|05.25.11 at 5:54 pm ET|
TAMPA — Perhaps fittingly, the reason the Bruins are on the brink of their first Stanley Cup finals appearance in 21 years is due to their special teams.
Obviously, we’re not talking about a power play that’s produced just four goals in 16 games.
Much was made of the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning and their power play unit coming into the Eastern Conference finals with a playoff-best 12 goals in 54 chances. How would the Bruins respond?
The B’s have allowed just two power play goals in 18 chances. The penalty kill unit’s success was never more evident than when it killed off consecutive Nathan Horton penalties to end the first and open the second on Monday night in Game 5 with the Bruins already down, 1-0.
“I think it kind of actually did the same thing in our favor that it did in their favor last game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “You know, we had those two early power plays in the second period and we didn’t do much and they built momentum off that. I know that when Horts [Nathan Horton] came out of that second one there, he scored a big goal for us and got us back in the game.
“So it did build some momentum. I think our penalty kill did a great job tonight for us. Right now, before the series started, special teams were the big concern, and right now I think in both areas, we’re pretty even.”
And the leader of that unit has been Daniel Paille. Not only has he helped killed off the penalties, he nearly scored twice on back to back chances in Game 5.
“Looking back on that game, we want to try to keep the same system going,” Paille said. “What was working for us is we just did the little things, stayed patient and did everything right. Obvously, we want to continue that throughout this game.”
The Lightning haven’t scored on the power play since Game 2 and the Bruins desperately would like to see that continue. If it does, they may be booking a trip for Vancouver this weekend.
|05.25.11 at 3:04 pm ET|
TAMPA — On Tuesday, Lightning coach Guy Boucher justified his benching of Dwayne Roloson for Mike Smith in Game 5 as a chance to give the 41-year-old goalie a rest in the middle of the playoffs, adding that he’ll be the ‘most-rested’ player on the ice for tonight’s Game 6.
After some research, the real reason becomes fairly apparent, Roloson is 6-0 in his career in playoff elimination games, including 3-0 this season when his team erased a 3-1 deficit against Pittsburgh in the first round.
On Wednesday, Roloson said everybody gets rest on the day off but he’ll take it nonetheless and be ready when the puck drops for Game 6 at St. Pete Times Forum.
“I don’t think any goalie has played 82 games in a row now that they’ve changed the amount of the games we played,” Roloson said. “So, you do it during it during the regular season and there’s no difference in the playoffs. I think everyone gets rest when you get a day off so you take it when you can get it.”
The Bruins might be expecting the Lightning to play with desperation but don’t use that word around Roloson.
“For me personally, I don’t like using the word ‘desperate’. It’s one of the those words I don’t really use much in my vocabulary,” he said. “As a team, we have to just go play our system and our structure for 60, 65 or 120 or however many minutes it takes to win a hockey game.
“To me, it’s just another game. You can’t really put more emphasis on a game. You have to focus on your job, your individual job that allows your team to win. It doesn’t matter if it’s a goalie, a forward or a defenseman. Focus on the things you have to do, things you can control that gives your team a better chance to win.”
A local TV reporter followed up that answer by asking if that’s what has helped him post a 6-0 in playoff elimination games.
“I can’t answer that question,” Roloson said with a smirk. “There’s no response to that.”
OK, then. Guess we’ll have to wait until 8 p.m. to get a better one.
|05.25.11 at 2:02 pm ET|
TAMPA — Guy Boucher is aware of a lot of things, a long list that even includes phantom Tim Thomas quotes. Given that, it should come as no surprise that he is aware that Eric Furlatt, one of the referees for Wednesday’s Game 6, has been much nicer to the Bruins this postseason than he has been to the Lightning.
The Lightning coach — without mentioning Furlatt by name — noted on Wednesday that Furlatt has called 24 penalties against Tampa, as opposed to nine against Boston during the playoffs.
“Twenty-four to nine against, right?” Boucher said when asked if Furlatt’s officiating has been lopsided. “Yes, I’m aware of it. Very aware of it. Very, very aware of it. It has been part of our discussions quite a few times in the last games we did have that particular ref, and it is lopsided.
“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.”
Furlatt has only officiated one game this series, which was Game 2. In that contest, eight penalties were called on the Lightning, and six were called on the Bruins.
|05.25.11 at 1:43 pm ET|
TAMPA — In case you haven’t heard, one team is in the Stanley Cup finals. After tying it with 14 seconds left in regulation and getting the game-winner in overtime from Kevin Bieksa, the Canucks have moved past the Sharks and into the the finals.
“I watched the tying goal and I was like ‘I’m going to bed,'” Dennis Seidenberg said Wednesday. “I went to bed, and this morning I watched the goal and was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s a tough one to lose on.'”
Of course, now the Bruins know that they have a team waiting for them. All they need is one more win vs. the Lightning before it becomes all about Vancouver and the Cup. They can close it out in Game 6 Wednesday night and send Boston into a frenzy. They were quick to note on the morning of the game that while they know that one team is in, they don’t know who else is.
“Obviously, you know that whoever goes through this series is going to play Vancouver, but at the same time, we don’t know who’s going through,” rookie forward Brad Marchand said. “If we start thinking that it’s us, then Tampa’s going to come back and take over control of the series. We have to make sure we don’t worry about that and just worry about our game.”
Shawn Thornton has been in this situation before. In fact, for the man who won a Cup with the Ducks in 2007 after sinking the Red Wings in the west for a spot in the finals, it’s comically similar.
“I was actually in the exact same position. I was in the press box watching Games 5 and 6,” Thornton, a healthy scratch since Game 3 this round, said Wednesday morning. “I remember. It was against Detroit, and it was the same type of thing. ‘¦ Two good teams, and a tough series.”
Now that he’s once again one win from going back, the last thing he wants to talk about is the finals. In fact, he politely declined talking about the next round.
“I can’t speak for everybody, but my mentality is I never look past what’s going on here. If you start looking [ahead] and then you forget about what you’re [doing]. That’s not even in our heads. It shouldn’t be, anyways,” Thornton said. “We have to focus on Game 6 tonight, and that should be our only focus.”
One more win, and a very realistic possibility becomes even more real. The players aren’t trying to let the fact that a team and Cup awaits them, even if it’s a finals matchup some saw coming.
“I think the whole playoffs, we’ve kind of seen who could be possible opponents, and for me at the beginning, I thought it was Vancouver,” Seidenberg said. “They were one of the strongest teams, but at the end, it doesn’t really matter who it is. Right now, our main focus is on tonight and focusing on our game and making sure we’re gonna win tonight.”
|05.25.11 at 1:05 pm ET|
TAMPA — Bruins rookie standout Brad Marchand admitted Wednesday morning, just hours before Game 6, that the pressure is on the Bruins to close out the Lightning tonight and avoid sending the Eastern Conference finals back to Boston for a Game 7 Friday night at TD Garden.
“Yeah, we want to,” Marchand said. “There’s definitely a lot of pressure. If it goes to a Game 7, anything can happen and it’s a situation we don’t really want to be in. We have to make sure we put our best game forward tonight and give ourselves the best opportunity.
“We do have to keep our emotions in check. The Stanley Cup finals, that’s obviously the end goal but there’s still a long ways to go to get there. They’re going to have to play an amazing game tonight, there’s no question about that. We have to make sure we’re really ready to counter these guys and put on a good game here.”
The veteran he is, Daniel Paille had a slightly different take. He was more concerned with the end result than how they got there.
“I don’t think we feel any more pressure tonight than we did the last game,” Paille said. “Even though we started out slow, we responded well and came out with a big win. It shouldn’t be any more or less than the last game.”
Paille and Marchand would probably agree on one thing for sure – don’t expect the Bruins to get outshot 14-4 in the opening 20 minutes like they were on Monday, only to recover and score twice in the second and stabilize the game.
“We want to carry the momentum from the last game into our first period and make sure we have a big start,” Marchand said. “They’re going to come out flying tonight and try to build off that. We have to make sure we have a lot better first period than we did last game. We were nowhere to be seen in that first period [Game 5] and we have to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
If the Bruins beat the Lightning tonight, they will face the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals after Vancouver advanced with a 3-2 win over San Jose in double overtime Tuesday night. Face-off tonight at St. Pete Times Forum is 8 p.m. ET.
|05.25.11 at 10:28 am ET|
NESN hockey analyst Andy Brickley joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to offer his views on the Eastern Conference finals. The Bruins are in Tampa for Game 6 Wednesday night, holding a 3-2 series lead. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
“I think the Bruins have the edge,” Brickley said. “I guess there’s a piece of them that says, ‘Look, even if we don’t win this game, we still have Game 7. We play it on home ice. We know that we’ve beaten this team three times. We’re confident. We’re coming off a victory. We’ve shown that we’re a bigger, more physical, stronger team when we execute the way we’re supposed to play. We felt that we were a deeper more balanced team coming into this playoff series.’
“So, I think the advantage goes to Boston. They feel they have another level to their game that they haven’t reached yet. They really haven’t put together that proverbial, perfect 60 minutes. They feel that if they do that, there won’t be a Game 7.”
However, Brickley predicts there will be another game in this series Friday night. “I originally said it was going to be Boston in seven … and I’m going to stand by that,” he said. “I like Boston tonight, I think they’re going to play well. But I expect to get Tampa’s best game of this series.”
Lightning coach Guy Boucher will return Dwayne Roloson to goal after giving him a break in Game 5. Brickley said he agrees with Roloson starting. “I was more surprised that he actually played Mike Smith, to be honest with you,” Brickley said. “As well as Smith has played in this series, I felt that that trust between GM, coach and goaltender when they acquired Roloson was for this purpose, was to play the biggest games, the biggest moments. I thought last game was one, and certainly tonight is another.”
|05.25.11 at 7:56 am ET|
Legendary Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque stopped by for a chat with Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning during a charity benefit for the Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Boston. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Asked if the Lightning have a psychological edge over the Bruins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night because they are the more desperate team, Bourque said: “I think it brings the best out of you, so I’d say yes. But the flip side of that, the Bruins are kind of a good counter-puncher kind of a team.
“Sometimes when you come out with that kind of energy or intensity, you might try to do too much and make mistakes and counter and maybe take advantage of those mistakes and go down early in the game, like you saw in Game 4 in Tampa. That’s what happened. It’s not that the Bruins played an incredible first period and came out of that period up 3-0. It’s Tampa that made some mistakes, and the Bruins capitalized on it. So, a game like tonight, you could see that happening again.”
Should the Bruins finish off the Lightning, the challenge in the Stanley Cup finals would be enormous. “Vancouver’s going to be very tough,” Bourque said. “That’s going to be by far their toughest series.”
Bourque said no matter how the season ends this year, the future looks bright for this Bruins team. “I think it’s a very good team with a great goalie, and a team that’s only going to get better, I think, in years to come,” he said. “And experiencing what they’re experiencing this year in the playoffs, the growth of some of these players is going to be tremendous.”
“I think defensively he’s better than both of us,” Bourque said. “He’s a shutdown D that is like no other in the league. I’ll tell you that any player playing against him ‘ you’re not hearing much about [Martin] St. Louis or [Vincent] Lecavalier because of Zdeno. That’s why.
“Defensively, he’s the best, and one of the best that’s ever been because of his size and his strength and his reach. I mean, this guy’s 7 foot on skates and his reach is incredible. You just watch him, like Inspector Gadget all of a sudden ‘ bang, that stick comes out, and it’s amazing.”