Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins - Game One

Could the Lightning’s enforcer-free system put them at risk against the Bruins?

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As Joe discussed following Game 1, the Boston Bruins decided to “send some messages” once it was obvious the Tampa Bay Lightning would win. While the late game incidents made many wonder if the league should respond, Damian Cristodero wonders if the Lightning might regret their enforcer-free policy.

In case you weren’t aware, the Lightning are opposed to dressing players whose only mission is to fight. It’s a standard set by general manager Steve Yzerman (from the rarely fighting Detroit Red Wings organization) and head coach Guy Boucher, who also prefers using players who can actually play the game. Boucher and Yzerman preach to players to avoid retaliating when other teams start scrums that will often result in penalties, subscribing to the Red Wings’ tradition of “making them pay on the scoreboard” thanks to the frequently resulting power plays.

Conversely, some wonder if that borderline pacifism puts star players such as Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier at greater risk for injury. Cristodero discusses the pros and cons of employing a true enforcer rather than going with the Lightning’s belief in “team toughness.”

As we read in today’s paper, the Tampa Bay Lightning is employing a no-retaliation policy against the Bruins. That is, if it is obvious the Bruins (who play physically, especially at home, in the hopes of goading opponents into penalties) are going to be a man down, do not get sucked in to any pushing, shoving or fighting that might mitigate the power play. It also, as coach Guy Boucher said on Sunday, keeps the players focused on team structure rather than worrying about retaliating.

Still, I’m sure there are enough fans who believe the Lightning should stick up for themselves more in situations such as the ones that occurred in Game 1. We saw Dominic Moore take a roundhouse right from Nathan Horton. We saw Victor Hedman get decked by a punch from Milan Lucic without retaliation. Even Vinny Lecavalier said he stopped his physical challenge to Johnny Boychuk after Boychuk slugged him because he saw Boychuk was going to get a penalty.

The question is, though, would any of that stuff not happened in the first place if the Lightning had a legitimate tough guy. Oh, there are several guys who can fight pretty well. We know Steve Downie is not scared of anyone, and Ryan Malone can throw ’em as can Lecavalier. But, generally, the Lightning is not built that way.

Ultimately, it might come down to personal preference. The Bruins’ feed off physicality and intimidation, but that type of aggression can lead to ill-advised penalties. The Lightning were the smarter and far more successful team in Game 1, so we’ll see if there is any carryover into Game 2.

Considering the success of the Red Wings and the already-impressive start for Yzerman and Boucher in Tampa Bay, it’s pretty tough to argue with their current policies.

Beard breakdown: Burns vs. Thornton (Video)

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Sometimes you need to ask important questions, breaking down positional battles and strategies.

Other times you can’t help but ask “Which guy has the better beard?”

In the case of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks boast two players with elite beards to match their elite skills. “Jumbo Joe” drew a lot of attention for his wild facial hair, yet Burns may very well have inspired Thornton to go heavy-whisker in the first place.

The video above breaks down those two beards, in case you’re itching for a comparison.

One thing that sparks little debate? Both players’ wives are real troopers.

Brouwer mulling signing with Canucks in free agency

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 21: Troy Brouwer #36 of the St. Louis Blues looks on against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on December 21, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Troy Brouwer grew up in North Delta, a suburb of Vancouver.

We mention this because, on Monday, Vancouver’s News 1130 spoke with Brouwer — a pending UFA — about his plans for the future. And, lo and behold, Brouwer has thought about a return home.

“I have thought about it, for sure,” Brouwer said. “Family and friends, playing for my hometown, it would be an experience for sure.”

The 30-year-old added his father is a “huge” Canucks fan and that Mark Messier, who spent two ill-fated seasons in Vancouver, was a “big influence” on Brouwer’s career.

So, file that one away for the future.

Brouwer will likely have a number of suitors come July 1. A Stanley Cup winner with Chicago in 2010, he’s been a very reliable goalscorer — at least 17 in seven straight seasons — and is coming off a terrific playoff, in which he scored eight goals and 13 points in 20 games for the Blues.

The Blues, of course, would probably like to retain Brouwer. They paid a high price to get him — T.J. Oshie, in last summer’s deal with Washington — and used him quite a bit this year. Brouwer averaged 16 minutes per night in the regular season and nearly 19 during the playoffs.

Problem is, St. Louis might not have the cap space to retain him. Brouwer will almost certainly be getting a raise on the $3.66M he earned annually on his last deal, and the Blues have some other financial decisions to make this summer (like captain David Backes, for example.)

“Not sure what the Blues plans are,” Brouwer told News 1130. “I’m assuming we will talk with them before July 1st.”

Bettman: The ‘word’ on expansion should come June 22

NHL hockey commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, after attending an NHL owners meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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PITTSBURGH — Mark June 22 on the calendar. That’s when the NHL’s Board of Governors will meet in Las Vegas, and that’s when we should get word about the league’s expansion plans.

“That word,” commissioner Gary Bettman said today at his annual Stanley Cup Final press conference, “will probably come in one of the following forms:

“Whether there will be no expansion; whether expansion will be deferred until a later time in the future; or whether there will be expansion, and if so whether it will be a one-team or a two-team expansion.

“I am not going to handicap what’s going to happen. But again, when the board meets in Las Vegas on June 22, I am fairly certain that we will know more than we do today.”

The NHL is currently considering two expansion bids, one from Las Vegas and another from Quebec City. The former is optimistic about its chances, while the latter’s fortunes may have been dashed by the decline of the Canadian dollar.

On Las Vegas, the commissioner and his deputy, Bill Daly, were asked if the NFL’s potential foray into that market could affect the NHL’s decision. The answer to that question was no.

The other theme of today’s press conference was the Olympics. Specifically, the IOC’s decision to stop covering millions of dollars in transportation and insurance costs for the players.

On that, Bettman had a strong message for the IOC and IIHF.

“I’m pretty sure that our teams are not really interested in paying for the privilege of disrupting our season,” he said.

In other words, if the IOC and IIHF can’t resolve the “expense issue,” it’s practically a certainty that the NHL will not be sending its players to Pyeongchang‎, South Korea.

WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Sharks at Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Pittsburgh Penguins fans sit outside of Consol Energy Center prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The wait is finally over. The 2016 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin.

Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks received some time to lick their wounds after three grueling playoff rounds, so expect Game 1 to be fun, even if there might be a subtle bit of rust here or there.

The star power is considerable. The beards are burly (at least on the Sharks’ side). It’s time to get cracking.

Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also stream it via the link below and enjoy some “NHL Live” coverage leading in.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE