Kukla's Korner

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.

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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.

Pat on the back to the Bolts for getting one over on the B’s in the early going and a hearty “Tsk, tsk” Boston’s way for not being prepared for what should have been a predictable wrinkle.

Glad you’re seeing some promise in Hedman. He’s really come a long way. And I don’t consider myself going out on a limb when I call him a budding perennial All-Star. He’s that good – and he’s 20. Look out down the road. (But I am a bit suspicious, my friend, that you may be attempting to put the horns on No. 77 with your praise here…) By the way, speaking of No. 77, did you know that Hedman chose the number (at least in part) out of respect for some guy named Raymond Bourque?

As for Brewer, you hit a fine point in considering him alongside all the talk about Roloson. Those two together have taken Steve Yzerman a long way toward his status as a GM of the Year finalist. And each has brought to his respective position for this team what can be summed up in one simple word: Stability.

It may be more easily seen in Roloson’s case, especially since, when he was acquired on New Year’s Day, the one glaring weakness in this Lightning team was its goaltending. Had things continued down the path paved at that time by Dan Ellis and Mike Smith, at best, their playoff presence would have been littered with question marks. Sure, either Ellis or Smith could get hot, in theory, but neither possesses the steady track record of Roloson, who has proven to be every bit the battler as advertised prior to his arrival. He had a blip or two on the radar early on in this run but his body of work, as a whole has been absolutely stellar. Start with that .940+ save percentage – and maybe end there as well.

But you asked more specifically about Brewer, didn’t you?

Same end result as Roloson, really, only less flashing-neon-sign-in-the-night obvious. And that’s kind of the point. Brewer gets top line match-ups, more ice time than anyone and primo responsibility in all situations. And he does the job, fanfare or not, which fits this team perfectly – all for the greater good, doesn’t matter who scores, or who does what, as long as the end result is as intended.

But a goaltender acquired with the intent of having him take over as a number one will do just that, if things work out as hoped, while people take notice, almost by default.

What Eric Brewer has done is less about what he brings to the team as an individual than it is about what he has done for the defense corps as a whole. Eating up the kind of minutes he has to this point (26-plus per game) has lessened the load on all, from d-men like the young Hedman to a seasoned veteran like Mattias Ohlund and on down the list. Brewer’s ability and experience has made the learning curve for those in need more manageable and the pressure on others heavily depended upon far less.

Talk about a perfect find…

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For the rest of our most recent exchange, head on over to TheBruinsBlog.net, where you can also find the rest of Matt’s extensive coverage of the series as well.

JJ
jj@kuklaskorner.com
JJ on Twitter

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

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