Tag: game recaps


Bruins overcome Dwayne Roloson’s brilliance, advance to Stanley Cup finals with 1-0 win


Exactly a month ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning managed a 1-0 Game 7 shutout against the Penguins in Pittsburgh to continue Dwayne Roloson’s undefeated streak in elimination games. The Boston Bruins flipped the script on the Lightning this time around to make it to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1990.

Tim Thomas made 24 saves for the third shutout of his playoff career (and second of this series), but Roloson often stole the show with his 37-save performance. Roloson’s undefeated streak in elimination games ended tonight, but he was the No. 1 reason this game was a nail-biter in the first place.

Boston 1, Tampa Bay 0; Bruins win series 4-3

A lot of hockey fans (especially from Tampa Bay) will cringe at the fact that water bottle thrower Nathan Horton was the only player to score in this tight-checking Game 7. There weren’t many odd man rushes in this defensive-minded deciding game, but Horton connected on a nice 2-on-1 one-timer pass from David Krejci to earn his second series-winning goal of the 2011 playoffs.

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The Bruins dominated most – if not all – of this contest, but there was almost a sense that Roloson’s amazing goaltending would allow the Lightning to pull off a “rope a dope” in Game 7. That didn’t happen, but Roloson made huge saves, including a breakaway stop against Milan Lucic and a nice 2-on-1 stop against Brad Marchand. Something tells me Roloson will get the chance to continue his NHL career in 2011-12 … if he chooses.

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Horton showed some heart by coming back to create some nice chances (six shots overall) and the game’s only goal after taking a tough hit from Nate Thompson, but he wasn’t the toughest player of the night. That badge of honor goes to Lightning star Steven Stamkos, who barely missed a beat after taking a brutal slap shot to the face.

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Roloson faced a series of shots and dangerous chances in this game to steal the show, but Thomas was never beaten in the biggest game of his quirky (but impressive) career. The Bruins enjoyed great work from players such as Horton, Krejci and Patrice Bergeron in this series, but Thomas was the obvious MVP of the Eastern Conference finals. One could partially attribute his lesser performances to some spotty defense, but he was especially sterling in Boston’s four wins. He bailed the Bruins out many times in their wild 6-5 Game 2 win, but was nearly impenetrable in their other three victories. Here’s a quick at what he did in those four wins:

Game 2: Five Goals Allowed on 41 shots.
Game 3: Shutout with 31 saves.
Game 5 One Goal Allowed on 34 shots.
Game 7: Shutout with 24 saves.
Overall: 124 out of 130 shots stopped in Bruins ECF wins, which would translate to a 95.3 save percentage.

No doubt about it, the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup finals because of Tim Thomas more than anyone else.

Closing thoughts

The Bruins often seemed schizophrenic during this series, rarely playing the sturdy defensive game people expected. Tampa Bay’s speed and skill exposed Boston’s weak defensive depth (and yes, they even made Zdeno Chara look bad from time to time) for much of the series. Still, Claude Julien’s crew got the job done when they needed to in the first playoff game without a single penalty since 1973. It could be a short, one-sided series against the Vancouver Canucks if they don’t bring their “A-Game” consistently, though.

It will be little solace for a Lightning team that finished two goals short of an unexpectedly quick return to the Cup finals, but they took a quantum leap in their first year under GM Steven Yzerman and coach Guy Boucher. Their impressive and opportunistic offense didn’t show up very well in Game 7, but it’s reasonable to say that this franchise has a bright future ahead of it.

Of course, they face some tough questions this summer, but we’ll get to that later on.

In the mean time, the Bruins prepare for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals in Vancouver on Wednesday. Click here for the schedule of games to start planning for what (hopefully) will be a great final round of playoff hockey.

Tampa Bay holds on to win wild Game 6, pushes series with Boston to Game 7

Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Six

In a game that straddled the line between “wildly entertaining” and “disturbingly sloppy,” the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Boston Bruins 5-4 in Game 6. This exciting win pushes the Eastern Conference finals to a Game 7 in Boston on Friday.

Each teams’ top line came up big in this contest, but Dwayne Roloson pushed his record in elimination games to 7-0 because his team was just a little bit better.

Tampa Bay 5, Boston 4; Series tied 3-3

It seemed like special teams would be the story of this game going into a wacky third period. The Lightning scored on their first three power play opportunities while the Bruins carried an 0-for-25 road PP mark into the final frame before David Krejci finally broke that slump with his second goal of the game.

Ultimately, the Lightning survived a poor performance by Roloson (four goals allowed on 20 shots), a hat trick by Krejci* and various plot twists to win Game 6.

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Big games from big names and unsung heroes

Tampa Bay’s biggest names combined for eight points: Martin St. Louis produced two goals and one assist, Steven Stamkos scored a goal and added two helpers and Vincent Lecavalier had two assists of his own. Yet the Bolts were also powered by great performances by lesser known threats.

Steve Downie continues to be Tampa Bay’s version of Alex Burrows, providing a great mix of power and skill that compliments his talented linemates nicely. He finished with two assists, including a great pass that foiled an overly aggressive Tim Thomas and allowed St. Louis to score what would be the game-winning 2-on-1 goal.

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Teddy Purcell showed that he might be an even bigger unsung hero than Sean Bergenheim, who missed tonight’s game with an undisclosed injury. Purcell scored two goals tonight, including a nice shot from a Lecavalier faceoff win that gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead just 36 seconds into the game. Purcell now has 17 points, matching Joe Thornton for fifth place in the 2011 playoffs.

This time around, the Lightning were able to protect an early lead against Boston. They rebounded from allowing the Bruins to take a 2-1 lead into the second period by out-playing them for the rest of the contest. Tampa Bay scored the game’s next three goals to take a 4-2 lead, but the Bruins were pesky in the closing minutes. Krejci scored that PP goal to make it 4-3 and then St. Louis fired back about 30 seconds later to make it 5-3. Krejci capped off his great performance by scoring a hat trick goal 13:28 into the third, but the Lightning managed to hang on anyway.

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Not a banner night for defense or goaltending

Every time this series seems like it will sink back to the tight-checking, defense-first style most were expecting, the two teams put together the type of contest that would fit in well in the wide-open 1980’s. The Bruins won a wacky 6-5 Game 2 by winning the second period and doing just enough to hang on in the final frame; the Lightning flipped that script tonight.

Even though both defenses hung their goalies out to dry, Roloson and Thomas cannot be happy with their performances.

It seems unfair for the Bruins to place so much of a burden on their Vezina Trophy candidate, but it almost feels like they need Thomas to stand on his head to win most of these games. He’s done that quite often, but the Bolts have too many talented forwards to bottle them up every night.

Roloson won yet another elimination game, but he struggled against the Bruins yet again. It’s unlikely that the Lightning would turn to Mike Smith in Game 7, but they need steadier play from their 41-year-old netminder on Friday. We’ll cover all the angles for that contest, which will air on Versus at 8 p.m. ET.

* Krejci scored the Bruins’ first playoff hat trick since Cam Neely accomplished that feat in 1991.

Tim Thomas helps Boston steal a 3-1 Game 5 win, Bruins gain 3-2 series lead

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It’s amazing that someone would claim that the 2011 playoffs lack dominant goaltending performances when you consider the astounding work by Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. Whether he wins a Stanley Cup this year or not, Thomas is putting together one of the best combined regular season and playoff runs we’ve seen in a long time.*

For most of this series, the Tampa Bay Lightning carried the play but Thomas regularly bailed his Boston Bruins out. Tonight’s Game 5 might be the best example of how Thomas is carrying his team on his well-traveled back, though.

Boston 3, Tampa Bay 1; Bruins lead series 3-2

After allowing a goal on the first shot he faced (a beautifully executed one-timer from Steven Stamkos to Simon Gagne), Thomas never allowed another puck in his net. He made 33 stops overall, including a desperation stick save that might just be the best save of the 2011 playoffs.

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As you can see from that clip, he wasn’t the only goalie who played well in Game 5. Lightning coach Guy Boucher decided to start Mike Smith instead of Dwayne Roloson, a move that surprised some. Out of context, it might seem like Smith was a weak link for the Lightning since he allowed two goals on 19 shots. The thing is, the two goals he allowed were nearly unstoppable and he was an asset for most of the contest. No doubt about it, Boucher faces a tough decision regarding his Game 6 starter.

Bruins recover from lopsided first period

Tampa Bay out-shot Boston 14-4 in the first period but Thomas only allowed that 1-0 goal. The Bruins scored two goals in the second period, which ended up being all the offense they would need.

Nathan Horton made amends for his two interference penalties by rifling a one-timer through Smith to make it 1-1. Horton has been hot-and-cold in his first career playoff year, but his goals have often been game-changers.

Speaking of game-changers, Brad Marchand’s game-winning goal ended up being a nice team effort. Zdeno Chara made a nice play to keep the puck in the zone, Patrice Bergeron sent an outstanding pass through the Lightning defense and Marchand overpowered Martin St. Louis to score.

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The Lightning sent steady pressure toward Thomas in every period, but the Bruins were able to hold onto that 2-1 second period lead through the rest of the game. Rich Pevereley scored the 3-1 dagger into an empty Tampa Bay net to seal the deal for Boston in the third period. Steve Downie seems to be getting reputation-based penalties in this series, as many questioned the boarding call he received while officials missed Andrew Ference tripping him behind Boston’s net. Downie was seen stewing alone on the Lightning bench after the game concluded.

Outlook for both teams

The Bruins are one win away from their first Stanley Cup finals appearance since they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in 1990. Again, they have one man to thank above all else: Tim Thomas. It’s unclear if they did this by design, but only Thomas came out during the three stars ceremony after the game. As usual, he had something interesting to say in this post-game interview.

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Boston would like to avoid another Game 7 by wrapping this up in Tampa Bay, but they shouldn’t lean so heavily on Thomas on Wednesday. The Bolts are undefeated in elimination games, so this series probably won’t get an easier for the Bruins.

The Lightning put 34 shots on Thomas, frequently catching the Bruins flat-footed with their superior overall speed. One area of concern is the health of unexpected hero Sean Bergenheim, who didn’t return after suffering a first period groin injury.

After winning games in which they were regularly out-shot thanks to outstanding goaltending and timely offense during the first two rounds, The Lightning are getting a taste of their own medicine in the Eastern Conference finals. You cannot fault their effort so far, but that will be little solace if they fall two wins short of the championship round.

* – My bet is that Thomas will win the Vezina Trophy for the 2010-11 season. The last goalie who followed up a Vezina-winning regular season with a comparably outstanding postseason was Martin Brodeur, who won a Stanley Cup after earning the Vezina during the 2002-03 season.