, grit, and skill. His constant contributions will surely be noticed in Game Seven.
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Sean Bergenheim looks to be a question mark for Guy Boucher as he discussed his breakout forwards status on Thursday:
“Well, he’s seeing our doctors again today,” Boucher explained. “He’s going to have another evaluation tonight and tomorrow morning. And we’ll see, but right now it doesn’t necessarily look like something positive for us.”
Bergenheim had been leading the league in goals throughout he playoffs and was providing an excellent offensive presence against the Bruins until sustaining a lower body injury in Game Five.
Not Your Father’s Lightning
It’s been seven years now since Tampa Bay won their first Stanley Cup in the 2003-2004 season. A lot has happened under the black and blue flag in western Florida since the Lightning garnered any real attention on a large scale in the hockey world.
One of the only remaining artifacts of that team is Martin St. Louis. The undersized forward still serves as the heart of the club as he did in the 2003-04 season in which he won the Hart Trophy for league MVP. This year as the Lightning find them selves on the edge of advancing to another Stanley Cup final St Louis is again nominated for the Hart Trophy. Since 2003-04 St Louis hasn’t scored below 60 points and only below 80 once.
After waiting a year to defend their championship because of the 04-05 lockout, the Lightning stumbled into mediocrity bowing out in the first round of the playoffs the next two seasons. What followed was an all out implosion of a team and organization seeing them finish in the basement of the National Hockey League for two straight years.
2009-10 served as a turning point for the Lightning as they began to take shape as a formidable club once again. Powered by the emergence of Rocket Richard Trophy winning Steven Stamkos scoring a league-high 51 goals in his 2nd season the Lightning kept pace in the playoff race until April where they were eventually eliminated from contention.
This 2010-11 season brought Steve Yzerman as the new GM who in turn brought a young, fresh faced coach in Guy Boucher to Tampa. After three straight years of missing the post season Boucher guided his club to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The only remaining players from he Stanley Cup winning team are Martin St.Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Pavel Kubina who has been out of action due to concussion symptoms he has been experiencing since April. St.Louis and Lecavalier still figure prominently in the Lightning attack, but other than that the roster has been white washed with new talent.
For a relatively “new” expansion club Tampa Bay is building somewhat of a history for itself. From their inception, to the Stanley Cup win in 2003-04, to the bottom of the league and to the present day, Tampa has been a perfect example of a professional sports team running through the circle of life. Nobody expected Tampa to make a run this post season, and in their first playoffs appearance since 2006-07 the Lightning are in bonus territory now.
The Importance of Being Boston
If the Tampa Bay Lightning are the prefect example of the cycle of a sports franchise, the Bruins might be the antithesis. Since losing in the Stanley Cup finals to the Edmonton Oilers in 1990, the Bruins have been first, last, and everywhere in between. Everywhere except back to the Cup Finals.
Boston is certainly a high-pressure sports town, but the Bruins have flown somewhat under the radar as Beantown’s other teams have brought home multiple championships. Though Boston has always been considered a “hockey town” and is indeed steeped deep in tradition, there seems to be a missing factor for a number of years which is keeping them from retaining the number one act in the city.
A Stanley Cup finals appearance brings them into the elite and back into the forefront of their town. As the Celtics erode, and the Patriot become human, the Bruins have a real chance of swinging the city’s attention over to the ice for longer than a couple of weeks in April.
The majority of Boston’s core lineup is young and entering their prime. Taking the next step to the Stanley Cup stage could mean the start of a long run of Bruins teams that have the ability to reach that level for years to come.
If the Bruins fail to take their club past tomorrow’s Game Seven, it’s hard not to think that anything is possible for the off-season. If there were talks of a change in coaching if the Bruins didn’t make it past the second round, would it be much different if the Black and Gold failed to make it past the third?
What players could be moved? How do you help put your core in a position to better succeed? Its might be hard to believe, but failure to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals could be mean big changes in Boston.