Kukla's Korner

Opposing Viewpoint: Kalman on Sloppy Game 6, Krejci’s Hatter, Chara up Front on the PP & Game 7 Pick

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 installment, Matt touches on the sloppiness of Game 6, David Krejci’s hat trick in a losing effort, the effectiveness of Zdeno Chara up front on the Bruins’ power play and gives an updated prediction for tonight’s Game 7.

***

JJ: Well, so… Now, we’ve had a Game 1 where… Oh, hell… Never mind. We can’t retread that every time.

But seriously, each of these games has had its own unique sets of twists and turns and nothing at all in this series has ever been able to be said with anything even resembling a real sense of certainty.

Well, except for the fact that you and I were each fairly certain from the start that this series would be going seven games. Congrats on that, my friend - and now we shall see who absolutely nailed this one.

But what about this one that has now come and gone? What is your lasting impression of a game that was a little bit like Game 2, where each team had far more than its fair share of turnovers? The two remaining teams in the Eastern Conference just aren’t supposed to look as sloppy as these two have for stretches this series and I’m starting to think that the styles of the games of Boston and Tampa Bay are like sand in the bathing suits of the other. (And even though you probably don’t get to the beach much up your way, I’m sure you can understand that such a dilemma makes for quite the uncomfortable end result.)

MK: Well we all knew – heck, a person that never saw hockey before in his life could tell you – that if the Bruins’ season went on long enough, one of two things would happen: the power play would explode in a hail of goals, or bite the Bruins in the butt…

Game 6 was all about the latter. Sure, they scored once in five opportunities, which is a decent percentage in general and especially for a team with a single-digit success percentage in the postseason. But when granted some early power plays and a chance to take control of the game, the Bruins did what they usually do. They passed the puck around, they chased it down to their own end and barely made the Lightning work for their kills. After one power play, I wrote in my notebook: “pathetic.” That’s what the power play has been all year and that’s what killed the Bruins in Game 6.

I thought the officiating was fine. There were bad calls both ways and both teams drew calls with embellishment. When it came down to it, though, the Lightning’s immense skill advantage took advantage and the Bruins continued to act as though a power play is a chance to take two minutes off the clock. At least they didn’t give up a shorthanded goal.

JJ: What was your assessment of the Bruins as a whole? I mean, the end result was merely a one-goal decision for the Lightning and Boston had some chances to knot things up down the stretch but David Krejci was a one-man show Wednesday night. Without him, well… you know…

MK: Five-on-five, the Bruins were fantastic and Game 6 might’ve been the best game of the playoffs for Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton together. I still can’t believe they didn’t tie the game during that 90-second shift where the Lightning looked like a kids team try to steal the puck from an NHL team. Dwayne Roloson got very lucky there.

The rest of the team, as you point out, skated hard but made far too many mistakes. Johnny Boychuk played as though the Steve Downie hit did more damage than he wants to let on. He was on the ice for seven of nine goals, including five goals against. What the hell is that? He was only on the ice for around 12 minutes. His partner Andrew Ference wasn’t much better. Tomas Kaberle can breathe a sigh of relief because for the first time in a while, he wasn’t the Bruins’ worst defenseman. Meanwhile, all these players stunk up the joint, yet a power-play goal or two, or an extra penalty kill here or there, and we’re talking about a different result.

JJ: As the series began, I identified Boston getting a bit too aggressive and yielding Tampa Bay power play opportunities as a potential bugaboo for the Bruins in this series. Wednesday night, three power-play tallies for the Lightning certainly took them a long way toward their win but, on the other side of things, the Bruins were only able to capitalize once with the man advantage, out of five chances.

Early in the game, Boston had their resident behemoth, Zdeno Chara, parked in front of Roloson and seemed to be generating chance after chance in that situation. Later, they went away from that strategy and didn’t look nearly as effective, in my opinion (Krejci’s second marker of the game notwithstanding). Roloson was left to swipe at Chara himself in front of his crease at times and I’m not seeing the Bolts as having much of an answer to the Boston captain’s camping out there.

Will we see this configuration from the Bruins again? And why in the world did they get away from it in the first place?

MK: I don’t think they got away from it as much as you might recall, but if they did it was probably because of the shifts before the PP and who was available to play. If the Bruins didn’t have a rested point man to fill Chara’s old spot, they might’ve needed him back there. Nonetheless, Krejci’s goal was example No. 1 why the Bruins need Chara up there. Of course, if they don’t get the puck to him more, then it’s a waste and that seems to be what’s going to happen with Kaberle and the like back on the point. This is why the Bruins were so reluctant to put him up there in the first place. This is a 5-on-5 team that just doesn’t have the skills to excel on the power play. And with Mark Recchi obviously running on fumes, at least one five-game unit is actually playing 4-on-4 out there. [JJ Note: Two things that make me happy here: One, you’re right. In hindsight, maybe Boston didn’t get away from the Chara-in-front setup as much as I may have thought they did at the time I penned the question. Still, I see that as having the potential to really trouble the Lightning because, as much as I like Victor Hedman, even with his size, he’s no match there, Eric Brewer stunk up the joint in Game 6 so who knows with him and Mattias Ohlund isn’t going to clear Chara out either. There aren’t any other options – save for maybe throwing Ryan Malone on D on the PK, since he seems to bug the snot out of ‘Big Z’. I think Boston’s got something here, if they choose to use it. And two, I’m glad you brought up Recchi. Has he played in this series? Seems to me the B’s could sure use a little pop out of Old Man River…]

JJ: Bonus question: Ok, bud. You have one chance now to go back on your original prediction of Boston in seven. Have the Bolts done enough to convert you? (And by that, of course, I mean, has Coach Boucher melted your brain into thinking as much yet?) No? Didn’t think so.

Instead, then, tell me why the Bruins will advance to the Stanley Cup Final to take on Vancouver with a win against Tampa at home on Friday night?

No pressure.

MK: Well, obviously Tim Thomas will do what he does best and bounce back from a lackluster performance with an impenetrable showing. That’ll leave it up to the Bruins to just give him a little offensive support. When they finally score the first goal of the game in overtime, they’ll have done their job. That Horton will score the goal – for the third time in OT in these playoffs – will leave Lightning fans disappointed and, of course, all wet. [JJ Note 2: Zing! Well played, sir. While this kind of ending wouldn’t leave me weeping, I suppose I would have to feel some shame, having been on Horton like stink on doo-doo all series long, as I have.]

***

Look for one more Q&A go-round with Matt and I later this morning, when my response to his Game 6 questions go up here and at TheBruinsBlog.net.

Beyond that, no matter who wins in Game 7 tonight, we’ll put the finishing touches on this collaboration this weekend, with a final look back at what went right for the Eastern Conference champions and what went wrong for whichever club falls short.

JJ
jj@kuklaskorner.com
JJ on Twitter

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

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