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Game Four: Squandered

May 22, 2011

Former UVM teammates Tim Thomas and Martin St Louis battle for the puck.

Last night looked an awful lot like game seven, round two last year against the Flyers. But it wasn’t. The trick to understanding last night’s loss seems to be reminding oneself that this loss was different, and that this team is intrinsically different, too.

But building a three goal lead in the first period only to have it squelched in the second and third? Hmm. That’s not exactly reassuring. Patrice Bergeron should be a commended for his all-world effort in the first period, for demonstrating that he is fully healthy and fully able to contribute. But it was a shame the Bruins couldn’t have protected that solid lead. As I remarked to my roommate, in the regular seasons, three goals leads are near impenetrable. It’s a different story in the playoffs. Heading into the first intermission I even remarked “the Lightning will come back. This will be a 3-3 game in no time.” And this wasn’t necessarily a reflection of the Bruins’ ability, but rather an affirmation of the article of faith in the Stanley Cup playoffs that comebacks are the most natural thing in the world.

I wasn’t shocked, but I was still frustrated, when the Lightning inched back goal by goal and assumed momentum of not just the game, but potentially the series. The Bruins on the ice looked similarly shocked, as if watching their own defeat unfold, amazed by it. They were paralyzed, as Julien noted in his post-game remarks. They couldn’t win face-offs. They couldn’t retrieve pucks. And worse yet, the usually snappy and sound decision making turned weak and messy. More mistakes. The fragility of the Bruins’ game shines through when they’ve made poor mistakes at inopportune moments; they just can’t compensate or come back. Goaltending was similarly questionable, but there were more than a few otherworldly saves that Thomas made during the game. Saves that left him sprawling. The Lightning surely could have run the scoreboard up had it not been for Thomas. But at least two of the Lightning goals were of a softer variety–goals that Thomas wasn’t quite capable of deciding on and saving. The Lightning have found ways of making Thomas looking foolish in a manner the Canadiens or Flyers couldn’t and didn’t.

The Thomas of the 94%+ save percentage needs to return. There were three factors, though; the Bruins couldn’t keep the lead, then they couldn’t rebound, and then Thomas didn’t do the team any  favors. Recipe for disaster.

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