by Jon Jordan on 05/13/11 at 10:03 AM ET
After launching our Eastern Conference Final allied coverage with an in-depth series preview on Tuesday, Matt Kalman of TheBruinsBlog.net stepped up yesterday to lead off our ongoing series of Q&As that will hit before and/or after each game between the Lightning and Bruins.
Today, my first set of responses to his questions runs in its entirety over at his site. Here’s a sneak peek at that line of questioning:
MK: Before I get started, Jon, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to do this little collaboration during the Eastern Conference Final. It’s been 19 years since the Bruins made it this far and I know my readers are as eager to know more about Tampa Bay as they are to read about their hometown team.
JJ: My pleasure, Matt - and likewise to you. Collaborating with other writers, whose work I hold in the highest regard, is something I always look forward to. The readers seem to appreciate the opposing perspective, as do I.
For this particular series, with a shot at playing for the Cup on the line, the intensity level is going to be through the roof. Perhaps our banter back and forth will catch a little of that fire. (Careful, though. I come in elbows-up!) However it all turns out, hopefully, the masses will come away entertained and informed…
MK: So, here are three questions for you before this series finally gets started Saturday:
I’ve been watching Guy Boucher’s daily press conferences. I am convinced that he’s a Bond villain with the ability to mind control. And it’s not just because of the scar. He looks at every questioner with such intensity and his stare looks like it could burn a hole in you. But seriously, I love how the guy listens to every question, thinks about his answer and then answers the inquiry directly. He doesn’t seem to have an agenda. I can tell that same mentality works with his players. But how is Boucher with in-game coaching? Do you expect him to match up any lines or D pairs against the Bruins? What about all the in-game line changes? What’s that all about and what are some likely changes we’ll see?
JJ: Listening to Coach Boucher respond to questions this season, or just to talk about hockey in general, has been a pleasure. And you’re spot-on, in terms of the intensity in his eyes. His fervor for the game is evident in that look and in every word he speaks. But, if you think there’s fire in his eyes when he’s looking back at one of us media hacks who has just asked him to explain this player’s mistake or that or why the power play is working, or not, or whatever, that look pales in comparison to the soul-clutching stares he has shot from the bench during games this season. Whether the target in his sights at those times is a player or an official, I’m often caught wondering if he might actually be able to fire laser beams from his pupils or explode one’s heart with his thoughts. In short, intense doesn’t even begin to describe this man.
At the same time, if it makes any sense, he keeps a pretty even keel, overall. The admirable temperance between unrivaled intensity and levelheadedness that Boucher has mastered for himself (and can seemingly flip a switch from one to the other) may actually be his strongest suit as a coach and, perhaps, the most impactful quality that he has passed along to his team. The Lightning, collectively, have adopted that intangible and it has translated to success, for the most part, all season long. As Boucher is with a question from a reporter, or a strategy in practice, or a lesson in a meeting, or the ebbs and flows of an individual game, the Bolts are focused on the task at hand until its completion. And then, quite simply, it’s onto the next one…
As far as in-game coaching goes, I think a lot of the same applies, though the Lightning know that what suits them best is a strict adherence to Boucher’s 1-3-1 system. The rare times during which they strayed this year are reflected in the sporadic lulls you’ll see in looking back at the regular season results and the postseason “training wheels” period of the Pittsburgh series that preceded their comeback from a 3-1 deficit. But they learn from their mistakes (and quickly, if necessary, as seen against the Penguins) and it’s all paying dividends now. So, you won’t be seeing much in the way of a variance in strategy from Boucher’s Bolts. Sticking with what works, though it sounds so simple, is the bottom line here and I think now, more than ever, Tampa Bay gets that.
Regarding matchups, I expect we’ll see a lot of Mattias Ohlund and Eric Brewer in a shutdown role against the Lucic-Krejci-Horton line, as we did against Ovechkin and company in the Tampa/Washington series. That said, if another line should step up, posing a greater offensive threat in Boucher’s eyes, we could certainly see a switch there. As for line-matching, if any forward unit is going to get a specific assignment with the intent of neutralizing the other side, it would be a line centered by former Bruin farmhand Nate Thompson, who has become an all-around stalwart for the Lightning and the epitome of a Boucher-type player (so much so, that his teammates referred to him as “Nate Boucher” for a time). Thompson will either plug in alongside Sean Bergenheim and Dominic Moore or will skate with Adam Hall in another line combination (sometimes with captain Vincent Lecavalier, even) in the many mixes of Boucher’s forward lines.
And on that note, as I said in our series preview, don’t expect the same lines to stick throughout entire games with this Lightning squad. Sometimes, you’ll see a merger of the top two lines to create a “super” line of sorts, with Lecavalier joining Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. Steve Downie has seen a lot of time with Bergenheim and Moore in these playoffs, adding some spunk and a little more offensive potential (to great effect to boot) to that unit than they might have with Thompson, who makes it more of a two-way trio. Teddy Purcell has jumped from line to line a bit in the postseason, tallying 11 points in total. Ryan Malone can either grind with the muckers (and muck with the grinders) if need be or fit in somewhere in the top-six. And let’s not forget the return of Simon Gagne, who missed the final three games of the Washington series, as a bit of an X-factor here. For the most part, there are situational elements that will influence what shape Tampa Bay’s forward lines take.
But, again, I wouldn’t get used to too awful much here…
For the rest of my answers to Matt’s first set of burning questions, hop on over to TheBruinsBlog.net and kick around there for a bit afterwards for more coverage of the Eastern Conference finalist Bruins.
And remember, you can follow Matt on Twitter as well @TheBruinsBlog.
I’ll be checking in again before puck drop tomorrow night.
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