After another wait, Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals will be played tonight at TD Garden in Boston. Yesterday, what Boston needed to do to win was examined; today, it’s Tampa Bay’s turn.
The Lightning was brilliant in Game 1, forcing turnovers and taking advantage of the opportunities afforded them by Boston’s miscues. Tampa has already accomplished its goal for the first two games – getting a win. The Lightning can now take control of the series with a win tonight.
1. Throw different looks at the Bruins: Sure, everyone knows the Lightning use the 1-3-1 forecheck (count how many times you hear those words tonight during the Versus or CBC broadcasts). However, coach Guy Boucher and his staff have done a nice job of using variations of the forecheck to confuse opponents, which is exactly what happened on Saturday night. Sometimes the Lightning pressured the puck hard, while other times they sat back and give the Bruins the first third of the ice before trapping and forcing turnovers in the neutral zone. The first style led to Tomas Kaberle’s brain fart and Teddy Purcell’s goal, which gave Tampa a 3-1 lead; while the second technique keyed Brett Clark’s unassisted goal moments prior to Purcell’s goal.
2. Keep getting production from the third line: Sean Bergenheim, this year’s John Druce, has emerged as a playoff hero after skating in anonymity most of the season. Bergenheim has a league-leading 8 goals in the playoffs after netting just 14 in the regular season. Linemate Steve Downie has 2 goals and 10 assists, while center Dominc Moore has added 2 goals and 7 assists. This line was a thorn in Boston’s side in game 1, and Moore seems to get under Nathan Horton’s skin quite easily.
3. Keep traffic away from Dwayne Roloson: Boston is at its best when it crashes the net, but they were unable to get bodies in front of Roloson on Saturday. Tampa Bay’s defense, a weak link for most of the season, did a great job of protecting the slot and clearing the front of the net.
“We have to get more bodies to the net,” Nathan Horton said. “If Roloson sees the puck, he stops it. He’s been unbelievable so far in the playoffs, and when you see a great goalie like that, you have to create traffic.”
4. Keep pressuring Chara on the PP: The Lightning had a player in Zdeno Chara’s face at all times on the power play, preventing Chara from having time to fire his blast from the point. Because Kaberle won’t (and, honestly, can’t) shoot from the other point, Tampa could afford to attack Chara and leave Kaberle unguarded. If Boston doesn’t adjust its power play, Tampa should continue to do the same thing.
1. Tim Thomas: Thomas was great in Games 5-7 against Montreal and all four against Philadelphia, but he was
average at best on Game 1. He cannot allow any soft goals and needs to be ready in case his defensemen turn the puck over in front of the net – as they did on the first and third goals on Saturday.
2. Zdeno Chara: Big Z needs to pay like the highest-paid player on the team. He was fine in Game 1, but fine doesn’t cut it. He needs to play like a previous Norris Trophy winner and dominate the game,
3. Martin St. Louis: Tampa cannot solely rely on its third line for production, so St. Louis will need to be the best player on the ice, as he arguably was in game 1.
4. Simon Gagne: He was a Bruin-killer with the Flyers last year, and has always been a big playoff performer.
Prediction: The Bruins have always played well with their backs against the wall this season, and tonight is no different. A loss tonight puts the Bruins in a hole from which they may not be able to climb, so they need a win tonight. Thomas needs to step up his game, and the power play needs to score. If those two things happen, the Bruins win 3-2. If not, Tampa likely takes control of the series.
As always, thanks for reading. Visit every day and leave your comments!
Be sure to visit FanSided’s NHL site, Too Many Men on the Site, for everything NHL, including an innovative mock draft. In fact, the Bruins first pick will be up any day now, as Boston holds Toronto’s No. 9 selection. Check it out!
Follow Steve on Twitter @skendallhockey