ESPN NHL  analyst Barry Melrose called in to the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning and predictably talked about the play of Bruins goalie Tim Thomas , who allowed just one goal on 34 shots in Boston’s 3-1 win over Tampa Bay Monday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals and made perhaps the best save of the playoffs in the third period on a shot from Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie. (To hear the entire interview, click over to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. )
“Last night, he was the only guy to talk about,” Melrose said. “The Bruins basically took the first half of the game off and left Timmy Thomas out to fend for himself. The guy was great. He was fantastic. He made that game-saving save later in the game. But right off the start, he was very solid. You could tell he was on his game. He was very aggressive. He was outside the crease. And that’s how you tell if Timmy’s ready to play or not. If he’s making saves inside the paint, it’s going to be a long night. If he’s out challenging and outside the paint and very aggressive, it’s going to be a good night for Timmy Thomas. Last night, he was really on his game.”
Melrose was also willing to discuss the Lightning situation between the pipes. Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher gave Mike Smith the start in net instead of Dwayne Roloson, who had started the previous four games in the conference finals. Despite Tampa Bay’s loss on Monday, Melrose said he would stick with Smith going forward.
“I think Mike Smith. I think number one it’s hard to go back to Roloson,” Melrose said. “You have a 41-year-old goaltender. You pull him twice. You bench him and then say, ‘Hey man, we made a mistake. We want you back.’ So I think it’s Mike Smith’s series now, win or lose. And Mike Smith played well, those two goals he gave were basically unstoppable. The guy handles the puck well. That created a lot of problems for Boston. If Boston falls asleep, Mike Smith will make that long pas and create a breakaway at the other end. So that gives Boston another thing to worry about when they’re looking at their gameplan.”
That’s as if the Bruins didn’t have enough to worry about in their own gameplan. Boston failed to score again Tuesday on the power play, drawing even more criticism from the ESPN analyst.
“They’re rewriting the record books. To be as far as they are with as bad an offense as they have, it’s pretty amazing. That four-on-three last night, they didn’t get a shot off on the four-on-three. That was a game-changer. You’re right, I’ve never seen anything like it. To go series without a goal, to go three or four games with a goal-scoring chance on your power play, this is I think the worst power play I’ve ever seen for a team that’s gone this far.”
As bad as the B’s power play has been, Melrose had criticism for both sides in this series that is headed for its sixth game on Wednesday.
“This has not been a well-played series. If you look at it from a coaching point of view and a hockey point of view, it has not been a well-played series. There has been a lot of mistakes, a lot of breakdowns. Goaltending’s been average, obviously because Tampa’s already pulled its goalie. It’s been an entertaining series. I love it, but it has not been well played by either team.”
Before he left, Melrose did offer a predicition for Game 6, and he sees the Lightning getting the win at home to send the conference finals to a seventh and final game.
“I said right from the start I thought this was going to be a seven-game series,” he said. “I think Tampa, if you give them five power plays again, that power play’s going to start scoring. … I think Tampa does win this game and I think we’ve got a great Game 7 back in Boston.”
However, don’t expect Melrose to give the Bruins the automatic advantage in a potential Game 7 just because it would be played at a potentially raucous TD Garden.
“Every building in the NHL  is loud now. San Jose is still one of the loudest buildings when it gets going. All of the buildings now with 20,000 people in it are loud. That’s why home ice isn’t an advantage anymore. All of buildings are pretty much exactly the same.”