|05.27.11 at 1:33 pm ET|
There are plenty of ways a team could treat a game of Friday night’s magnitude, and the Bruins and Lightning are taking two different approaches. Claude Julien said on Thursday that he wanted his players to be excited and he wanted them to fully realize the opportunity that was in front of them. He reiterated that Friday morning.
“Our guys just have to enjoy this whole process,” Julien said. “As I mentioned yesterday, there’s 27 teams right now that would love to have the opportunity that we have in the playoffs right now. This is one of those days where I think if you don’t enjoy the moment, you’re wasting a pretty precious day. You take advantage of it today, you get ready, you get excited about it, you come out tonight and you leave it all out there on the ice. Simple as that. Anything less than that is a waste of a day.”
The Lightning are taking a slightly different approach. Guy Boucher is trying to rein in his team’s emotions and not get caught up in the magnitude of the game.
“I think that’s the challenge is to be able to control these emotions,” Boucher said. “We didn’t want our players or ourselves playing the game last night or this morning or this afternoon. It’s our job to make sure that we stay focused on what we’ve got to to do, not the hype of everything else that this game means.”
It will be interesting to see if one approach pays off more than the other, or if either approach even has an effect on the game. Players often say that everything goes out the window once you get into the flow of the game anyway, so it’s entirely possible that neither team’s game-day mindset will mean anything once the puck is dropped.
|05.27.11 at 1:05 pm ET|
Versus NHL analyst and former NHL center Ed Olczyk joined the Mut & Merloni show Friday to talk about the Eastern Conference finals Game 7 showdown between the Bruins and Lightning. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Olczyk made a comment during the Game 6 broadcast on Versus about Bruins coach Claude Julien needing to mix up the lines to get more consistent offense. While he acknowledged Friday, “I think Claude has pushed a lot of the right buttons,” he stood by his analysis.
“If you look at the [David] Krejci line, with them having the majority of the success at even strength, I just kind of felt at that time, when you look up at the shot [totals] and there’s not a lot of generating going on, you look to try to change it up,” he said. “You look to add a little spark somewhere.”
Olczyk also suggested making a change on the Bruins’ power play, which has struggled all postseason.
“If you are struggling ‘ and I think at times the Bruins have done all the right things, they just haven’t been able to score,” he said. “So, the issue is, the check and balance is, do you drastically change your personnel and load up? I think for me, I think at some point if you’re going to play Big Z [Zdeno Chara] in front of the net, I think you’ve got to put Patrice Bergeron on a point on the power play if you’re not going to play him down low because you’ve got Krejci and [Nathan] Horton and Chara down there and you’ve got [Dennis] Seidenberg and [Tomas] Kaberle. I think you load up. I think you put Patrice Bergeron on a point on the power play with Dennis Seidenberg ‘ if that’s my first unit.”
Added Olczyk: “I would suggest loading up your first-power-play unit. And Patrice Bergeron’s got to be on that first power-play unit. I just think he has that ability. He had a quiet game [Wednesday]. I think he’s been terrific since he’s come back, but he was very quiet, probably a little too quiet in Game 6. But for me, I would put Bergeron on a point with Seidenberg. I would put Kaberle on the second unit. And I would load up with Chara, Krejci and Horton on that first power-play unit. If you’re going to go down, go down with your best guys. Go down swinging.
|05.27.11 at 12:58 pm ET|
There were plenty of negatives for the Bruins in their Game 6 loss. From a team perspective, giving up three power-play goals obviously stands out. And from an individual perspective, you would have to start with Johnny Boychuk, who was on the ice for all five of the Lightning’s goal.
But with Game 7 mere hours away now, Claude Julien isn’t dwelling on any of the negatives.
“This is Game 7, and sorry not to answer your question, but this is not a day or a time for me to question,” Julien said when asked about Boychuk. “I’m going to [abstain] from doing that today because I think our team needs to be positive, and we believe in everybody in our hockey club. So we’re going to stick with that motto for today.”
-One of the positives the Bruins can take from Game 6 is the play of David Krejci. The first-line center notched the first playoff hat trick by a Bruin since Cam Neely in 1991. Julien said the coaches have been encouraging Krejci to shoot more all season, and that Wednesday night was a perfect example of why.
“David, in his mind, is a pass-first kind of player and he always looks to pass first and foremost,” Julien said. “And we’ve encouraged him to shoot more because there’s times when he’s in a real good shooting position. Marc Savard was the same way. Marc had a real good shot and a lot of times he’d look to pass instead of shooting.
“But that’s a natural thing that those guys normally do, from Adam Oates back in the day — they’re guys that that’s the strength of their game. So you don’t want them to lose that strength, but you also want them to be able to make the difference between, ‘Am I in a good shooting area or a scoring area here, where I should take the shot versus passing?’ ”
-One guy Julien (and B’s fans) would still like to see shoot more is Tomas Kaberle. The veteran defenseman had one of his best games of the playoffs Wednesday night, assisting on two goals, registering a plus-1 rating and logging 19:46 of ice time, his highest total since Game 5 against Montreal. But there were still times, especially on the power play, when he passed up what appeared to be an open shot.
“The only thing you’ve always heard about Tomas is you’d like to see him shoot the puck more,” Julien said. “And there are times on the power play where, if he has that shooting lane, with Zdeno [Chara] in front, you have to shoot. It doesn’t have to be a big shot. It can be a wrist shot, it can be anything.”
|05.27.11 at 12:53 pm ET|
Lightning coach Guy Boucher said Friday morning that forward Sean Bergenheim is “doubtful” for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals vs. the Bruins. Bergenheim, who has not played since leaving Game 5 of the series with an undisclosed lower body injury, participated in the team’s morning skate Friday, as he did Wednesday before missing Game 6.
“I wouldn’t say optimistic for now,” Boucher said of Bergenheim. “It’s better. He might try the warm-up. We’ll see. I’ve still got to talk to my therapists and doctors. There’s been some improvement. To what extent, we’ll have to wait and see, but doubtful.”
Bergenheim has nine goals in the playoffs, which at the time of his injury led all postseason skaters. He has since been surpassed by teammate Martin St. Louis and Bruins center David Krejci, both of whom have 10.
Boucher said that the absence of Bergenheim, who was exceeding expectations on the third line (he had 14 goals in the regular season), makes it more difficult to deal with the Bruins’ offensive depth.
“Obviously you want to think of your own team, but at the same time, when you look at the Bruins’ depth, it does make a difference, because instead of equalizing things, it has a tendency to give them a little upper hand on that,” Boucher said. “They’ve got [Tyler] Seguin on their third line and [Michael] Ryder, and [Chris] Kelly is doing really well. They’ve got [Rich] Peverley on the fourth line — first-line guy from another team on their fourth line — and that’s where Bergenheim became extremely important for us in the previous series and this series where the line with [Steve] Downie and [Dominic] Moore played like a first line.”
|05.27.11 at 12:38 pm ET|
The Bruins had the chance to close the Lightning out after holding a 2-1 lead after the first period in Game 6, but Tampa stormed back to grab a 5-4 win and force Friday’s Game 7. With a trip to the Stanley Cup finals on the line, Lightning players can appreciate when they did in fending off elimination in Tampa, but are done celebrating the win, or any of the series’ first six games, for that matter.
“The six games mean absolutely nothing now. We did our job. We gave ourselves a chance to play in this game by winning last game,” center Steven Stamkos, who had three points in Game 6, said Friday. “I thought we had a lot of positives, but we have to focus on some things for tonight defensively. We don’t like giving up that many goals, but the power play was going, we got some guys on the board that we need to get going.
“This is going to be an exciting challenge for us tonight. We know it’s not going to be easy, but we need everything going on the right path for us to win tonight.”
This will be Tampa’s second Game 7 of the postseason, as they trailed the Penguins, 3-1, in the first round before rattling off three wins in a row to advance to the second round. Showing the ability to stay alive is nothing knew for the Lightning, but throughout the dressing room, the team’s mindset is the same: keep the past in the past.
“We did [earn the right to play in Game 7],” defenseman Eric Brewer said after Stamkos’ comments. “That’s a good point, but at the end of the day, it’s a Game 7. Both teams recognize that the other six are gone. One team is going to play on, and one’s not, so you just really have to keep your mind in small places and not get too far ahead of yourself.”
Should the Lightning win Friday, it will be the team’s first trip to the Stanley Cup finals since they defeated the Flames for the Cup in 2004.
|05.27.11 at 12:24 pm ET|
Bruins forward Mark Recchi has barely made a peep in the Eastern Conference finals, totaling zero point and just six shots on net in the first six games of the series. Asked Friday to evaluate his performance thus far, the 43-year-old admitted that his play has been subpar, but that the past doesn’t matter with the Bruins in a do-or-die Game 7 vs. the Lightning.
“I think the first game, I wasn’t good,” Recchi admitted. “I think after that I’ve been OK. I haven’t been good, I haven’t been bad. You know what? That’s all washed away. One game now tonight. We’re going to lay it out on the line and go out and have fun with this and get back to the Stanley Cup finals.”
Recchi’s line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand was strong in the first round vs. the Canadiens, and the winger had four points, including a goal in Game 7, in that series. While his line and Recchi in particular has been more quiet in the third round, Recchi pointed to the different lines stepping up (as it did in Game 6) and invited all four lines to do the same in in Game 7.
“We’ve been together all year. Obviously you like to have an impact, but at the same time, teammates, that’s why we’re here for each other,” Recchi said. “I think earlier in the playoffs, our line was terrific and carried a lot of the burden of the team. Other guys have stepped up and been terrific now. Now it’s one game, and let’s all do it together. That’s the important thing, is we all have one opportunity here to get to the Stanley Cup finals, and we’ll do it together.”
Recchi has two goals and five assists this postseason for seven points and a plus-4 rating. He is a minus-5 in the conference finals.
|05.27.11 at 11:35 am ET|
After falling behind, 5-3, more than halfway through the third period of Game 6, the Bruins and their first line ramped up the pressure put on Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson in what would eventually be a 5-4 loss. First-line left wing Milan Lucic, who had a first-period goal and assisted the third goal of David Krejci‘s hat trick, hopes that the Bruins’ late surge in Game 6 can extend throughout Friday’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
“It would be nice to start off the game the way we finished [Game 6]. I think we applied a lot of pressure, we saw an opportunity and we started to play with that confidence that we need in order to succeed,” Lucic said. “That’s what it’s all going to come down to tonight: which team is more confident, which team is more determined and which team is more willing to go out there and pay the price to win this game.”
While Lucic was able to list what needed to be done, he noted that simply knowing what to do won’t be enough with a trip to the Stanley Cup finals in his hometown of Vancouver on the line.
“I can give you every cliche in the book, but in the end, what I say, words don’t mean nothing right now,” Lucic said. “Our actions are going to speak louder than anything right now.”