Thursday, May 19, 2011

Eastern Conference Finals - Game Three

Bruins head coach Claude Julien appeared to receive more attention on Tyler Seguin's performance in game two than Seguin himself. The questions ran rampant through the media during the past two days. The two main questions that were interesting were as follows: "How come the Bruins coaches did not send Seguin down to the minor leagues to play" and "Why did Julien wait so long to play him?"

I can answer both of those questions pretty straight forward. The Bruins front office could not send the kid down to the minors because his entry contract prohibited him from playing in the minors. He was only allowed to play for the Bruins and if not, he was forced to be a healthy scratch. As far as the second question, that could be answered with two responses. First of all, where are the Bruins now? They are in the Eastern Conference finals, a spot they have not reached for 19 years. I would say that they did pretty good without him. That gave him more time to ease into a situation where he can further develop his game and be called upon when needed. Also, center Patrice Bergeron was forced to miss two games with a concussion. Under that unfortunate circumstance, Seguin got his chance and he made the most of it.

Speaking of Bergeron, the B's star player returned to action tonight. Bergeron plays on the second line, he is the leading face-off man, he plays on the power play, and he is the team's most effective penalty-killing forward. The biggest concern heading into tonight's game was if Bergeron would still be handling all of those duties. Regardless, someone had to be a healthy scratch and that someone was Shawn Thornton. The Bruins tough guy acknowledged before the game that this kind of stuff happens all the time and it is part of the sport. Rich Peverley took his spot on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille.

The game started similar to Tuesday night's game which was with a quick goal. Although this time it was Boston who scored it. David Krejci scored his seventh playoff goal when Milan Lucic sent a nice pass across the offensive zone to Krejci who backhanded it home. Towards the end of the period, Krejci was on the receiving end of a vicious hit by Marc-Andre Bergeron (TB). It was not a dirty hit but it certainly sent him for a loop. The Bruins seemed to be much more disciplined on the defensive side of the puck in the first period. They only allowed 10 shots on goal and that number is slightly deceptive because only two of them were solid scoring chances for Tampa Bay. Boston had the lead after the first 20 minutes by a score of 1-0.

If you have been watching this series you would know that for both teams it has been an offensive spectacle (18 total goals in two games). Well in the second period, both teams started to play like the two best defensive teams in the playoffs (which they are statistically as a matter of fact). Boston out-shot Tampa Bay 12-6 in the period and they also led their opposition in face-offs won through two periods (25-19). Both teams each had two power play opportunities but neither team was able to capitalize on the man advantage. After two periods, the Bruins still held on to that one goal lead.

The third period was shockingly similar to the second period for both teams. They each had their scoring chances and they each had solid goaltending. Andrew Ference* gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead with a slap shot that slid past Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson. The play started with Milan Lucic hustling to keep the puck in the zone towards the end of a shift. His effort did not show up on the stat sheet, but without his effort that goal would not have happened. This was also a guy who missed the morning skate as well. Boston held on to win game three by a score of 2-0. This is how Bruins hockey is supposed to look like: a low scoring game with solid defending and clutch goaltending. Boston leads the series 2-1 and game four will be Saturday afternoon.

*According to ESPN, Tyler Seguin was credited with the second goal. Upon review, they will update it at a later time because Ference was clearly the last Bruin to touch the puck before it went into the goal.

Gold Star: Tim Thomas: (31 saves on 31 shots, 1.000 save percentage, 2nd career playoff shutout).

Black Star: Brad Marchand...he was relatively quite tonight and the entire series thus far. He clearly is used to playing with Patrice Bergeron. It might take him a game or two before he returns to his old form.

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