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A Lightning Fan And A Bruins Fan Discuss The Eastern Conference Finals (Part 2)

Staff writers Ken DeCelles and Charlie Blackwell learn about each other's favorite teams and talk as much smack to each other as two people can who then have to turn around and run a blog together. Second of two parts.

(If you missed Part 1 of our discussion, click here to read about Toy Story Eastern Conference Finals On Ice 3, the Bruins' physical style, both teams' injury concerns, and the difference between Dave Mishkin and Jack Edwards.)


CHARLIE BLACKWELL: The Bruins have the edge when it comes to physical play. But the Lightning certainly have the special-teams advantage. What's up with the Bruins power play? It took them 10 playoff games to finally get on the board, and that was on a 5-on-3.

KEN DECELLES: The Bruins didn't have a great power play this year in the regular season (20th in the league with a 16% success rate), and faced one of the better penalty-killing units in the league in Montreal in the first series. The Flyers were decent on the PK this year, but it shouldn't have taken almost 10 games to finally get a power play goal.

Who knows if that goal loosened things up for the B's, though, because Milan Lucic scored on a 5-on-4 in the first period of Game 4.

Tell us about the Lightning's 1-3-1 defense. It's caused Washington and Pittsburgh fits so far in the playoffs. Do you think it will cause the same sort of problems to the Bruins?

CHARLIE: This is tricky to explain because the minute you use the word "trap" (I'm looking at you, Ken Campbell) people start accusing you of being evil and destroying hockey. And while I think Boucher has sometimes used the 1-3-1 as a trap during the playoffs, it really isn't intended to be one. The idea is to jam up the middle of the ice, but the 1-3-1 doesn't want to force the other team to throw it in deep. It wants to turn the puck over and go the other way for a scoring chance. A trap is a passive defense; the 1-3-1 is not.

I'd encourage everyone to read the two FanPosts on Raw Charge about Boucher's system, and a reader on Japers' Rink (SBN's Washington Capitals blog) also did a great job breaking down the intent and the tactics of the 1-3-1, with pictures and video and everything. All highly recommended.

The aggressiveness of the system can be dialed up or down based on the game situation. I think that's why on one hand, the Lightning haven't blown a third-period lead of any size in the playoffs. But on the other hand, that's why they had a few tailspin losses during the regular season, including an 8-1 bushwhacking by the Bruins in December. The 1-3-1 only has one defenseman back, so if you can get into the offensive zone with speed, you're in good shape. Then if you're the Lightning and you're trailing, and you have to get more aggressive defensively to try and get back in the game, you can give up a lot of goals the other way.

I thought one of the guys who runs the BoltProspects site said it best: Pittsburgh knew how to beat the 1-3-1, but didn't have enough skill without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Washington had enough skill, but no clue how to beat the 1-3-1. Boston may have both.


CHARLIE: Any thoughts on how Phil Esposito will handle this series? He was one of the captains of the last Bruins team to win the Stanley Cup in 1972, and Ray Bourque famously changed his uniform number so Esposito's #7 could be retired by the team. But then he came down to Tampa and founded the Lightning, building them from scratch. He's so revered by everyone in the organization that they were compelled to revise their new uniforms for next season to include the lightning bolt on the pants that was one of Esposito's unique touches when the team started playing. Espo's always been a superstitious sort and I can't imagine how he's going to get through the next couple of weeks.

KEN: If you saw this report from WTVT a couple nights ago, then you know he's all in with the Lightning.

As much respect he has for the Bruins, the Lightning are his creation and he has put a lot of time and effort in building the Lightning. If the Bruins do win the series, though, I don't think he will be as disappointed because of his history with the club.

I'm looking forward to the goalie matchup between Tim Thomas and Dwayne Roloson. Roloson and Thomas are first and second in goals-against average and save percentage in the playoffs. What are you looking forward to?

CHARLIE: Well, Roloson's save percentage is still carrying over a bit from the first round, when he stopped almost everything the Penguins shot at him. He was merely good against Washington -- he gave up 10 goals in the four games and his save percentage was somewhere around 92%, which is around where it was during the regular season. I think he'll have to be closer to Pittsburgh levels for the Lightning to get through this series.

I'll be honest, I did not want this matchup, because after watching two rounds of the playoffs I think the Bruins might be the best team left in the field. They're big and tough, built for playoff hockey, much more skilled than they get credit for, getting excellent goaltending as you pointed out, and they're absolutely dominant 5-on-5. They outscored Montreal and Philadelphia by a total of 35-15 at even strength, which is amazing. I don't think the Lightning can take them out of the series physically, and they're not going to be nearly as easy to take out of the series mentally as the Capitals were.

(By the way, that was clearly the work of a man like Guy Boucher who has a master's degree in sports psychology. He did such a number on Washington that by the end of the series, a couple of guys in dirty jump suits and work gloves should have come out and hauled Bruce Boudreau away like some old busted-up couch left out by the curb.)

The entire battle ground of the series is going to be special teams. After two rounds, the Lightning have easily the best power play (26.7%) and penalty kill (94.4%) of anyone left in the playoffs. The Bruins, not so much. I expect Boston to have the advantage 5-on-5, and I think Tampa Bay will have to overcome that on special teams to win the series.

What are you looking for? How do you think the Bruins will handle getting this deep into the playoffs, where most of them have not been before?

KEN: I just want the team to keep the same focus that they've had since the first round. Veterans like Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi, and Thomas should keep the younger players in check and not get caught up in the moment.

I wonder how the Patrice Bergeron injury will affect the team, though. Bergeron had 12 points in the playoffs and he was an absolute force in the faceoff circle. Patrice won 64% of his faceoffs, and was an integral part of the PK unit. In his absence, Chris Kelly will move up to center the second line while rookie Tyler Seguin will get his first action of the playoffs, manning the right wing on the third line.

Kelly has been great on the third line this postseason. He hasn't been as good on the draw (winning just 44.8%) but has done a good job getting in front of the net, screening the goalie and being there for a couple of big goals off rebounds. Bergeron did excellent work finding Brad Marchand and Recchi for some big goals, and I wonder how Kelly will do as the facilitator for those two.

Seguin hasn't played in the playoffs after finishing the regular season with the Providence Bruins, and I'm interested in how he will handle going from the AHL to the Eastern Conference Finals. I'm happy that the first two games are in Boston so that he won't go straight into the St. Pete Times Forum. When it gets to the playoffs, the Forum is one of the louder places in the league for opponents.


KEN: So do you want to make a friendly wager on this series?

CHARLIE: Damn right I'll put some action on this series. I mean, deep down I think the Bruins are going to win, but we're at the point in the playoffs where I become a completely irrational homer, so let's do this.

I always like the hokey mayor bets on sporting events where they have to send their city's delicacies to the winners if their team loses. You know, like if Boston wins, the mayor of Tampa has to send the Boston mayor a box of cigars and some paella and maybe a free lap dance or something. (OK, maybe not that last one -- Bob Buckhorn did just get elected.) But since we're a bit less refined, and since there are certain things that we can't send through the mail (beer), how about this:

If the Lightning win the series, you have to send me a gift card to that Boston institution, Dunkin' Donuts. And if the Bruins win, I have to send you a gift card to Tampa Bay's culinary gift to the world, Hooters.

KEN: It's a deal. Can't wait to go and..... eat wings. Yeah that's it. Going to Hooters for wings. Nothing else.

CHARLIE: I'm putting just enough on that card so that you can't spend it all in one visit and you have to go back and avert your eyes a second time.

Wait, what am I saying? I'm going to be stuffing my face with donuts in a couple weeks. I know if things get tense in Game 7 and the Bruins load the bases in the 8th, Joe Maddon will get David Price out of the bullpen to... oh I'm sorry, is that still a sore spot?

KEN: I just cried one solitary tear. I hate John Lackey so much right now that I had almost forgotten about that.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.