Tag:2011 Bruins-Lightning
Posted on: May 27, 2011 11:42 pm
Edited on: May 28, 2011 8:55 am

Lightning have decisions to make to keep cracking

Hats off to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You'd be hard pressed to find anybody before the season that saw this coming. It was clear they were getting better, and the vibe around the organization improved dramatically with the addition of Steve Yzerman to the front office, but Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals? That's exceeding expectations.

But here's the funny part. You look at this team and you don't see a group of over-achievers. It was a rapid improvement, but you don't get the sense this was a fluke. No, the Lightning are that good.

The question now becomes, will they be able to stay this good?

This offseason, Stevie Y will have his work cut out for him. For starters, there is the issue of Steven Stamkos. The budding superstar is a restricted free agent this year and you better believe there will be teams sending offer sheets his way if the two sides can't work out a deal in the next few weeks -- you have to think a deal being reached in the next two weeks is the most likely outcome. Obviously if he goes the loss is tremendous, but if he stays, the impact will be felt elsewhere as he is due a significant pay raise.

Even with the salary cap going up next season, the Bolts won't be able to keep all of their big players on the roster. Between Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Ryan Malone, Mattias Ohlund and Pavel Kubina, that's $30 million, or roughly half of next season's salary cap, depending on the final cap number.

In addition to Stamkos, one of the team's playoff Stars, Teddy Purcell, will also be a restricted free agent while the biggest playoff surprise of them all, Sean Bergenheim, will be unrestricted. Same goes for Simon Gagne.

With their midseason acquisition of Dwayne Roloson, the Bolts helped solve what had been a bit of a riddle for them in net. In relief of him, Mike Smith was very solid. Both of them, too, are scheduled to hit the open market as unrestricted free agents. After dealing with Stamkos, that'll be the second priority, figuring out who will be minding the net.

This season, Yzerman showed a bit of a golden touch so early in his career leading the Lightning, so we'll learn further this offseason if he's as good as gold. The Lightning still have a solid foundation, but seeing if he can lock up the franchise cornerstone and getting the players to fit the mold will be something worth watching in the coming months. The good news is the team does start the offseason with a little bit of room under the current cap.

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: May 24, 2011 3:28 pm
Edited on: May 24, 2011 9:22 pm

Lightning returning to Roloson for Game 6

Guy Boucher's goalie flip-flop continues as the Lightning coach announced he will return to Dwayne Roloson in net for Game 6

Since being acquired midseason from the Islanders, Roloson has been the Lightning's No. 1 netminder. Boucher credited the 41-year-old keeper for Tampa Bay's success and explained his thinking about Mike Smith's Game 5 start.

"He was the guy that took us here and that's how I felt before last game," Boucher said of Roloson. "I felt like it was time to give him a little breather."

Roloson had started the first 15 of the Lightning's playoff games, but he has now had  the last five-plus periods off. Roloson was yanked late in the first period of Game 4 after he allowed three goals on nine Bruins shots.  Smith entered in relief and held the B's scoreless the rest of the game. That earned him a last-minute nod for Game 5, a 3-1 loss in Boston.

Smith allowed two goals on 19 shots in Game 5, but will find himself on the bench at the St. Pete Times Forum, at least for the start of  Game 6 on Wednesday night. Roloson was also yanked in Game 2.

"I felt that Smitty played really well," Boucher said. "So it's a perfect situation to put Smitty in. If something were to go wrong in the previous game, put a new goaltender in for a do-or-die, I don't think it would have been a good moment for anybody."

-- Brian Stubits

Photo: Getty Images

Posted on: May 22, 2011 10:43 pm

Game 5: Thomas, B's need to back goalie guarantee

Tim Thomas only spent a few days in Tampa for Games 3 and 4, but he did enough things to make it seem like the work of weeks on site.

The latest revelation is the Bruins goalie making a proclamation Saturday evening: “we’re going to win.”

Short, sweet and to the point, but Joe Namath it isn't. Nobody would expect for Thomas to say anything different. If you're a Bruins fan, you better hope your goaltender is thinking that way. Honestly, it's hardly worth batting an eye over.

Mark Recchi agrees.

"That's great he believes in it," Recchi said. "You've got to believe in the dressing room, and you've got to believe you're going to win the series."

But everything that happened while in Tampa isn't staying in Tampa, instead adding up to an eventful few days.

First there was the second career shutout in Game 3's 2-0 win, stopping all 31 shots the Lightning threw against him. It was sort of all down hill from there.

After that shutout, Thomas got himself into a little hot water. Well, we should say others got Thomas into a little trouble and nobody ever really came out to simmer the situation.

Thomas said following Game 3 that "I was able to play more under control tonight, but a lot of that had to do with ... we played the way that I'm used to. I felt comfortable in a game like that."

That last line, the one about feeling comfortable, is the culprit here. It was twisted into Thomas saying the Lightning are easy to play against. At least, that's how Lightning players and coach Guy Boucher took it.

"Well, some of the players talked a lot about it," Boucher said after Game 4. "He did say that it was an easy game to play against us last game. And obviously a lot of the guys were very fired up for this game. Certainly, I did hear it in the locker room, for sure."

Then there was Ryan Malone.

"We're expecting seven games, and last game when their goalie says he has an easy game, that's our job to make sure we get in there, take his eyes away, and make it hard on him."

So whether or not that was the intent of Thomas comment -- sounded more like praise of his defensemen than anything to me -- it was taken by the Lightning as bulletin-board material.

And now he's given them some more. After listening to Malone and Teddy Purcell after the game, seeing the wry smiles on their faces and the same on Boucher's when talking about Thomas' remark, you know Tampa Bay will use this latest as motivation. And they should. Whatever tools you can use in the playoffs to pull out every ounce of energy, you take it. Boucher is already working on it.

"We might as well stay home," Boucher quipped. "It's going to cost us a lot less money. And we can go home and get some sleep and watch some movies."

Adding to the weekend was Thomas showing clear signs of frustration in Game 4. And that was before the Lightning came back to win with five unanswered goals. On multiple occasions in the first period, Thomas seemed angry, at one point throwing a punch with his blocker right at Adam Hall.

You can see the punch more clearly here.

Either way, the Bruins have to do a better job on defense, and it starts with Thomas. A goalie is many times only as good as his defensemen, but Thomas didn't do much to help his cause in Game 4. His mishandling of the puck behind his own net led to the first Tampa Bay goal of the game and got the Lightning rolling. But overall, the B's were pretty sloppy, ultimately surrendering the puck at their own blue line to set up Simon Gagne's game-winner.

But the Lightning will be charged up for Game 5, especially now with some extra motivation, and they have plenty of electric talent to begin with. Ultimately it's up to Thomas to shut them down to move Boston within one win of the Stanley Cup Finals.

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: May 22, 2011 4:08 pm
Edited on: May 22, 2011 9:30 pm

Tampa fans make human lightning bolt at airport

Who says people don't care about hockey in the South?

OK, a lot of people. And it's fair. But the fans in Tampa clearly have been caught up in playoff fever.

Around 800 fans showed up at the Tampa airport on Sunday morning to see the team off as the Lightning head to Boston for Game 5. But they did more than just show up. They made themselves a human lightning bolt.

The St. Pete Times Forum was packed for Game 4 and the fans were "All In" -- the team's playoff marketing slogan -- for the whole game. Even when falling down 3-0 in the first period, the crowd didn't let down much, believing in the Bolts in their eventual comeback. There clearly are passionate hockey fans in Tampa and perhaps an extended run at the contender level can keep the passion burning even when things aren't so great.

The "Be the Bolt" campaign was announced during Game 4 and was organized on Facebook. To see more pictures from the event, you can check out the event page.

-- Brian Stubits

Photo courtesy of Facebook

Posted on: May 21, 2011 6:19 pm
Edited on: May 21, 2011 6:40 pm

Bolts sticking with Roloson despite being pulled

TAMPA, Fla. -- Dwayne Roloson is a large reason why the Lightning are here, playing in the Eastern Conference finals. But backup Mike Smith is a massive reason why the series is tied at two.

After struggling to the tune of three goals surrendered in nine shots, Lightning coach Guy Boucher pulled the graybeard in favor of Smith, who was perfect in relief.

"You can never be surprised [to get put into the game]. You always have to be ready," Smith said. "It was one of those things where every turnover that we had went into the net and it wasn't because Roli didn't play well, stuff like that just happens."

In all, Smith saved each and every one of the 21 shots the Bruins put on him, including a couple of fantastic stops in the third period.

So naturally, the question next is, Who's your starter in Game 5, coach Boucher?

"We have our No. 1 goaltender. He's taken us to this place right now. And that's the reason why we're here."

As for Smith?

"Smitty has been terrific... Whenever he was asked to play since Roloson has been there, he's been terrific. I mean, he's just been terrific."

So to clarify, who's starting Game 5 in Boston?

"We just finished this game now," Boucher said. "We're happy we just beat a terrific team and were a lot harder to play against today. And Smitty was part of it and Roloson is -- it doesn't change the status."

There you have it. Roloson, who received the largest roar of all the Lightning players in the pregame introductions, is, at this point, going to be back in net on Monday.

But the leash could be shorter.

"Whenever it's time for [Smith] to help the team and try to change the momentum around, I don't hesitate," Boucher said.

-- Brian Stubits

-- Photo: Tampa Bay's Mike Smith, courtesy of US Presswire

Posted on: May 12, 2011 6:37 pm

Bergeron still sitting for B's, Seguin to fill in

As the Bruins get ready to take on Tampa Bay starting this weekend, they know they won't have Patrice Bergeron and will instead turn to a rookie.

Bergeron has been out since suffering a concussion in Game 4 against Philadelphia and has yet to assume physical activities.

"All I can say is he keeps progressing on a daily basis," coach Claude Julien said after practice on Thursday. "He hasn't been on the ice, hasn't done any of that stuff yet. We're keeping our fingers crossed that things will start being clear and more optimistic here as we keep moving forward."

He won't be back for Boston right now, but GM Peter Chiarelli admits the team will keep Bergeron's status close to the vest.

So who will fill his spot? That would be rookie Tyler Seguin. The No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft has been a healthy scratch for every game so far this postseason, but that's about to come to an end. From the Bruins blog:

“I mean, Seguin goes into a spot here right now, and we all know he’s capable of making plays, and it’s going to be his first playoff game. We’ve got to give him that opportunity to get his feet wet. And understand, when we say getting his feet wet, you’ve got to give him that opportunity,” Julien said. “He’s also got to show that he deserves to be there and deserves to stay there. And he’s well aware of that.

Now don't expect to see Seguin taking Bergeron's place on the second line, but he will get some ice time for the first time in the playoffs, a little baptism by fire being thrown in the mix starting with the conference finals. No, it's likely he'll play on the third line alongside Rich Peverley and Michael Ryder.

“I think it’s going to go well,” Peverley said. “We’ve played well together in the past and it’s about using our speed and using our assets. I think if we do a good job of getting in on the forecheck and bring a little bit of energy try to be good defensively, hopefully we can help the team a lot.”

The Bruins have had the luxury this year of bringing along Seguin at a slower pace. It was a very unique situation for a player that high in the draft to go to a team like Boston that's prepared to win now. They can thank the Maple Leafs for that. But either way, Seguin will be pushed into action now.

In 74 games this year with the Bruins, Seguin scored 11 goals and had 11 assists.

-- Brian Stubits

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com