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Game 1, ECF: Drop it like it’s hot

May 15, 2011

Rookie Tyler Seguin takes the ice in his first NHL post-season appearance. He would be a lone bright spot in the game for the Bruins.

Last night the Bruins tumbled 5-2 to the mighty Lightning in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals. For all the talk of this being a low-scoring series, many should have been surprised by a seven goal outcome. Roloson and Thomas will no doubt come to define the series, much as Price and Thomas did in the first round. I think it took time for each of them to get their motors going last night, but clearly it took Thomas longer. That mere factor ended up determining the outcome of this game in large part.

Tampa’s three goals in roughly 90 seconds in the first period sealed the game. Two of the goals were flukey. Flukey in the sense that one of them should have easily been stopped by Thomas, and another was a result of a very bad gaffe and mishandle by Kaberle. The other happened with Thomas sprawled on the ice without a chance. All that said, the point I’m attempting to make is that the Lightning won last night as a result of a few mistakes and some luck–not as a consequence of massive systemic problems on the part of the Bruins, though there were a few areas of concern.

Here’s the rundown:

Face-offs

The absence of Bergeron stings now like never before. Bergeron has been positively beastly in the face-off dot for years now, but never more so than in these playoffs. Krejci struggled taking face-offs especially. I can’t speak to the quality of Tampa’s face-off specialists, but they may be of high caliber. The Bruins, especially without Bergeron to dig out lost pucks in scrums, are going to need to win face-offs more now. Recchi and Thornton, when filling in for their tossed-out compadres, have shown great skill in the dot. Try them more?

Tyler Seguin

Sensational, but with some misgivings. He had a few bad turnovers, one that almost cost the Bruins another goal. He clearly seemed unaffected by nearly a month off and demonstrated some serious giddy-up in his legs on his goal. How much longer he remains is going to be determined almost entirely by how long it takes for Bergeron to recover and return, so assessing his merits relative to whether he’ll be in the press box later or not is sort of pointless. It’s about Bergeron, not him. Still, I think it was smart to play Seguin more heavily in the third when they recognized he was the hot hand that night. That’s something that’s been lacking among the Julien staff–in-game adjustments.

Fourth line

Excellent. They kept the puck in the offensive zone more often than not and showed pep and poise. Paille is really starting to gel with Campbell as they find open ice together. I was very impressed with their game.

Mix and match

The Bruins’ second and third lines (and even the fourth, with Campbell) were switched around all night long. At one point Kelly, Campbell and Marchand were on a real, legitimate shift together. Talk about change. It was only game one, so a bit of feeling-out was to be expected. Moreover, the simple “slot in Kelly for Bergeron, plug in Seguin on the third plan” was nowhere near that simple. Julien kept Seguin off the ice for some 15 minutes after he scored (albeit there were several PPs and PKs in that timeframe). Whether it will cause sparks or meltdowns isn’t clear, but it didn’t appear totally disastrous. The steady, airtight lines of the first two rounds are gone.

And so, where are the Bruins heading now? I think they’re on the up. Learning from their mistakes and game one, and playing at their maximum capacity in game two will all but invariably lead to a goal. The power-play showed signs of life again in game one, and with it abundantly clear that the Lightning are unafraid of committing penalties, the Bruins will have more opportunities to learn to convert and actually convert.

They just have to.

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