The Bruins have had seven days off since sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers out of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals, but now are only hours away from dropping the puck on Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Finals series with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The extra rest had good and bad qualities for the B’s, but luckily Tampa Bay is in the same situation, having had nine days off since sweeping the Washington Capitals in their second round series.
Over the past week the Bruins mixed in a few days off with some intense practices to stay sharp while also resting their bodies and minds for the reminder of the postseason.
The B's enter the series in good shape, riding a wave of confidence that comes with taking down their archenemy, Montreal Canadiens and getting revenge against Philadelphia.
Health-wise, there are still question marks surrounding Patrice Bergeron
’s availability after he suffered a mild concussion in Game 4 versus the Flyers. Adam McQuaid
, who suffered a neck injury in the Philadelphia series, should be back in action for Boston. Seguin Should Be In...
With Patrice Bergeron
likely out for at least the beginning of the Eastern Conference Finals series, rookie Tyler Seguin
will get the call to fill in.
|Seguin closes in on Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas during practice at TD Garden in Boston Thursday, May 12, 2011 as they prepare for their NHL Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Finals hockey playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning which begins Saturday. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) |
While Seguin hasn’t stepped onto the ice following the opening puck drop, he has been dressing for the B’s warm-ups before each of the playoff games and has gotten the chance to see how his teammates adapt to the increased intensity of the games.
That experience, coupled with Seguin's watching games from the press box has prepared the 19-year-old for his debut.
“The intensity has picked up," said Seguin. "Everyone is finishing their checks and when you are up there you do see that there is a lot more space than you think."
Seguin skated in 74 games for Boston during the regular season and split much of the campaign between the B's third and fourth lines. But in the final stretch of 2010-11 Seguin found himself watching plenty of games from the press box.
Over the past week of practices, center Chris Kelly
moved from the third to second line, taking over Bergeron’s center position with the second trio. Seguin slipped into the right wing of the third line, sliding Michael Ryder to left wing and Rich Peverley
“He’s been a big part of this team all year," said Ryder of Seguin. "I think he’s developed well and he’s learned a lot and I think that’s definitely going to help him for his playoff time.
"It’s his first playoff experience and he’s excited to play and he’s going to be ready to go.”Lucic Not Satisfied
The Bruins have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1992, and Lucic and his teammates have their eyes on the ultimate prize.
|Boston Bruins left wing Mllan Lucic, rear, shoots the puck past Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Boston, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) |
“This is something that we have been working towards as a team and an organization, to get to this point," said Lucic. "It took three tries in the second round to get here.
“We know how hard it has been to get to this point and it’s going to be that much harder to take that next step.”
The Bruins dismantled the Montreal Canadiens over seven games, then skated over the Philadelphia Flyers in four to make it to tomorrow's juncture -- Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lighting is tomorrow.
“We can’t wait to see what they are going to do. We have to keep going with what we had going against Philadelphia,” Lucic said.
What the B's had against Philadelphia was a team determined and focused on winning. After potting zero goals against Montreal, what Lucic had against Philadelphia was an offensive burst.
Lucic had 2-3-5 totals in the four games against the Flyers and said that now, "There is less pressure.
"It was tough to get out of that slump, but now I honestly feel even in practice it’s more confident when I get that much in those areas where I know I can score."
As his line goes, Lucic goes. With linemates Nathan Horton
and David Krejci
consistently lighting the lamp, it was only a matter of time before Lucic got going. The time and space Lucic and Horton given themselves with their big bodies and physical play, combined with the play making abilities of Krejci, has been a winning recipe for the Bruins all season.
“Personally, I think we just need to do what we did with what made us successful. I think we played with a lot of speed, we were going forward with the puck, making plays and we were being strong on the puck,” Lucic said.
“That’s exactly what we need to do as a line to be successful.”Stopping Bolts PP Key for B’s
The Lightning have scored 12 man-advantage goals this postseason and are ranked third overall with a 26.7 percent success rate.
|Campbell vs. Tampa Bay Lightning |
The Lightning power play is one of the key issues the Bruins are focusing on and B’s head coach Claude Julien continues to stress the importance of penalty killing as the Bruins prepare for Saturday's series opener.
“Well, discipline is always going to be the key word that every team is always going to use in the playoffs," Julien said. "But there’s going to be penalties. In a series there always is.
"And our PK is going to have to come up big for us and we know that,”
The Lightning’s dozen power play goals were scored by seven different players, with Martin St. Louis leading the way with three. Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Pavel Kubina have two each, while three other Lightning players have contributed one goal each with a man-advantage.
“Their top guys are some of the top players in the league. So when you have that combination it’s obviously going to work,” Bruins forward Gregory Campbell
“They always had a power play that was, not to say it wasn’t structured, but their parts...move in and out. It’s tough to defend that.”
Tampa Bay's power play might prove especially tough to defend considering the possibility that Patrice Bergeron
, arguably the B's best penalty killer, could be sidelined for at least the beginning of the series with a concussion.
“His loss is felt in a lot of areas, but he was obviously big for the penalty kill," said Campbell. "He was taking a lot of draws for us and, as you know, starting out in the defensive zone and winning that draw is key on the penalty kill."
Should Bergeron not be able to play, the Bruins have plenty of eager penalty killers ready to step up, but Coach Julien has stayed away from using top line center David Krejci
on the penalty kill in order to roll the top line out in the key minute following a special teams scenario.
With Tampa being a team that consistently throws pucks at the net, Boston’s shot blocking tendencies and play of goaltender Tim Thomas
, a Vezina Trophy candidate, will be key in stopping the power play surge.
“I think the one thing you don’t want to be is running around against this team because they will expose you on the power play. They move the puck quickly and like to jam pucks at the net,” Julien said today.
“So they have skill, there is no doubt there but they also have that killer instinct of taking those pucks to the net.”