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Posted On Saturday, 05.28.2011 / 1:54 AM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 Eastern Conf. Final: Bruins-Lightning Blog

Entire Game 7 played at even strength

BOSTON -- Tampa Bay's special teams have been an advantage for the Lightning throughout the regular season and into the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, there was no special teams advantage to be had. There were no penalties called on either team, so the entire game was played at even strength.

"Obviously our special teams are phenomenal and have been phenomenal all playoffs, but it was just the type of game we played," goalie Dwayne Roloson said. "We play a pretty disciplined style of game and so do they. Give the refs credit -- there wasn't anything out there to call. Guys played hard, and did everything they had to do to get in the game, whether it was block shots or hits or whatever was needed."

Added Boston defenseman Andrew Ference: "The refs let us play. There were penalties that could have been called on either side. But, both teams did have great discipline and played a great hockey game. The refs let us play and I think it was even up and I don't think either team got gypped in that category."

If Ference is correct in saying there were calls that could have been made, then it probably did help the Bruins. Tampa Bay had the sixth-best power play in the League during the regular season and the second-best percentage of any team that reached the second round.

Tampa Bay scored three power-play goals in a span of less than 13 minutes in Game 6 against Boston. The Lightning never found out it if there was any momentum to be carried over with the extra man.

"The power play has been a strength of ours definitely," Tampa Bay Guy Boucher said. You know you are hoping you get one, but come the third period I wasn't hoping for a power play. Two teams who are very disciplined -- I think we respected each other's strengths and I think this was the type of game that [could have] 0-0 penalties. I can't think of any moment I felt there should have been a power play on either side -- that's credit to both teams' discipline and attention to details."

Conversely, the Lightning erased 92.3 percent of opposing teams' extra-man opportunities during this postseason while the Bruins are 5-for-61 with the man advantage. Even if there was a penalty or two called on the Lightning, Tampa Bay may have been to cobble together some momentum by keeping Boston off the scoreboard with the extra man.

Instead, this game played out at even strength. Boston led the NHL in goal ratio at even strength in the regular season and is doing so again during the playoffs.

"We didn't mind that at all," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "I think what I liked about the refereeing tonight, they let the two teams decide the outcome. And I think both teams are very disciplined tonight. Even though, you know, we could question that call, it didn't really matter at that point. It was about staying focused and doing the right thing here. I thought for what this game meant, I thought the referees handled themselves extremely well. I'm not saying that because we won, I'm saying that because even as it was 0-0, I liked the way they were handling it."
Posted On Friday, 05.27.2011 / 12:48 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 Eastern Conf. Final: Bruins-Lightning Blog

Boucher: Bergenheim 'doubtful' for Game 7

BOSTON -- Sean Bergenheim skated for about 15 minutes Friday morning at TD Garden, but Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher deemed his return from an undisclosed injury "doubtful" for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

"I wouldn't say optimistic for now. I'd say he's better," Boucher said. "He might try the warm-up. We'll see. I still have to talk to my therapist and the doctors. There's been some improvement -- to what extent we'll have to wait and see, but [he's] doubtful."

Bergenheim left Game 5 of this series late in the first period with an injury and did not return. He skated without his full set of equipment the morning of Game 6 but did not participate in the pre-game warm-up and did not play.

The Finnish forward has 9 goals, good for third in the League during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had the lone goal in Game 7 against Pittsburgh in a 1-0 victory against the Penguins in the opening round.

"It would be great," Steven Stamkos said of a potential return for Bergenheim. "He's scored a lot of big goals. It was tough without last game, but we once again proved without a great player we can step up. We've done it all year."

Posted On Thursday, 05.26.2011 / 6:53 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 Eastern Conf. Final: Bruins-Lightning Blog

Bergenheim still being evaluated for Game 7

BOSTON -- Sean Bergenheim has been a valuable source of offense in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Tampa Bay Lightning may be without him again in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night.

Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said Thursday that Bergenheim, who left Game 5 early and did not dress for Game 6 because of an undisclosed injury, is still being evaluated.

"He's seeing our doctors again today, and he's going to have another evaluation tonight and tomorrow morning," Boucher said after the Lightning’s arrival in Boston. "We'll see, but right now it doesn't necessarily look like something positive for us."

Boucher had said the day before Game 6 that he might "go to church" to help get a better diagnosis on Bergenheim, but the Finnish forward was not in the lineup against the Boston Bruins. Bergenheim has been a scoring sensation this spring, scoring 9 goals while playing on the team’s third line.

Teddy Purcell has been the guy who filled some of Bergenheim’s scoring in this series. He leads the Lightning in this series with five goals, including a pair in two of the past three games.

Boucher also said defenseman Pavel Kubina, out since Game 1 of the second round after a hit behind the net by Washington’s Jason Chimera, will not be available. Forward Dana Tyrell replaced Bergenheim in Game 6 as Boucher went with 12 forwards, but Boucher could also turn to Randy Jones if he wants to deploy seven defensemen.
Posted On Wednesday, 05.25.2011 / 1:12 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 Eastern Conf. Final: Bruins-Lightning Blog

Lightning need Roloson to return with flourish

Dwayne Roloson has built a reputation as a go-to goaltender when his team faces elimination. The Tampa Bay Lighting will need him to continue his excellence in those situations or their surprising postseason run will be over.

"Our thoughts are we have to go shift-by-shift," Roloson said Wednesday morning before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins. "Sorry if it is cliche-ish, but realistically it is what we have to do. Start with the first one and try to snowball them over and win every shift. We have to go shift-by-shift and try to win a hockey game."

Roloson had the day off for Game 5. Coach Guy Boucher went with backup Mike Smith, who stopped 17 of the 19 shots he faced in a 3-1 loss. Boucher said he told Roloson while the team was still in Boston that he would definitely be back in net for Game 6, and that was his plan regardless of the Game 5 outcome.

The 41-year-old Roloson last took a game off in the final contest of the regular season, when the Lightning eliminated the Carolina Hurricanes with a 6-2 victory.

"I don't think any goalie has played 82 games in a row since they changed the amount of games that we play," Roloson said. "You do it during the regular season, and there is no difference during the playoffs. I think everybody feels rested when they get a day off, so you take it when you can get it."

Roloson has allowed 13 goals in this series while being pulled twice and not playing one contest. That’s the same number he gave up in seven games against Pittsburgh in the opening round.

His .925 save percentage is still fourth among No. 1 goaltenders in this postseason, but his 2.51 goals-against average has dropped to eighth. The Lightning will likely need a performance like the ones he had in the three elimination games against Pittsburgh -- he turned aside 94 of 98 shots in the final three contests of that series, including all 36 he faced in Game 7.

"He's been a horse for us in these playoffs," Steven Stamkos said. "He's battled. He's one of the best competitors on this team. He's going to be ready and willing to prove he's a big reason why we got here as a team. If anything, he's had an extra day's rest and he's ready for tonight."
Posted On Sunday, 05.22.2011 / 4:24 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 Eastern Conf. Final: Bruins-Lightning Blog

Boucher not saying if Roloson will start

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher said Dwayne Roloson is "getting ready for tomorrow" but has yet to actually say the 41-year-old goaltender will be in the net for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Roloson has been pulled in two of the past three games for the Lightning, including after yielding 3 goals on 9 shots Saturday afternoon. Mike Smith made 21 saves to help the team comeback from the 3-0 hole to win 5-3.

Boucher has been asked -- and then pressed with a follow-up question -- after the game Saturday and again at TD Garden on Sunday without officially saying which goaltender he will go with. His comments certainly make it seem like it will Roloson, but they could also be interpreted as a coach leaving it open.

"I don't feel like I've got a situation," Boucher said. "I've got a goaltender that has taken us here and played really well and he's getting ready ... and I've got a goaltender that came in relief and he's done really well. Every time we've asked [Smith] to come in he's played well. We've got a goaltender that's taken us here that knows how to win and knows how to bounce back. I don't feel it is a situation."

When asked, "so it is Roloson?" Boucher responded, "Roloson is getting ready for tomorrow."

Again, it seems likely that Roloson will start, but Boucher has had ample opportunity to say, 'Yes, Roloson is starting,' and has chose not to do so.

INJURY UPDATE: Boucher said Steve Downie is "day-to-day and we'll see tomorrow" about his availability for Game 5. Downie left Game 4 after being hit by Boston's Nathan Horton and did not play in the third period.
Posted On Saturday, 05.21.2011 / 7:32 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 Eastern Conf. Final: Bruins-Lightning Blog

Who's No. 1?

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher has a big decision to make sometime in the next two days.

Boucher has pulled starting goaltender Dwayne Roloson twice in the past three games, and Mike Smith has excelled in relief both times. Smith stopped all 21 shots he faced in Game 4 on Saturday afternoon, helping the Lightning erase a three-goal lead for the Boston Bruins in a 5-3 victory to even the series.
After the game, Boucher was coy when pressed about who would be in goal Monday night in Boston.

"We have our No. 1 goaltender. He's taken us to this place right now and that's the reason why we're here," Boucher said. [Smith] has been terrific. He's had a [save percentage] of over .940 since Dec. 15. And the fact that [Roloson] came in certainly helped him with pressure and poise and all that. And whenever he was asked to play since Roloson has been there, he's been terrific. I mean, he's just been terrific.

"So whenever it's time for him to help the team and try to change the momentum around, I don't hesitate. It was the same in Boston. We put him in. He didn't get scored against in the third period. We were trying to come back.  He played well again. So I don't remember the last bad game he's played. So obviously, when there's an opportunity to help the team and try and turn things around, we're not afraid to use him. He did a good job today."

Obviously Boucher didn't answer the question of who he would start in Game 5, so he was asked to clarify.

"We just finished this game now," Boucher said. "We're happy we just beat a terrific team and we're just happy that we were a lot harder to play against today. And [Smith] was part of it and Roloson is -- it doesn't change the status."

So Boucher called Roloson his No. 1 goaltender, but didn't officially say he will start Monday night at TD Garden. Smith is 29-for-29 in his two relief appearances, but Roloson was the best goaltender (statistically) in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs before the past three games.

He also played pretty well in Game 3, between the two benchings.

"That's up to the coaching staff," Roloson said when asked if he'd be the starter for Game 5. "It's their decision and whatever happens, happens. It's all about the team winning and having success."
Smith sounded like someone who expects to be wearing a baseball cap instead of a mask on Monday night at the TD Garden.

"I don't expect to [play] -- I'll be ready to. [Roloson] has carried us through the playoffs this far and I don't expect anything less than for him to come back and have a great game. I'll be ready to go, but I'm sure [Roloson] will want to get back in there and be ready to go as well."
Posted On Thursday, 05.19.2011 / 12:53 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 Eastern Conf. Final: Bruins-Lightning Blog

Lightning know Roloson will shake off loss

While the Tampa Bay Lightning have to play better defensively in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, they are not worried about goaltender Dwayne Roloson.

The 41-year-old goalie allowed six goals on 27 shots against the Boston Bruins in Game 2 before being replaced by Mike Smith for the third period. He yielded five of those goals on just nine shots in the second period.

"He was pulled but it wasn't because of his poor play," captain Vincent Lecavalier said. "He still made some big saves. The goals we gave them -- it is tough for a goalie. It is not just the first shot, it was the rebounds. They were beating us to pucks. He'll be back strong tonight -- we know that."

Roloson has been resilient for the Lightning since arriving in January via a trade from the New York Islanders. He's allowed five or more goals four times since the trade, and he's 4-0-0 with a .927 save percentage and a 2.19 goals-against average in his next start after those games.

The cliche in this sport is goalies need to have short memories. Roloson's teammates and coaches are confident in his.

"He's built some mental tools over the years that some young guys don't have," said Guy Boucher said. "For him it is all about a 12-hour thing. Beyond 12 hours -- you can't even talk to him about it because it doesn't exist. That's a great mental tool that takes a long time and takes a mature man to do that. That's where he is right now."

Added Roloson: "It is just being about to forget about it. You dwell on things and it affects your play, so it's just being able to forget about it and focus on what you've got to do to be ready to go the next night."

Injury update:
Forward Dana Tyrell skated this morning without a red no-contact jersey on and Boucher confirmed is available to play. Whether or not he actually does remains to be seen.

Tyrell had 6 goals and 15 points for the Lightning during the regular season but has been out since Game 5 of the first round because of a lower-body injury. Boucher said the decision of whether or not Tyrell will rejoin the lineup has yet to be made.

Defenseman Pavel Kubina did not participate in the morning skate. Boucher said there was chance Kubina could have practiced Wednesday but the team didn’t have one, but Thursday they decided to not have him skate as he attempts to return from a concussion.

Posted On Tuesday, 05.17.2011 / 12:31 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 Eastern Conf. Final: Bruins-Lightning Blog

Still no timetable for Kubina's return

Pavel Kubina does not appear to be any closer to returning to the Tampa Bay lineup as he attempts to recover from a concussion.

Kubina did not travel with the Lightning to Boston and coach Guy Boucher confirmed Tuesday morning that he hasn't joined the club during its stay here. He hasn't played since being hit behind the net by Washington's Jason Chimera in Game 1 of the second round.

"Yeah, he's not with us, not even here, so the update is not very good," Boucher said. "Every day when there seems to be a little progression it seems to slip back a bit. It is the kind of injury where you never know. You wake up one day and it is great or it just keeps going on the same way. It is very hard to monitor what's going on with him."

Kubina had 4 goals and 23 points for the Lightning this season after signing as a free agent in the offseason. He had 2 goals and an assist in the first round against Pittsburgh, including a pair of power-play goals.

"Obviously we're missing him," Boucher said. "He's got size and some offensive abilities. Our second power play -- he made a big difference on it, but right now we've adapted. (Marc-Andre) Bergeron has kind of taken the lead on that power play with (Teddy) Purcell. We've had to adapt because he was doing very well for us."

Posted On Monday, 05.16.2011 / 4:06 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 Eastern Conf. Final: Bruins-Lightning Blog

Bolts' third line continues to impress

Sean Bergenheim, Dominic Moore and Steve Downie have combined for 12 goals and 30 points in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They haven't been just the most productive third line in this postseason -- they're one of the top lines period. The Sedin twins and Alexandre Burrows, Vancouver's top line, also have combined for 12 goals and 30 points -- though they've had two more games to do so.

San Jose's most-frequent trio at even strength has been Ryan Clowe, Logan Couture and Dany Heatley. They have combined for 13 goals and 33 points, but again in two more games than Tampa Bay has played.

One of Boston's top two lines -- Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi -- has combined for 9 goals and 30 points. The other, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton has 12 goals and 25 points.

Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher mixes and matches with his lines so much that none of them have stayed together for as much ice time as the top lines from the other three semifinalists, but he's found a dynamic trio in Moore, Bergenheim and Downie.

So the question moving forward is this -- do the Lightning now expect this consistent offensive production from what is a supposed to be a defense-first unit?

"You have to watch out because you don't want to expect it," Boucher said. "Their role is always hustling and great defensive play. I did talk to them about it already and not just today but in previous days. I think it is important for players to understand that you need to play within our strengths as a team and as individuals too. If you lose your strengths, eventually whatever else you are doing well is going to fade away."

Added Moore: "I don't think it is a case where we are worried about that. We've played our game from the first game and we'll continue to play our game -- whether it is producing point-wise or not. I think we make contributions regardless."

Bergeheim leads all NHL players in this postseason with 8 goals. There are only seven players with more points than Downie's 12 and only one with a better plus-minus rating than his plus-9.

Then there is Moore, who Boucher called "the ghost" on that line because he does a lot of the work and the other two have ended up getting a lot of the credit. Part of the reason why they have become such a dangerous trio is they haven't tried to change the way they play despite the explosion of offensive success.
"It is important for the Bergenheims and the Moores and Downies to understand that hustling, not being a liability defensively, being first on pucks, the way they battle and bulldoze around the net is key to our team -- not just because they score goals but because they inspire the rest of the team also," Boucher said. "They could not score for the next four games and still do their jobs, just like [Steven] Stamkos last game blocking some shots. He didn't get a goal, but he filled his role as a guy who's trying to win. I think that's more important."
Posted On Sunday, 05.15.2011 / 1:51 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 Eastern Conf. Final: Bruins-Lightning Blog

Bolts opponents repeating history

"We didn't score goals, but I think we had chances. You can see when we got the puck deep and finished our check, we created some chances."

"We had good energy. Then we made a couple bad plays. Then you're playing catch-up to a team that's very good defensively and very frustrating to the offensive team."

"I don't think they had better chances or that they played better than us. I think we were all over them. Just some bad breaks, you know."

"I thought that we had a good start and created some chances and some pressure. But then we had some breakdowns, and that's when they got some momentum."

Those four quotes are offered here without attribution for a reason. All four came after Game 1 losses against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Two were by members of the Washington Capitals. Two were by members of the Boston Bruins. Not sure which quotes are from which team? That's the point.

To end the suspense, the first quote is from Alex Ovechkin and the second from Bruce Boudreau. The final two are from David Krejci and Zdeno Chara, respectively.

The point of this exercise is to show how similar the reactions were to a Game 1 home loss by guys from each team, and obviously to point out that the Bruins need to adjust and/or play better in order to avoid the same fate as the Capitals.

If it weren't for a few brilliant saves by Tim Thomas, Game 1 on Saturday night at TD Garden could have been even worse than the final 5-2 score line indicated. Thomas gave up four goals -- and also had to make the four or five best saves of the game to keep the Bruins in it when the outcome was still in doubt.

The Bruins thought they had a lot of good chances, but they really didn't. Boston had 33 shots on net in Game 1 -- 12 of them came from 50 feet or beyond and 23 from more than 40 feet away, according to the official play-by-play.

Those perimeter shots are OK if there is traffic in front of the goaltender or rebound chances created. Boston had three shots on net in a seven-second span in the second period, including one that was definitely a rebound attempt from Mark Recchi. Other than that one sequence, Tampa Bay goaltender didn't face two shots in a span of shorter than 12 seconds -- and the second shot in that sequence was from 43 feet away.

Now the Bruins have two days to regroup and figure out a better way to attack the Lightning. They probably need to learn from their own mistakes and from the shortcomings of the Capitals if they want to not suffer the same outcome.
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