Heading into last night’s pivotal Game 6 the Bruins were excellent when it came to shutting down the playoffs best power play unit, last night was a different story.
Tampa Bay went 3-4 on the power play en route to a 5-4 win to force Game 7 Friday night in Boston.
Heading into Game 6, the Bruins were dominant on the penalty kill, killing off 16 of 18 penalties, with no goals coming in Games 3, 4 and 5.
You had to expect that the dangerous Lightning power play would strike again at some point, but to do so in the manner they did in Game 6 is scary for the Bruins and their fans.
The Bruins finally solved the power play puzzle when David Krejci tapped in a feed from Nathan Horton midway through the third, but for a struggling power play unit, it’s nothing to get excited about.
Overall the Bruins went 1-5 with the extra attacker and once again looked completely lost out there.
As I wrote a few days ago, the timing of a huge penalty kill is enough to sway momentum in your favor and can be used as a motivator, that’s exactly what the Lightning did last night.
Early in the second the Bruins held a 2-1 lead after one period in which they dominated the Lightning. Victor Hedman was sent to the box for high-sticking. A power play goal here would have kept the momentum in the Bruins favor and may have been the difference in the game, instead Tampa kills it off and ties the game minutes later with a goal from Martin St. Louis.
Although Bruins head coach Claude Julien disagrees with some of the calls, he knows his team needs to pick it up all around with the special teams.
“Well obviously it was a difference maker. They scored three goals on the power play and it took us a long time to get our first one and that certainly dictated the game. And what was more disappointing is probably the fact that I don’t know if I agree with those calls. And hopefully what was said today didn’t have any impact on that because if it did I’d be really disappointed. But you look back at those and you get an opportunity to look back at them and really, really tough to swallow. And at the same time you want your team to kill those penalties which we’ve done a pretty good job throughout the series but tonight wasn’t the case. And obviously it was the difference in the game.”
Another sour grape last night for the Bruins was the play of defenseman Johnny Boychuk. Although he finished the night even in the plus/minus department, Boychuk was on the ice for all five of Tampa Bay’s goals, looking really bad on some.
Sometimes in sports it’s the little things that matter, and that has certainly been the case in this series. Many people tend to overlook the importance of face-offs, but it’s something you shouldn’t look past.
In the six games the Bruins and Lightning have played in the Eastern Conference Finals, the team that has won the faceoff category has won the game; Tampa won 34 face-offs to the Bruins 31.
The lone bright spot to come from last night’s Game 6 in Tampa was the play of the Bruins top line.
The trio of Krejci, Horton, and Milan Lucic combined for 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists) including a hat trick from Krejci. Prior to last night the Bruins were undefeated in playoff games where the top line scored a goal.
Julien knew how big his top line was last night, and knows he needs another good night from them in Game 7.
“Yeah they were very good tonight. There was, that line needed to be big for us and they were. And that’s certainly something that you can build on heading home, that if those guys play like that again, you like our chances.” said Julien.
The Eastern Conference Finals has been a tale of a few different Bruins teams. There’s the Bruins team that played a perfect road game and dominated the Lightning in Game 3. Then in Game 4, we saw the sloppy lazy Bruins who blew a 3-0 first period lead. Last night a new Bruins team was presented to us, the one that couldn’t contain the deadly Lightning power play.
For the Bruins and their fans, they hope to see the Game 7, Eastern Conference Final winning Bruins.