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Game 5: Hang on

May 24, 2011

Tomas Kaberle with someone in a head-lock? Stop the presses!

Last night’s game ended with a flurry of pushing, shoving, a little punching and a hold lot of anxiety as the Bruins took their second series lead, making it 3-2. This series looks like it might take a turn for the ugly, with the Lightning finally in an elimination situation at home tomorrow night.

After all the haggling about whether Mike Smith or Dwayne Roloson would get the nod to start in goal, in end up being Smith, much to the surprise of some. He allowed just two goals, but he wasn’t tested very much. He appeared slow to react in many instances. Roloson was long perceived to be the workhorse of the Tampa squad–the 41 year-old savior. Instead, he finds himself on the bench, not so much because he is a weak goalie, but because his team may have required a kick. All that said, I don’t think Tampa’s goaltending had much to do with their loss last night. I think the Bruins simply managed to play a strong passing/puck possession game and Tim Thomas made exquisite and timely saves. So the game began the night with questions of goaltending, and ending with questions of whether Tampa can pull out a game six win to force game seven.

What might force a game seven? The Bruins’ propensity to take penalties (looking at your four minutes, Nathan Horton) and the manner in which the Tampa power-play (despite not scoring a goal last night) caused the Bruins penalty kill to all but collapse into itself and open vast shooting lanes for Tampa. In some of their power-plays, Tampa ripped apart the Bruins, leaving a column of players literally on their knees or about to block shots while Thomas stood alone. It was alarming. And it was shocking Tampa didn’t convert during those sequences. If Marchand and Horton (and Seguin) continue to be good for a penalty or two a game, the Bruins may be in trouble. The penalty kill has weakened as the regular season wore on, to the point of mediocrity by this time in the playoffs. It was the Bruins’ bread and butter in the 2009-2010 season. Now, it’s disposable.

Tampa has yet to stymie the Bruins in a meaningful way. Their rivalry and history with the Bruins is completely different to that of the Canadiens and the Flyers, where the Bruins had so much emotion and aggression. Tampa is a neutral opponent of sorts. The lackluster performances of game one and game four seem to reflect that. The Bruins are capable of mustering the will to win, when necessary, but can they do it for the Lightning?

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