Kukla's Korner

Opposing Viewpoint: Kalman on Expecting the Unexpected, More Woes for Kaberle & Tampa Physical Play

Throughout the Eastern Conference Final, Matt Kalman of TheBruinsBlog.net and I will be providing some insight from our respective sides with reaction to each game result and a look to what’s ahead via a series of Q&As.

***

JJ: Four games in and I think we can say with some certainty now that we’ve seen a little bit of everything:

Lightning dominance in game one.

The surprising run-and-gun, back-and-forth action of game two.

A Tim Thomas shutout in a defensive gem from the Bruins in game three.

And now the game four comeback from the Lightning to knot the series at 2-2, heading back to Boston.

I’m putting it to you to play Swami now, Matt: After four games so different in nature, what happens next in what’s become a best-of-three?

MK: Ugh. Swami makes me of that buffoon Chris Berman. How about we classify me as the new Carnac the Magnificent? [JJ Note: How about a compromise? Just for our Canadian friends, we’ll call you “Kreskin”.]

What happens next is anyone’s guess. I mean, we’re at a point in the series where the Vezina Trophy favorite Tim Thomas is getting lambasted by the fan base for his latest subpar performance and there are people actually making an argument to start a guy in net, Mike Smith for Tampa Bay who was in the minors most of the season over Dwayne Roloson, who led all goalies in GAA and save percentage entering this series. I honestly don’t know what planet we’re playing this series on.

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Filed in: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

Clutch Relief Performance Brings Mike Smith Full Circle and the Lightning Into a 2-2 Series Tie

He spoke of Tampa in a consistent past tense and yearned for an opportunity elsewhere.

He looked at an AHL stint as a chance to refine his game, showcase his skills and provide leadership for those just starting their professional hockey careers.

He did not expect to be back in a Lightning uniform and he certainly couldn’t have predicted a clutch showing in game four of the Eastern Conference Final, as he put forth today.

In his mind, Mike Smith was as close to being a former Bolt as it gets in late February, when he and I spoke at length over the phone – he in Norfolk, Virginia and I, here, in Tampa – but just a day later, Smith’s Lightning career breathed new life, as he was placed on re-entry waivers after the team shipped backup goaltender Dan Ellis to Anaheim. Clearing a day later, Smith rejoined the Bolts and took his place behind Dwayne Roloson on the depth chart in the Lightning crease.

And today, Smith stepped in for Roloson, who yielded three Boston goals on nine shots in the first period, stopped all 21 Bruin shots he faced and earned the all-important win as his teammates rallied for five unanswered goals to even the series at two games apiece.

It’s amazing how things turn out sometimes, isn’t it?

“Yeah, it is,” Smith said after the game four victory, recalling the exact conversation we had back then and reiterating the gut feelings he had at the time.

“I never thought I would play for the Lightning again.”

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Filed in: AHL Hockey, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

He Asked, I Answered (ECF Vol. 4): On Production from TB’s “Big 3”, Physicality, Fans’ Energy & More

Throughout the Eastern Conference Final, Matt Kalman of TheBruinsBlog.net and I will be providing some insight from our respective sides with reaction to each game result and a look to what’s ahead via a series of Q&As.

Here are my answers to Matt’s latest queries on the happenings in this series:

MK: So did you enjoy the Tyler Seguin era? I can tell from your questions that you did. It’s over now, you know? We’re back living in the world dominated by Tim Thomas and the defensively sharp Bruins.

Of course, maybe they wouldn’t look as sharp if the Lightning’s stars were playing at their best. To me, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier had a lot more problems not only against Zdeno Chara, but even against the other Boston defensemen than you’d expect in their first home game of the series and with the second change.

What’s your take on how the Big Three are doing?

JJ: I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear how utterly disappointed I am in Seguin not scoring even a single point last night when everyone knows he was supposed to have netted at least a hat trick. How dare he?!?!? Clearly, he is not at all cognizant of his role as not only Boston’s savior but also the lone individual who can save us all from tomorrow’s scheduled Rapture. (We can only hope that someone informs the kid before we’re all doomed.)

My take on Tampa’s “Big Three” (no longer an exercise in futility, naturally, now that Super Seguin has come back to Earth): They’re a game removed from a combined nine-point output and Lecavalier and St. Louis still have a share of the overall postseason scoring lead with 16 points apiece. Cut ‘em some damn slack!

Boston squelched the flow of the Lightning all night long and the big guns were a (big) part of that. At first, I pondered whether or not the captain, in particular, had an off night. There were times when he didn’t seem to be able to kick things into that higher gear so necessary for postseason success. But, after some second thought, a little video review and a look back at the stat sheet, Lecavalier managed five shots on goal, had several prime scoring chances and led all Lightning forwards in ice time (23:09). If he looked to be slowed on occasion, he certainly wasn’t alone – and that’s more a credit to what the Bruins were able to do.

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Filed in: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

Opposing Viewpoint: Kalman on Pointless Seguin (Noooo!), Boston’s Fast Start, Cheerleaders(?) & More

Throughout the Eastern Conference Final, Matt Kalman of TheBruinsBlog.net and I will be providing some insight from our respective sides with reaction to each game result and a look to what’s ahead via a series of Q&As.

In this session, Matt takes on my tough questions on such topics as - gasp! - Tyler Seguin not scoring even a single point in game three, Boston’s fast start and ability to stymie the Lightning attack, systematic advantages and, yes, “cheerleaders”, as he so irresponsibly calls them.

***

JJ: In an effort to provide a little levity for my Lightning fan friends out there, well kick things off in lighthearted fashion here today, so as not to overwhelm the masses.

Apparently, the off-ice officials are not as impressed with Tyler Seguin as the rest of the free world. Clearly, he scored Boston’s second goal last night with his mind and yet, here we are, looking at the final score sheet, where they’ve changed it to correctly reflect Andrew Ference as the goal-scorer.

Haters? Or might Seguin have his very own Lex Luthor residing right here in Tampa (or, perhaps, up there in the Toronto war room)?

MK: Everything is Seguin. He’s so fast that the back wind from him skating toward the net blew the puck in through Dwayne Roloson’s 5-hole. Or maybe it was the shock that overcame Roloson at the sight of Seguin going to the net that made the puck trickle in. Regardless, there’s obviously an anti-Seguin population out there that controls the war room and the final stats sheet. There are plenty of people in Boston today that probably think Seguin not only scored that goal but the one credited to David Krejci as well.

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Filed in: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

Early Mistake Paves the Way as Boston Shuts Down Tampa in Game Three

It came only 1:09 into the game but it stood up for the remaining 58:51.

David Krejci’s first period goal put the Boston Bruins ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning last night in game three of the Eastern Conference Final but the team’s stifling defensive effort kept them there and allowed them to leave the St. Pete Times Forum with a 2-1 series lead, having closed out the Bolts in shutout fashion, 2-0.

It was one mistake – and a team goof, overall, despite those that will want to put the screws to Victor Hedman on the goal – but it was enough to put the Lightning on the losing end of a game where both teams accomplished a lot of what they set out to do on the heels of Tuesday night’s head-spinning, 6-5 decision for Boston.

If game two was wide open pond hockey, game three was played, seemingly, in a walk-in cooler, with little room to maneuver for either side, each team clamping down defensively and Boston’s clogging of the neutral zone effectively frustrating the Lightning throughout.

And in a game like that, when a one-goal lead becomes a two-goal lead, any hope of a turnaround goes right out the window. The Lightning may, in fact be a team that “always comes back” in third periods, as head coach Guy Boucher is often quick to remind, but that wasn’t happening against Tim Thomas and the Boston defensive effort in front of him last night – and certainly not after Andrew Ference’s insurance goal snuck through Dwayne Roloson’s pads and trickled into the Tampa Bay net. Not, even, with nearly 12 minutes still to play.

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Filed in: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

This & That: Some Last Minute Pregame Thought on Sign Sensitivity, Bergeron Back, Cheap Trick & More

How’s some scattered thought from the periphery of the Eastern Conference Final sound to take up some of your time before tonight’s opening faceoff?

Good? Good. Cause that’s what I got right now…

***

What’s the big deal?

That’s what I’ve been screaming about folks taking offense to some of the signage posted at the TD Garden and in the surrounding Boston area since the beginning of the Bruins-Lightning series.

So, they took some lighthearted swipes at their opposition’s fans.

So what?

Please tell me we haven’t reached a new level of sensitivity that dictates an inability to handle some good-natured ribbing…

I mean, if you’ve considered yourself a Floridian for any substantial period of time and you haven’t shrugged off a geriatric barb or 3,000 by now, I don’t know where you’ve been (and I’ve lived in four corners of the state) or what you’ve been doing (and I’ve done, well, whatever…)

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Filed in: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

He Asked, I Answered (ECF Vol. 3): On a Nutty Game Two, Lightning Adjustments, Super Seguin and More

Throughout the Eastern Conference Final, Matt Kalman of TheBruinsBlog.net and I will be providing some insight from our respective sides with reaction to each game result and a look to what’s ahead via a series of Q&As.

In this morning’s installment, I give my take on what the Lightning will do to rebound from game two’s disappointment, what went wrong in that - well, whatever that was - and wonder along with Matt if the Bolts should even bother getting after it in game three, what with the invincible “Super” Tyler Seguin now at Boston’s disposal. (Refreshing, it is, to pair with a fellow writer whose “snark” level is in the same ballpark as mine!)

***

MK: Well, it looks like the score is James Bond 1, Dr. Evil Guy Boucher 1. In the movies, once Bond foils the sinister plot, the story ends. But Boucher and the Lightning get a real-life opportunity to get back at it, and on home ice. So what does the mastermind have in store? What adjustments will be made? Could we see any sort of a lineup change?

JJ: The focus – and perhaps the singular focus – will be on returning to the structure of their system for the Lightning, who were as freewheelin’ as you’ll ever see them in game two, a recipe that helps make for an exciting game maybe, as we saw last night, but not so much for a Tampa Bay win. In November, the Bolts actually managed an 8-7 victory in Philadelphia over the Flyers but Boucher was none too pleased, despite the two points. Last night, had the Lightning prevailed, you still wouldn’t have seen a happy head coach afterwards. About 99% of that first period, in particular, was unacceptable, as compared to what has brought Tampa Bay its biggest successes this season.

I don’t expect anything to be pulled from any bag of tricks. Instead, the Bolts will dance with the girl that brought ‘em – and hope their two-step turns out better than Boston’s in game three. I also wouldn’t expect anything in the way of a lineup change, as there isn’t exactly a murderer’s row of impact players at Tampa’s disposal among the Black Aces bunch.

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Opposing Viewpoint: Kalman on Game Two, Seguin’s Explosion, Bergeron’s Return, Horton’s Head & More

Throughout the Eastern Conference Final, Matt Kalman of TheBruinsBlog.net and I will be providing some insight from our respective sides with reaction to each game result and a look to what’s ahead via a series of Q&As.

In this session, Matt responds to my latest inquisition on such topics as the wild and whacky game two, Tyler Seguin’s coming out party (and the Seguinista Revolution!), Patrice Bergeron’s eventual (impending?) return, Nathan Horton and some dumb-dumb penalties and much, much more. (I’m just glad I got to my counterpart here before he was exposed to this lovely Florida air. It does strange things to those Northerners, you know…)

***

JJ: I usually try to come across as at least moderately eloquent in my writing - even if that is merely in asking questions, as it is here. However, after hitting you with a “What the hell happened…”-type question after game one, try as I may, I can’t get away from a similar inquiry after that wild game two!

A six-goal second period, 11 tallies in total, a Tyler Seguin explosion, bonehead penalties… It all leads me to, once again… What the hell happened here?

MK: It’s the Seguinista Revolution and all we can do is join them or go home. By now you know how the Bruins have been holding this kid back and he would’ve scored 400 goals this season if he got the 40 minutes per night of ice time he deserves.

But seriously, what happened is the worst defensive performance by a Bruins team under Claude Julien definitely in a win, and maybe ever. Other than Dennis Seidenberg, the Bruins have five pylons out there and Tim Thomas was up to the task. Dwayne Roloson, on the other hand, wasn’t able to handle a full does of Seguin, or Michael Ryder, or Nathan Horton.

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The Bear’s Been Poked: How Will Boston Respond? (Plus, Thoughts on Potential Relocation for Atlanta)

With a convincing 5-2 game one victory, the Tampa Bay Lightning took the early edge in the Eastern Conference Final over the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

The Bolts outscored, outhustled, outcoached and just about outeverythinged the Bs in their own barn in the series opener, swinging things in their favor early, welcoming the latest wave of converted non-believers to the bandwagon and inching, albeit slightly, ever closer to playing for the Stanley Cup.

But everyone in Tampa’s camp will have tossed that aside in approaching game two, recognizing (as they have all season) that their success in game one was just one game and further buying into head coach Guy Boucher’s belief that the playoffs are about desperation and not momentum.

So, after putting the home team in a 1-0 series hole and visibly frustrating Boston in doing so, the Lightning will have to find a way tonight to match the desperation level of what should be the more desperate team. Though they have done it before (against Montreal in round one), the Bruins do not want to face the arduous task of battling back from a 2-0 deficit. Not against a relentless Tampa Bay squad that will then smell familiar blood, fresh off a semifinal sweep of the Washington Capitals.

Thus, as the Lightning do, expect Boston to come out storming.

After all, the Bolts poked the bear, as they say (or, in this case, the bears). And you’re not supposed to do that, so we’re told.

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Filed in: Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

He Asked, I Answered (ECF Vol. 2): On Impact of Roloson/Brewer, Hedman vs Lucic & Pregame Traditions

Throughout the Eastern Conference Final, Matt Kalman of TheBruinsBlog.net and I will be providing some insight from our respective sides with reaction to each game result and a look to what’s ahead via a series of Q&As.

Here’s our latest back-and-forth, my responses to his questions on the impact of Dwayne Roloson and Eric Brewer on the Lightning, the Hedman vs. Lucic/Horton vs. Moore exchange at the end of game one, Tampa pregame traditions and more.

***

MK: Wow, as you wrote in your questions to me, the Lightning really did dominate Game 1. I can’t say I’m that surprised, considering the Bruins tendency to get out of the gates slow in series and in games, and the fact that we both expected the Lightning to pester the Bruins with their forecheck. That they hardly used the 1-3-1 is only mildly surprising.

As I mentioned to you on Twitter, I am a full-blown converter to the House of Hedman after just watching the first two periods of Game 1. Victor Hedman seems like he’s always in position, he uses his reach, he puts his body on the line to stop pucks and hits like a ton of bricks.

In fact, the entire D corps – minus Tyler Seguin’s new butler Mike Lundin – was really sound. There’s so much talk about Dwayne Roloson but how about Eric Brewer’s value to this team? Would the Lightning be here without that guy? (A guy who I wanted the Bruins to consider ahead of Tomas Kaberle along with three or four other guys, but I digress…)

JJ: First of all, I can’t tell you how relieving it is for you to at least only categorize the non-exclusive employment of the 1-3-1 as a “mild” surprise. That shows you allowed for some variation to occur, which gives you roughly 237 points more than the Versus crew on my scorecard, as they showed their collective arse a little after game one, in seeming shocked at some aggression from the Tampa forecheck. As head coach Guy Boucher reminded the masses postgame, sometimes they use it in full force, sometimes they don’t. It’s a staple of the system and a comfortable fallback, for sure, but it can also be a situational strategy.

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Filed in: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

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