by Jon Jordan on 05/22/11 at 11:47 PM ET
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.
I honestly can’t get a read on how these games are going to go at all. No individuals can seem to put together strong consecutive games and obviously every game has featured its own unique flow and style. There’s only thing I know for certain: That we both picked this series to go seven and we’re looking pretty good for that right now.
JJ: On the Lightning side of things, defensemen Brett Clark and Victor Hedman had some hefty struggles in this one, much of which won’t get a lot of attention, with the Bolts coming back to win. Instead, I expect a re-hashing of criticism directed toward Bruins blueliner Tomas Kaberle, as Sean Bergenheim’s game-tying goal came as a direct result of a Kaberle turnover behind the Boston cage.
That goal left Kaberle and the Bruins dejected and was an inexcusable mistake at a critical point in the game. After improving significantly, in my opinion anyway, in games two and three, I thought Kaberle on more than just that play was downright bad again. Do you agree?
Also, we’re not talking about the standard Kaberle complaint here about his offense and presence on the power play and his hesitance to shoot so much as we are defensive lapses. What is he doing that is leading to repeated turnovers and the kind of gaffes on D that a team just can’t have in the postseason?
MK: The Kaberle Era looked like it might hit some sunshine but, much like the weather here in New England, that was just giant warm-weather tease. Yes, Game 2 and 3 Kaberle looked like at least a respectable defenseman. That’s how low our standards are for him now respectable is acceptable. Well, he fooled us all.
I joked during the game that I wanted to go back in time and delete my blog post on his improved play. He looked lost in Game 4, not just on the tying goal but on the winning goal. His first instinct after the puck was turned over was to basically go to the front of the net and pray for the puck to hit him rather than picking up a man. He didn’t do Thomas any favors. Plus, the Bruins had to shuffle D pairs during the game to keep Kaberle away from anyone that might make him more of a risk.
And while the Bruins don’t want us to heap all the power-play blame on Kaberle, I still put a lot of the fault for those two missed opportunities early in the second period on his shoulders. If he’s going to be a defensive liability, then he has to produce at the other end. Again, it’s not about goals. It’s about momentum and pressure. He looked like he was skating into a wall on the break-ins and the Bruins really did nothing but give the Lightning life during those man-advantages.
JJ: You gave praise to the local Tampa media for selecting Ryan Malone as game four’s first star. In a previous Q&A session, you asked about whether or not the Lightning would ever start throwing some checks around here. Bugsy led the way to that end, beginning with a big hit on Zdeno Chara, who coughed up the puck and watched as Simon Gagne fed Teddy Purcell to start the comeback, getting the Bolts on the board.
Was that the kind of physical play you were alluding to with your snarky wondering aloud?
Seemed to work, that’s all…
MK: Hell yeah that’s what I was talking about. And how impressive was it that the hit came from Malone? I was starting to wonder if he still played that way, as in the way he played when he was with Pittsburgh and eventually cashed in with that free-agent deal with the Lightning.
That guy’s the type of player every team wants in its dressing room. Am I right? And he was a man possessed throughout the game. The Bruins could have used a little bit of his aggressiveness over those final 40 minutes.
You can’t give Bergenheim enough credit for his strip of Kaberle as well. Even he couldn’t have expected it was going to be that easy to take the puck away, nor could he have thought as he skated toward Kaberle that the puck-moving defenseman was actually going to become a puck-holding-until-I’m-hit defenseman.
From the start of the second period on, the Lightning actually looked a lot like the Bruins with the physical play by Malone, Bergenheim, Mattias Ohlund and Eric Brewer. We talked at the game about how if the Lightning pick up their physical play, it might cost them because teams that aren’t used to playing on the edge often cross the line. Instead, the Lightning played the role to a tee with desperation but enough control that they stayed out of the box.
I’d have to imagine the Lightning have finally figured out that aggression is the way to beat the Bruins. No more of this sit-back stuff. Obviously, it’s hard to play as desperate as when you’re in danger of losing both your home-ice games and fall behind in a series 3-1. And the Bruins should be much better going forward than they were in the final 40 minutes of Game 4. But even if the Lightning’s winning formula in that game was a little different than they’re used to, they have to try to use that formula again in Game 5 I would think, anyway.
And yes, I was impressed by the astute Lightning media contingent recognizing Malone for his efforts. Now, if we could figure out how the stats crew would give its own player six giveaways over just two periods of play… [JJ Note #2: You reference Clark in game three here… At the time, I was with you. Six giveaways in, at one point, 10 minutes or so of ice time seemed a bit much. But, man, has he ever been bad! So, who knows???]
Stick around for my latest round of answers to Matt’s questions, posted in their entirety at TheBruinsBlog.net and linked here, sometime tomorrow morning.
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