By DJ Bean and Scott McLaughlin
Tim Thomas and the Bruins are heading to the Stanley Cup finals after a 1-0 Game 7 triumph in the Eastern Conference finals. (AP)
The Bruins have had to wait a long time since they last played in the Stanley Cup finals, so the 50-plus minutes they had to wait for their first goal in their series-clinching 1-0 Game 7 victory over the Lightning probably felt like nothing.
With the game scoreless through the first 52 minutes of the game, Nathan Horton took a feed from David Krejci at 12:27 and tipped it past Dwayne Roloson for his eighth postseason goal. It was Horton’s second series-clinching goal, as he played the hero in Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals with an overtime tally past Carey Price of the Canadiens. He became the first player ever with two Game 7 game-winners in the same postseason.
For a game with such a high billing, it did not disappoint. Both teams played an impeccable game, with Roloson and Tim Thomas and shining for their respective clubs.
The Bruins will now play in their first Stanley Cup finals since 1990, and are shooting for their first Cup since 1972. In order to get the elusive Cup, they’ll need to get past the Vancover Canucks, who led the NHL in points during the regular season and are coming off a five-game Western Conference finals victory over the Sharks.
The Bruins and Canucks met only once in the regular season, with the B’s coming away with a 3-1 win at Rogers Arena. Game 1 will be played Wednesday in Vancouver.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- The Bruins clearly got the memo that they needed to get more pucks on Roloson, as they landed 15 shots on net in the first period after totaling just 20 in all 60 minutes of Game 6. Andrew Ference led the way with three shots on goal in a very fast-paced, high-energy first period. The team’s first-period assault on net was tied for their third-highest total of the postseason. The B’s had 18 first-period shots in Game 2 vs. the Lightning and had 16 in Game 2 vs. the Flyers.
- Good showing from Rich Peverley, whom Claude Julien decided very early on to use more. Penciled in on the fourth line, Peverley was moved around in the lineup and skated on all four lines. Peverley gave Milan Lucic the pass that set up No. 17′s first-period breakaway, which was the Bruins’ best chance early on. Roloson stopped Lucic on the play in an early sign that the Tampa goaltender had brought the good stuff.
- Dennis Seidenberg blocked an incredible four shots in the first period (for comparison’s sake, no one else had more than two in the frame) and a game-high eight shots over the full 60 minutes. Two in particular stood out — one on a shot from the high slot that had a chance of beating Thomas had Seidenberg not kicked it away, and another on an odd-man rush. Friday night marked the fifth time this postseason that Seidenberg, who entered the game with a team-high 47 blocks in the playoffs, has blocked at least four shots in a game. That shouldn’t really come as a surprise given the fact that Seidenberg led the NHL in blocks two seasons ago and ranked eighth this season.
-Much has been made about Tomas Kaberle‘s play throughout these playoffs, but there’s no denying that he’s been much better these last two games. On Friday night, he broke up two quality scoring chances to keep the game scoreless. The first came in the first period when he tied up Dominic Moore on a rebound in the slot, allowing a teammate to clear the puck away. Then in the second, he lifted Steven Stamkos‘ stick on a backcheck to break up what started as a 2-on-1.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- Horton had something going on after a collision with Blair Jones in the first period. He left the bench, came back to the bench, took a shift and left the bench again before making his return at 1:11 of the second period. He played regular shifts as the game went on and managed five shots on goal through the first two periods. Obviously, whatever the issue, he ended up contributing in a huge way.
- Roloson was on all night for Tampa, and nothing — redirections, second chance opportunities, or anything else — shook him. He came up with a pair of mammoth stops on Mark Recchi in the second period in succession to keep the B’s from getting on the board. The stat of Roloson being 7-0 in elimination games is a bit deceiving given how poorly he played in Game 6, but he proved his reputation right throughout the night. It seemed a real shame for his streak to be ended on a night in which he turned in such a stellar performance.
-The refs were clearly letting the teams play, which is good, but only to a certain extent. Regardless of the magnitude of the game, obvious penalties need to be called. That didn’t happen in the second period when Moore basically tackled Horton into the right goal post on a Bruins rush. In any other game, that would have been called without hesitation. It should’ve been called Friday night, too. Letting the ticky-tack stuff go is great, but letting guys get away with blatant interference is not.