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Guy Boucher thinks Tim Thomas is a miracle-worker 05.24.11 at 12:45 am ET
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All series long, Lightning coach Guy Boucher has been complimentary of the Bruins, especially Tim Thomas. After Monday’s Game 5, in which Thomas stopped 33 of the 34 shots he faced, Boucher tried to explain just how difficult it is to win a game against Thomas when he’s playing his best.

“It’s extremely hard to play in this building, and to get 30-something shots and hold your opponent to 20, you should take that,” Boucher said. “But that’s not enough against this goaltender. You need more. You need miracles. He’s making miracles. We have to come up with miracles.”

The Lightning ended up outshooting the Bruins 34-20 in Game 5, including 14-4 in the first period. When asked if it was frustrating to dominate shots like that and not win the game, Boucher had an interesting response.

“We’re not frustrated. We’re expecting that,” he said. “He’s done it all year. He’s done it in the playoffs. If you don’t expect that, it’s because you got the wrong expectations.”

Boucher said the only thing his team can do is throw even more shots at Thomas.

“Good’s not good enough if you want to beat that goaltender,” he said. “At one point the shots were 30-12 or something like that, so I guess we’re going to need 55. There’s no two ways about it.”

Of course, Thomas might not be quite as invincible as Boucher makes him out to be. After all, the Lightning have scored four or more goals on him three times in this series, and it didn’t take 55 shots to do it.

The Lightning players said the biggest difference between those games and nights like Game 3 (a 31-save shutout for Thomas) and Game 5 is the quality of their shots.

“I think he saw the puck pretty good tonight,” Ryan Malone said. “It looked like it was point shots most of the time. He’s a world-class goalie. If he sees it, he’s going to stop it. It’s our job to make him not see it.”

Perhaps that would help create some of the “miracles” Boucher is looking for.

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Unlike fans, Bruins and Lightning aren’t thrilled with 11-goal game 05.18.11 at 1:49 am ET
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Savor the 11-goal thriller while you can, because it’s probably not going to happen again. The Bruins and Lightning entered this series as the top two defensive teams in the postseason. High-scoring games like Tuesday night’s Game 2 are not their preference.

“To be honest with you, it was a pond game tonight,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “When you play a pond hockey game, there is a chance that it won’t turn your way. It’s your breakaway, it’s my breakaway. It’s your 2-on-1, it’s my 2-on-1. It might be exciting for the fans, but from the teams’ perspective and standpoint, it’s not how we have played.”

The Bruins were obviously happy to get the win, but coach Claude Julien acknowledged that he wasn’t particularly thrilled with how wide-open the game was, either.

“Not the way it opened up to the point that there were breakaways,” Julien said. “When two teams start the series and they are two of the best defensive teams in the playoffs, and then you see a game like this, I don’t think anybody’s happy. We want to score goals, there’s no doubt there, but the way we’ve been giving up goals is not something that we’re proud of right now.”

The Lightning players said the anomaly of a game was due in part to a breakdown of their defense-first structure. Forward Vincent Lecavalier said the Bruins did a good job using their speed to exploit those breakdowns.

“We didn’t play the way we usually do with our structure,” Lecavalier said. “I don’t want to take credit away from the Bruins. I thought they came out flying in the first and second. … Giving up five goals in that second period was tough. It seems every time we had a good chance, it would just come back. I think we just gave them a lot in the second, but they were skating. They were playing hard.”

Now the focus for both teams in the lead-up to Thursday’s Game 3 will be to get back to playing the type of defense that got them here, and to not allow as many odd-man rushes and quality scoring chances as they did Tuesday.

“Really for both teams it was a strange game,” said Bruins forward Mark Recchi. “I expect it to be much different when we both go back down there, to be the style we both usually play. It will be hard, another close one coming up, so we have a lot of work to do.”

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Lightning’s penalty kill shuts down Bruins in Game 1 05.15.11 at 2:04 am ET
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The Bruins’ power play deserves all the criticism it gets for its performance in the playoffs, but the Lightning’s penalty kill also deserves quite a bit of credit for its performance in Game 1.

The Lightning made it difficult for the Bruins’ man advantage, which went 0-for-4 in the game, to enter the zone and get set up all night long. They pressured the Bruins out high and forced them to gain entry by dumping the puck instead of sitting back and letting the B’s skate over the blue line. They also did a good job winning races to pucks and clearing the zone quickly, and they consistently got in passing and shooting lanes.

That’s not really all that surprising given the fact that the Lightning ranked eighth in the regular season on the PK at 83.8 percent. They’ve taken their game to an even higher level in the playoffs, killing off penalties at a 94.8-percent clip (55 for 58).

“I think we’ve had a good penalty kill all year long, top five for most of the year,” coach Guy Boucher said. “I think we’re following that up in the playoffs. We had a really good penalty kill in the first series and the second series. We’ve got to adjust to the other team and at the same time stay confident in what we are doing. Obviously our guys pay the price a lot and I think that’s the key to our penalty kill.”

Goalie Dwayne Roloson said there’s no one thing that has been the key to the Lightning’s successful PK, but that it’s more about attention to detail.

“Our guys have done a great job focusing and doing the little things to allow us to kill those penalties off,” Roloson said. “You know, whether it’s battles at the blue line or getting pucks down deep when we get that opportunity. So there’s no one thing. I think it’s just, for us as a team, just playing within our structure and doing the little things that we have to do to win hockey games.”

Although there might not be one specific key, the Lightning’s shot blocking is one thing that really stands out. They blocked 17 shots total in the game, with at least a handful of those coming while they were shorthanded.

“You have to block shots,” said forward Martin St. Louis. “It is a desperate time of the year. I think it is the mentality we have, blocking a lot of shots all year long and in the playoffs. … You want to get that shot and block that shot and make an attempt to block every shot so Rollie gets less work.”

As good as Tampa Bay’s penalty kill was, though, there was still a lot the Bruins’ power play could’ve done better.

“I thought our execution could certainly have been better, especially on those entries there,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “If we do our job properly, I think we are going to have success, but you need the execution. … You need the execution to be there and you need the killer instinct. When you have the chance, you need to bury those things. And same thing with the loose pucks, you have to be first on those and make sure you get them and not the other team. So execution, killer instinct is something that needs to be better on our power play moving forward here.”

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Lightning not getting worked up over Bruins’ punches in final minute 05.15.11 at 1:16 am ET
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It would be understandable if the Lightning were angered by the punches Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic landed on Dominic Moore and Victor Hedman, respectively, in the final minute of Saturday’s Game 1. It would even be understandable if they retaliated, either at the time or in the future.

Instead, the Lightning seem completely unperturbed by Lucic and Horton’s actions. They didn’t respond on the ice, and they didn’t have much of a response after the game, either.

“Well, there is not too much to say,” Hedman said of the incident. “That is part of the game, too. I have to expect that and there is nothing I can do about it. That’s what he did, and I wasn’t expecting it, so that is why it took me a little aback.”

Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher avoided commenting on Horton and Lucic and said he was just happy his team kept its composure.

“We only focus on our emotions, not the other team’s emotions,” Boucher said. “We were really calm and we stayed calm.”

Hedman said he doesn’t expect a carryover or anyone going out of their way to get revenge in Game 2 Tuesday night.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “It happens in games and it is something you have to expect. I don’t think there is going to be anything else going on.”

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Andrew Ference on D&C: Claude Julien has fiery side 05.13.11 at 9:57 am ET
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Andrew Ference

Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference appeared on the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to talk about the upcoming series with the Lightning. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Ference said the Bruins are itching to get back to game action after having an eight-day layoff but that they haven’t gotten too restless in practice this week. “This week’s been handled well. We’ve had a couple of good practices,” Ference said. “It actually doesn’t feel overloaded. I think it’s been just the right amount.”

Ference said there were still some good battles in practice, though. “We had some stitches yesterday,” he said. “You get battles because you have to stay sharp. … If one guy’s going at 95 percent game speed and the other’s at 80 percent, it doesn’t always work out. That guy at 80 percent gets brought up to speed fast.”

Ference also talked about matching up against the Lightning and which players he’s been focusing on the most.

“I know Johnny [Boychuk] and I are probably going to be up against their second line a lot, so [Vincent] Lecavalier is obviously a guy we’re going to have to key on,” Ference said. “He’s been a good player for a long time. But honestly, I’m not big on studying the guys I’m playing against. I just concentrate on myself and what I have to do.”

As many others have already noted, Ference said the Lightning play more like the Canadiens than the Flyers, especially when it comes to neutral-zone play. “We’ll have to line up kind of like we did with Montreal,” he said. “We’ll have to have patience in our game. They can be aggressive, but more often than not, they’ll fall back and frustrate teams with their defense and clogging up the neutral zone.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Bruins not worried about adjusting to new line combinations 05.11.11 at 1:12 pm ET
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At this point in the season, you would expect any team still playing to have its line combinations set, and the Bruins did through the end of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs. But with Patrice Bergeron out with a concussion, Claude Julien has had to shuffle his second and third lines.

Chris Kelly has moved up to take Bergeron’s spot as the second-line center between Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi. Meanwhile, Michael Ryder has switched from right wing to left wing to make room for Tyler Seguin to be the third-line right wing. All that movement and potential unfamiliarity could be reason for concern, but Julien doesn’t see it that way.

“Those guys have gone through those kinds of things throughout the whole year,” Julien said. “I think our guys have been used to playing with each other. Even in practice, we mix and match and you see different pairings at times. I thought our guys adjusted well, and if we did decide to make some other changes, I’m sure it wouldn’t be a big issue.”

One interesting thing to note about the new lines is that the second line now consists of three left-handed shots, while the third line comprises three righties. Kelly said that shouldn’t be an issue, either.

“These guys can pick up passes on their backhand just as easy as they can pick up passes on their forehand,” Kelly said. “So I don’t think it’s anything that you need to think about or worry about.”

Of course, Recchi has played the off-wing for most of the season, so there’s no adjustment there. Ryder, on the other hand, has been on the right side for the majority of the season. Julien said Ryder is just as much at home on the left side, though.

“Mike is just as comfortable playing on the left as he is on the right, that much I know,” Julien said. “So making that change isn’t a big deal.”

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Claude Julien: Tomas Kaberle will ‘have to be even bigger’ 05.11.11 at 12:30 pm ET
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Tomas Kaberle has been one of the most scrutinized Bruins since he arrived in Boston in mid-February, and for good reason. He wasn’t contributing as much on offense and the power play as he was expected to, and he was making some costly mistakes in his own zone.

Claude Julien said he thought Kaberle played better in the Bruins’ most recent series against the Flyers, though. In fact, the 12-year veteran finished the series with a plus-4 rating.

“I know at one point we had expected a little more out of him, and we were clear with that,” Julien said. “I think since that time, he’s certainly been a pretty good player for us these last few games against Philly. We’ve seen him move the puck extremely well and I think he’s been a better player. … We’ve liked the way he’s handled the puck and handled the pressure of the forecheck and getting the attack going.”

Julien said Kaberle will have to step up even more in the Eastern Conference finals against the Lightning because of their 1-3-1 scheme that clogs up the neutral zone (explained here).

“I think in this series coming up, he’s going to have to be even bigger for us because of the way they play the game,” Julien said. “We’re going to need some really good puck movement from the back end, so he’s going to be a key element to our success.”

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