Five Thoughts: Claude Julien’s non-timeout, Purcell’s awakening, and Steve Downie’s head

Game 4 between Boston and Tampa Bay brought back a lot of things we thought we’d forgotten about the Bruins and Lightning both. We’d forgotten how scrappy and tenacious Tampa Bay can be when they’ve got the motivation to keep working harder. After Game 3, it was easy to forget about that. As for Boston, too many similarities to last season’s playoff run came roaring back.

1. Tampa Bay’s tremendous comeback reminds us that we should know better when it comes to how they play the game. All playoffs long they’ve been the team that just hangs around and gets back into games by whittling away a lead or always sticking close and not allowing their opponents to get comfortable.

Game 4 made us start to believe that perhaps the Lightning were done. After all they were coming off a Game 3 performance that was less-than inspiring and the Bruins blitzed them for a 3-0 lead after the first period. Whatever amount of talking and soul searching that went on in the locker room between periods paid off because they turned play around as if they flipped a switch. They dominated possession of the puck, they kept the Bruins bottled up in their own end and they weren’t afraid to shoot the puck and attack the Bruins defense. Amazing what happens when you maximize your effort, isn’t it?

Making things tougher for Boston is seeing relatively unknown guys like Teddy Purcell and Sean Bergenheim doing the heavy lifting to tie things up before the big name guys took over to win it. That performance by Tampa is more like the Lightning we’ve seen all playoffs.

2. Of course, how things broke down for Boston makes us curious once again about some of coach Claude Julien’s decisions behind the bench. In this case, it was Julien’s choice to not call a timeout after Teddy Purcell scored twice in 1:03 to cut the Bruins lead to 3-2 in the second period. Julien not calling a timeout to slow things down for a second and let his team regain some of its composure after having the game seemingly on lockdown after the first period is a head scratcher. It seemed to be the right place to call the timeout and the Bruins certainly looked shell-shocked after Purcell both made their defense and goalie Tim Thomas look bad with his two efforts to score.

Instead, the Bruins kept trying to forge ahead stubbornly figuring they could just get back to it and lock things down. Then Sean Bergenheim outmuscles Tomas Kaberle for a puck behind the Bruins net and fights his way around the net to slip a shot past Thomas and tie the game. Would a timeout have prevented Kaberle from going soft there? Tough to say but at the very least, you’d hope everyone would’ve come out of the timeout more attentive and ready to battle rather than soaking in their own misery after blowing a big lead.

3. Don’t look now but Tampa Bay’s Teddy Purcell is a legitimate man of interest for the Bruins to worry about. After his two goals in Game 3, Purcell has 15 points in the playoffs with four goals and 11 assists. That puts Purcell third on the team in scoring behind Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis and tied for fifth in the playoffs overall equaling him with the likes of Henrik Sedin, Dan Boyle, and Pavel Datsyuk.

Purcell is a former L.A. Kings prospect who came to Tampa last season in a deal that saw the Lightning also get the Kings’ draft pick where they selected Brock Beukeboom. The Kings got Jeff Halpern in that trade and he left L.A. after the season was over to sign in Montreal. While the deal didn’t stand out at the time, Purcell is showing the talent he had yet to show off at the pro level. He didn’t get much of a shot with the Kings and if Purcell can have this playoff performance help him evolve into a top playmaker from now on, Kings fans will be ruing that deal for years to come. One great playoff performance doesn’t always translate into a great NHL career, but Purcell is carving out a name for himself nicely.

4. We’re hoping that referee Tim Peel feels a bit embarrassed after his inexcusable call of giving Steve Downie a diving penalty after he was crunched into the end boards by Nathan Horton late in the second period. Downie was cross checked in the back and had the top of his head smashed into the glass putting him down on the ice. Watching the play in slow motion looks really bad, but it doesn’t look any better at full speed.

We know that Downie has a poor reputation around the league but sometimes when you seem something as bad as that you have to take it for what it’s worth. It was a very poor decision by Horton that turned into a terrible end result for Downie as he left the game and did not return after that hit. Now his status for Game 5 is in doubt and perhaps even longer than that now. After all the attention on blows to the head this year you’d think they’d err on the side of caution here. Apparently that’s asking too much.

5. If you’re thinking there’s a debate as to who Tampa Bay will start in goal for Game 5, you’re nuts. We know Dwayne Roloson struggled in Game 4 before getting pulled after giving up three goals on nine shots and he’s had a rough go of things in a couple games in this series, but he’s their man. Maybe he could use a breather but that’s no reason to upset the situation in Tampa by creating a goalie controversy.

The Lightning should be happy that Mike Smith has done his part when called upon to stop the bleeding and call it a day after that. Roloson’s the guy that brought them and unless there’s a bigger issue we’re not aware of (read: injury) there’s no reason to throw Mike Smith into the starting role for Game 5.

NCAA standout Foo leaving school, will sign NHL deal this summer

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Spencer Foo, who racked up a whopping 62 points in 38 games this year for Union College, is forgoing his senior season to achieve his “life long dream of playing in the NHL.”

Where that dream takes place remains to be seen.

Foo, 22, won’t be back at Union in the fall, but will complete his spring term at Union and not sign with a pro organization until summer, per the Daily Gazette. The decision comes after a banner three seasons in school, capped off with a junior campaign in which he was nominated for ECAC Hockey Player of the Year and shortlisted for the Hobey Baker.

Foo has reportedly drawn interest from the Flyers. There have also been rumblings of the Oilers being in the mix — Foo is an Edmonton native — but it appears nearly every team has some level of interest. Consider this, from LA Kings Insider:

The Kings are among the teams involved in [Foo’s] courtship, and asked where the stiffest competition was coming from, I was told, “about 29 other teams.”

Foo is an undrafted free agent, so there’s no real rush for him to make a decision. Sounds like NHL teams are more than willing to wait it out.

Announcing the Hobey Hat Trick: Aston-Reese, Butcher, Vecchione

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Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese, Denver’s Will Butcher, and Union’s Mike Vecchione are the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

Aston-Reese, a 22-year-old forward, had 31 goals and 32 assists in 38 games this season. Undrafted, he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month.

Butcher, a 22-year-old defenseman, had seven goals and 29 assists in 41 games for the Frozen Four-headed Pioneers. A fifth-round pick of the Avalanche in 2013, Butcher is still unsigned and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent Aug. 15. It remains to be seen if the Avs will offer him a contract, though it’s been reported they will.

Vecchione, a 24-year-old forward, had 29 goals and 34 assists in 38 games. Undrafted, he’s expected to sign with an NHL team shortly — possibly the Flyers or Wild.

Jimmy Vesey, Jack Eichel, and Johnny Gaudreau were the Hobey Baker winners in each of the last three years.

After 12-game absence, Boychuk back for Isles

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The New York Islanders, four points back of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and having lost their last two games, will get a huge boost tonight on the blueline.

Johnny Boychuk, who’s missed the last 12 games with a lower-body injury, will return to the lineup on Thursday when the Isles take on the Flyers in Philadelphia. It’ll mark the first time the veteran defenseman has played since getting hurt back on Mar. 3.

(Boychuk draws in at the expense of Thomas Hickey, who’ll sit tonight.)

Needless to say, this is a massive addition for the Isles. Boychuk was averaging close to 21 minutes per night and had 21 points through 59 games before his injury, and led all New York defensemen in shots on goal.

The Isles are going to be an interesting team to watch down the stretch. It’s tough sledding, with five of their final seven contests being played on the road, though that’s mitigated by the fact they’re playing a bunch of teams outside of the playoff picture (Philly, New Jersey x2, Buffalo and Carolina).

McAvoy has the talent to improve Bruins right now

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Charlie McAvoy could be in the Providence Bruins’ lineup as soon as Friday against Albany.

Providence also plays Saturday and Sunday, so even if it’s not Friday, the 19-year-old defenseman is expected to get his first taste of pro hockey sometime this weekend.

Of course, the real question is when his Boston Bruins debut may occur.

“He has the attributes to be able to play NHL games right now, absolutely,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, per the Providence Journal. 

McAvoy has yet to ink an NHL contract. He’s in Providence on an amateur tryout after making the decision to leave Boston University. If he plays an NHL game this season, the first year of the three-year entry-level contract he’ll sign would be burned.

Hence, Sweeney’s desire to see McAvoy in the AHL before making any decisions.

“This gives an opportunity for him, first and foremost, to get a chance to play professional games, which is another level for him. [We’ll] evaluate from there,” said Sweeney.

It’s certainly possible, given McAvoy’s talent, that he could help the NHL Bruins right now. The bar is essentially Kevan Miller, Boston’s third-pairing defenseman on the right side. (If McAvoy were a left shot, the bar would be slightly lower, with all due respect to John-Michael Liles.)

The NHL Bruins, who’ve yet to book a playoff spot, have six games left in their regular season. They host Dallas tonight, Florida Saturday, and then they’re in Chicago Sunday.

Assuming McAvoy stays with Providence all weekend, his first real chance to get into an NHL game would be Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

Stay tuned.

Read more: Bruins will leave door ajar for McAvoy