Kukla's Korner

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.

But also expect the Bolts to find a way to counterattack whatever Boston throws at them in game two,  if for no other reason than because they always seem to, don’t they? That’s a credit to Boucher and staff in strategy and to the players in execution.

With the game one win – their eighth straight this postseason – the reality is that the Lightning are three wins away from playing for the Stanley Cup… But there is a team on the other side that still has plenty to say, as far as that goes. The Bruins will intend on beginning to make that statement tonight, while the Bolts will continue to insist that one win is just one win and take things as they come.

Nonetheless, they’ve pulled ahead in this penultimate series and seem to have it all going for them right now.

But they have officially poked the bear and bears tend to get angry when that happens.

Whether or not that translates to success for the Bruins remains to be seen.

***

Relocation sucks. Period.

I can’t say that I’ve ever gone through it, personally, with any team to which I’ve ever pledged any allegiance but I think most sports fans would admit that what was once “their” franchise uprooting and calling a new town home is a worst nightmare scenario (relatively speaking, of course).

That said, I feel legitimate sympathy for fans of the Atlanta Thrashers amid substantial rumblings of a looming relocation to Winnipeg. With such a move, hockey at all levels in a major American city will suffer and that’s a real downer for local youngsters who may just be getting involved in the sport. It’s also a failure for the National Hockey League as a whole. Having given Atlanta its second crack at NHL membership and watching that slip away with very little of which to be proud in a decade of mediocrity for the Thrashers, the league can’t look at it any other way.

But it is awfully sad for the city and for fans of the team (sporadic as they may be in the area) because this would be an irreversible conclusion. They’d never get a third chance at a NHL franchise.

And that hurts.

It will hurt more if this team fulfills some of the potential it showed at times last season somewhere down the road as the Winnipeg Whatevers or the Manitoba Moose(s).

I’d say the same about Phoenix (and was prepared to do so until recently) or any other organization facing relocation as an unavoidable resort.

You’ll hear jokes about attendance and complaints about arena location and so on and so forth and some will argue that Atlanta should never have been granted another franchise in the first place. To be honest, some of that will make a lot of sense.

But if the Thrashers do move, there are a significant number of people that will be left heartbroken.

And I can’t help but feel for them…

***

The collaboration turns in a different direction this afternoon, as TheBruinsBlog.net’s Matt Kalman and I will each be a guest of Jim “Boomer” Gordon on SiriusXM NHL Home Ice this afternoon around 3:05 PM to help preview tonight’s game two tilt between the Lightning and Bruins. Tune in for what should be an enjoyable exchange.

And look forward to further reaction to tonight’s result from Matt and I in our latest Q&As that will hit our respective locales late tonight or early tomorrow.

JJ
jj@kuklaskorner.com
JJ on Twitter

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

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