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We wouldn’t have it any other way…
The Tampa Bay Lighting forced a Game 7 against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals following their 5-4 victory Wednesday night. The Bruins penalty kill was victimized three times by the vaunted Tampa Bay attack. Boston fell behind instantaneously on a Teddy Purcell blast off a faceoff; however, the Black & Gold’s resilency shined again as the team not only countered, but took a 2-1 advantage going into the second period off goals from Milan Lucic and David Krejci.
Boston maintained momentum, controlling possession and inflicting their style of play on the Lightning, until a Dennis Seidenberg cross-checking penalty 7 minutes into the second frame. Fifteen seconds later, Martin St. Louis punched in a loose puck in front of Tim Thomas. Six minutes later, following a questionable interference call on Rich Peverley, Purcell found the back of the net again, giving the Lightning a lead they would never concede.
The Bruins gave up yet another power play goal in the first minute of the third period from a rocket off the stick of Steven Stamkos. At the time, the lead seemed insurmountible as the deficit was now augmented to two, at 4-2. David Krejci drove home a power-play goal from a magnficent feed by line-mate Nathan Horton that breathed life into the Boston bench. This was nullified by a Martin St. Louis score on a odd-man rush less than a minute later, re-establishing Tampa Bay’s two goal lead at 5-3.
Even though the Versus broadcasting team felt that was a back-breaking blow, Boston inched closer, scoring four minutes later to pull within one goal. Despite some fortuitous opportunities in the last 5 minutes, the Bruins frantic efforts were truncated as the clock ran out, forcing a Game 7 in Boston Friday night.
(out of 10)
Tim Thomas - 5 - Thomas certainly was not at fault on the first Purcell drive, 30 seconds into the contest. Nor was he culpable on either of the St. Louis two goals or the Stamkos bomb from the bottom of the circle, BUT in a Game 6 – on the road – Thomas has to be counted on to stop the second Purcell goal that gave the Lightning a lead it would never concede. His body was in position, and he actually caught a piece of the drive, which is presumably why he was shown slamming his stick against the ice in frustration. It’s tough to rate the Vezina Trophy candidate this low, but that goal proved to be the difference in the game.
Johnny Boychuk - 4 - Boychuk had an up and down night. He was exposed not getting to a loose puck behind the net when he had position, which gave Tampa Bay an early opportunity. However, he thwarted a sure goal while on the penalty kill before St. Louis knocked home the score to even things up moments later, mid-way through the second period. Finally, it was Boychuk’s deep pinch - following the second Krejci goal to bring the Bruins within 1 with plenty of time left – that directly led to the odd-man rush resulting in a 5-3 Lightning advantage. Tough to kill Johnny B on that circumstance, because I understand he was trying to help his team maintain the momentary burst they obtained. And I have no doubt he was under direction to pinch there.
Zdeno Chara - 7 - Big Z was ubiquitous as ever in this contest. He logged his usual team-high 30 minutes of ice time, took up space, did dirty work, and embracedhis new role as screener in front on the power play, which was implemented more in Game 6. A strong performance for the B’s captain.
Andrew Ference - 3 - The 10-year veteran was penalized in the final minute of the second period for cross-checking on a scrum in front of the net. In his defense, the puck was loose and he was just trying to impose his physicality. The penalty led to the third Tampa Bay power-play goal, and more importantly the first two-goal lead of the game. This made any dreams of a comeback that more daunting. Ference was also the lone defender back on the second St. Louis goal. Thomas decided to stay with Steve Downie on the play, ultimately Ference had to do better to either eliminate Downie or the goal-scorer, St. Louis.
Tomas Kaberle - 4 -Kaberle continued his lackluster playoff performance. He’s the Glen Davis of hockey – a player who cost himself millions of dollars in free agency due to short-comings in the postseason. He did get two assists on Krejci’s power-play goal and subsequent goal later in the period, but those were mostly set-up by Horton and Lucic respectively.
Adam McQuaid - 4 -McQuaid’s effort was standard. Nothing spectacular, but nothing damaging.
Dennis Seidenberg - 5 -The German-born defenseman had a volatile night, much like Boychuk. His penalty mid-way through the second period proved to be the beginning of the end for Boston. The team had momentum and the lead. Both the intangible (momentum) and the tangible (the lead) were lost 15 seconds after Seidenberg went to the sin-bin. He also had issues handling the puck on power-plays at the blueline sans some nice shots he put on net. To his credit, Seidenberg did come back to make a great play, saving a goal by preventing Stamkos from getting to a loose puck by putting his skate over it to help freeze play.
Nathan Horton - 7 – Horton followed suit with the rest of his line-mates (Lucic and Krejci). He didn’t score, but was the table-setter. First, he set up the Milan Lucic goal. Then, the 25-year old knifed a perfect pass through the crease and traffic right on his centerman David Krejci’s, stick. Crisp precision.
Michael Ryder - 4 – Ryder did what he always does in the playoffs. He skated arduously, made some head-scratching decisions with possession, and kept you on the edge of your seat every time the puck squirted towards him because of his potent shot. I’ve written this before, but it’s worth reiterating, Ryder is well on his way to winning the JD Drew Memorial Award given to a player who is terrible during the season but surprises you with a strong post-season showing.
Milan Lucic - 9 – Possibly the winger’s strongest game in his still nascent career. You could tell Lucic was on early in the game. He fired two early wrist shots on Dwayne Roloson, drew an early penalty (and a later penalty as well), and finally tied the game in the first period beating Roloson glove side. Lucic, as well as Horton and Krejci, has disappeared for stretches this post-season, but Wednesday night was a paradigm of how fans imagined his career would turn out once he realizes his full potential. It’s nice to see it come to fruition, even if it’s only in glimpses.
Brad Marchand - 5 – The pesty 22 year-old winger played up to his agitator-with-second-line skill level of play. He showed some chicanery with his stick-work and was a nuisance to the adversary. Unfortunately, he did not have the awareness to look for the trailing Patrice Bergeron on an odd-man rush, instead electing to fire a puck well high and wide.
Mark Recchi – 3 – I don’t get it. I mean, I get that Recchi’s a team leader that won’t make a crucial mistake. That’s all fair. His being on the ice is an incentive, but he should not be on the second power play unit. Sorry. I only speak in truth’s and the thought process behind that unit is misconstrued. The fact that Peverley takes Recchi’s place on the second line in crunch time vindicates that he should be delegated to the third or fourth line on a fixed basis. This is something I’ve written for a week now, and it’s pissing me off. If coach Claude Julien decides Recchi isn’t effective enough to play on the second line when the game is on the line, why have him out there with that line in the first place?
Daniel Paille - 6 – Paille delivered a nifty pass on David Krejci’s first goal. He was active, smart about his responsibilities, and productive. Everything you want and more from a fourth line winger.
Rich Peverley - 5 -Peverley’s speed was a nice factor and complement to Marchand’s continuous carping and Bergeron’s two-way play in his limited time with the second-line. Ugh, wouldn’t it be nice to see him with a more significant role? Though, in fairness, he did receive a dubious penalty, which added to the Bruins struggles.
Tyler Seguin - 4 – A weird game for the heralded 19-year old rookie. He was demoted to the fourth line to start the game, but showed that same fiery skating and forechecking ability that gained him notoriety in Game 1. The coaching staff noticed Seguin’s active legs, and promptly moved him up to the third line. Frankly, it would be nice to for The Kid to get a bump up to the second power-play unit. Can’t hurt.
Chris Kelly - 4 - Kelly played the type of two-way hockey you’d expect from him. The B’s third-line center was abused- after Patrice Bergeron was thrown out for a false start - by Vinny Lecavalier in the faceoff circle, which gave Purcell a one-timer opportunity he capitalized on 30 seconds into the contest. Other than that, Kelly was steady. Steady in Game 6 does not suffice, though.
David Krejci - 10 - A virtuoso performance for the top-line center. Three goals, adroit stick-handling, and superior vision. If his line plays this way on Friday, I feel the rest of the squad will follow suit.
Gregory Campell - N/A – Campell’s 7 minutes of ice time didn’t warrant a rating.
Patrice Bergeron – 2 - The B’s needed something more from the assistant captain. A non-factor. His play was not palpable whatsoever. He didn’t do anything deleterious to his team’s cause, but didn’t do anything for it either.