I had to take some time off after the Red Wings emotional loss Thursday night, but we’re back and ready for some great conference finals action.
Last night, the Tampa Bay Lightning opened up a 3-0 first period lead on the Boston Bruins, and rode that to a 5-2 opening game victory on the road. I looked at the box score, and two things stuck out. First, Boston gave the puck away 10 times, compared to Tampa’s 5 giveaways. Second, the Lightning won the faceoff battle 41-26. I know most people think that faceoff wins are overrated as a stat, but I think a disparity like that is worth paying attention to as the series moves forward.
As far as the giveaways go, I couldn’t help but notice Tomas Kaberle, the grand prize of the trade deadline, making juke moves behind the net before handing the puck to Teddy Purcell, who slammed home the Lightning’s third goal in 85 seconds to make the score 3-0. I’m not trying to be another one of those guys who piles on these “offensive” defensemen who don’t know the first thing about puck responsibility, but when are we going to stop overrating these types of players and start viewing a player’s value based on his ability to affect the outcomes of games? Again, I get that Kaberle can skate well and supposedly is a huge boost on the power play (check Boston’s playoff PP stats, by the way…), but when I watch him play hockey, he makes me tense up worse than when I watch Mike Green, and I’m not even a fan of either guy’s team. Kaberle must play more responsible hockey going forward, or the Bruins will probably find themselves watching the Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals on their big screen televisions.
The faceoff thing is what it is, and can be partially explained by the absence of Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, but there’s no doubt coach Claude Julien will want more success in the circle out of his centers.
The shots on goal were 34-33 in favor of Tampa Bay, hits were 26-23 to Boston, and takeaways were dead even, with each team stealing four pucks. The final line on penalty minutes was Boston 30 – 8 Tampa Bay, but 24 of those 30 minutes were taken by Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton each getting 2 + 10s with under a minute to go, so really the power play total was 4 to 3 in favor of Boston. Boston’s power play went a typical 0 for 4, while Tampa was able to convert 1 of their 3 opportunities with the man advantage.
I think this series should be a very good one, but Boston must answer the bell for Game 2, as they do not want to have to repeat their first round comeback against Montreal, when they hit the road already down 0-2 in the series. I’m not sure Boston has the physical advantage over Tampa Bay that they had against Montreal, and therefore an 0-2 deficit leaving Boston is probably not their best recipe for success in this series.
Game 2 is Tuesday, May 17th, at 8:00 p.m. ET on Versus in the United States.