One of the missing elements from Tampa Bay’s Game 5 loss to Boston was that of playoff hero Sean Bergenheim. Bergenheim leads everyone in the playoffs with nine goals and when he was knocked out of Game 5 with an injury, the loss of his production and depth on the Lightning’s third line was obvious.
With Game 6 coming up tonight and Bergenheim’s health still in question, you have to wonder if perhaps his potential loss from the lineup is the one that helps sway their Eastern Conference finals series with Boston. Will he play tonight though? Lightning coach Guy Boucher says it’s a game time decision tonight.
Q. Bergenheim was able to skate a little bit this morning. How optimistic are you that he’ll be available for Game 6?
COACH BOUCHER: We have to wait. The doctors are looking at him now, and we have to wait until tonight. And then make a game-time decision.
Q. If Sean can’t go, what are your plans? And what are the implications if he can’t go in terms of what you need from other players?
COACH BOUCHER: Well, obviously when you take somebody out that’s been a big part of our Playoffs, it does take some chemistry out. And I gotta find that. I had to struggle with that in the second period of the last game, and the third period I kind of found what I wanted.
So if he is not playing, we’ll go with the chemistry that we planned on, and we’ve got the choice between putting Tyrell in the lineup and to fill the forward spot or we put in a seventh defenseman with Randy Jones. So that’s still something that we’re oscillating between, yeah.
No offense to either Dana Tyrell or Randy Jones, but we’re not exactly overflowing with confidence that they’ll be able to help contribute the same way Bergenheim has in these playoffs for the Lightning.
If Bergenheim is out the Lightning are going to have to rely even harder upon their top players like Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Steve Stamkos, and Simon Gagne. While Gagne has had a great series, the other players are having a hard time handling the pressure the Bruins defense has put on them. The play of Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference has been outstanding in this series and then there’s the whole issue of trying to find ways to beat goalie Tim Thomas.
If Bergenheim plays tonight, don’t expect him to be at the top of his game. The question here is whether or not it’s worth it for the sacrifice and the possibility that Bergenheim injures himself further. Players will always want to push things more when their team is in need (see: Joe Thornton) but if he can’t go, that’s it. Either way, both Boston and Tampa Bay will need to be prepared for tonight’s elimination game.