CHARLIE BLACKWELL: Well, I think to start off we need to state our affiliations to our respective teams. Mine's easy -- I was born in Tampa, the Lightning started playing when I was living there, so I'm a Lightning fan. How did you get to be a Bruins fan?
KEN DECELLES: My dad's side of the family is from Boston, and we lived up there when I was little. Mom didn't really care about sports, so it was easy for my dad to brainwash me into becoming a Boston fan.
So I take it this year's success was surely a surprise for everyone in the organization. First the Lightning had to play the Capitals on back-to-back nights due to USF's spring graduation ceremonies. Now, the NHL has to try to schedule Games 3 and 4 of this series around a four-night block of Toy Story 3 on Ice. Well done.
CHARLIE: Awesome, we just "Dora the Explorer'd" the playoffs! No, I don't think many people expected the Lightning to get this far. Most fans were happy just to make the playoffs to begin with, and everything after that is a bonus. Also from the Forum's perspective, they don't want to have their cash-cow arena sitting empty for six months, so that's how these things happen.
Personally, if they can't come to an agreement on the arena schedule I think they should just combine the two events and hold the "Toy Story Eastern Conference Finals On Ice 3." Vincent Lecavalier is Woody, Steven Stamkos is Buzz Lightyear, Dwayne Roloson is Slinky Dog, Zdeno Chara is Lotso Huggin' Bear, and Milan Lucic is Mr. Prickle Pants. Fun for the whole family, until Mr. Prickle Pants runs Slinky Dog behind the net and then drops the gloves with Sarge (definitely Steve Downie). That might be tough to explain to the kids.
Which brings me to my next question, are the Bruins basically a boxing club on skates? They really like the rough stuff.
KEN: I wouldn't deny that. The Bruins are a very physical team and they don't mind getting into a scrap. Chara, Shawn Thornton, and Lucic will go at anytime, and Lucic was a phenomenal teen boxer before sticking to hockey.
Injury concerns are a big problem for both teams. Defenseman Adam McQuaid looks good to go after knocking himself out on the boards in Game 2 vs. Philadelphia while center Patrice Bergeron looks to be out at least the first half of the series to due yet another concussion he sustained in Game 4. How are the Lightning looking?
CHARLIE: Having this much time off will definitely help with whatever secret injuries the Lightning may have right now. It should be enough time to get Simon Gagne back in the lineup, which will help fill out the scoring lines and hopefully prop up the second power-play unit. Gagne fell awkwardly after Washington's Scott Hannan hit him in Game 1 and basically missed the entire series.
Kubina also left Game 1 after Jason Chimera elbowed him in the head, and since he isn't even skating yet he probably won't be ready at the start of the series, which is a problem because you want as many big, physical players as you can get against a team like the Bruins. You know Boston is going to try and knock guys around and take a few liberties after the whistle. The Lightning aren't an especially physical team. Without Kubina, even less so.
Let's break things up some with a couple dumb questions. Are you bracing for the inevitable, awkward Boston celebrity bandwagon jump now that the Bruins are finally doing well again? I can already see Matt Damon and Ben Affleck getting their assistants to buy them sweaters on NHL.com, and Bill Simmons is about to start complaining about Versus, and Tom Brady will look down upon the commoners from a luxury box...
KEN: It's already happening. Simmons jumps in during the playoffs each year after he had a "team divorce" with cheap owner Jeremy Jacobs. Throw in the Celtics going down to the Heat and the Red Sox not realizing the season already started, and everyone is climbing on board. Even my brothers, who have never talked about hockey, want to catch a game at the Forum.
Moving on to announcers... I personally love Dave Mishkin. How does he get his voice like that when the Lightning score?
CHARLIE: I think his voice goes up an octave with each notch he goes up in volume. If he got excited enough, like if the Lightning came back from 5-0 down in a Game 7 and then won in overtime, in theory he would just make a noise like a dog whistle.
I actually have to fight through Mishkin and his occasional radio partner Phil Esposito (more on him later) on the occasions when I have to listen to Lightning games on the radio. It's not that he's bad at play-by-play, but the homerism wears on me after awhile. You can't just quietly mumble "score" when you give up a goal while Espo moans in the background for 10 seconds. I mean, Jack Edwards is another crazy, over-the-top announcer, but at least he gives you close to the same level of excitement when the Bruins get scored on.
Speaking of which... Jack Edwards. Thoughts? For me it's kind of a bummer that the games are all on Versus and NBC from here on out because it means Jack's NESN season is over. I'm going to have to go back and listen to his epic "New Jack Edwards" contest segment from WBZ's Toucher and Rich to get me through the next five months.
KEN: I love Jack Edwards almost as much as I do Gus Johnson. He sometimes crosses the line with his stuff, but he loves hockey and he provided one of my favorite dialogues in the history of sports announcing after the Bruins swept Montreal out of the 2009 playoffs. You could almost hear the sadness in his voice after Game 4 against the Flyers because that was the last game he'd announce that year. He's over the top, he can sometimes take it a little too far, but how can you be mad at a guy who gave us the best segment in sports radio history?
In Part 2 tomorrow, we talk about the two goalies, special teams, the Lightning's 1-3-1, and Phil Esposito's dilemma. We also place a gentleman's wager that I think involves beer or donuts or maybe both.