In the first six games of the Eastern Conference Finals the Bruins defense was “hit or miss”. There were nights like Games 3 and 5 where the Bruins blue-liners were nearly perfect. Then there were nights like Games 4 and 6 where the defensemen were awful, turning the puck over, taking bad penalties, and leaving goalie Tim Thomas out to dry.
Last night in Game 7, it was one of those nights where the Bruins defensemen were a big hit. The Bruins in general did everything right in their 1-0 Game 7 victory that now sends them to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1990, but the Bruins defensemen deserve just as much credit as anyone else for last night’s win.
The Bruins held the Lightning to just 24 shots, but nothing too difficult for Tim Thomas to handle. The Bruins defensemen did a great job cutting off angles, clogging passing lanes, and clearing out traffic, making sure that if the Lightning were to score they would have to earn it.
Last night the Bruins blocked 17 shots, with some big blocked shots coming up late in the third period with the Bruins holding onto the slimmest of leads.
Of the 17 shots the Bruins blocked last night, 13 came from a Bruins blue-liner. Of those 13, eight came from Dennis Seidenberg.
No 44. has been arguably the best Bruins defenseman in the playoffs thus far, and leads all B’s with 28:23 on average time on ice.
Another bright spot for the Bruins last night was the play of Johnny Boychuk. After a poor Game 6 that saw No. 55 out there for all five Tampa Bay Lightning goals, Boychuk bounced back with a very solid effort in Game 7.
Much like the Montreal Canadiens, who the Bruins saw in the first round, the Lightning also throw speed and skill at you with some dangerous forwards.
A big reason as to why the Bruins are moving on to the Stanley Cup Finals is the way the Bruins defenseman took away the speed and skill of the Lightning.
“That was part of the game plan. I think we’ve talked about that most of the series. Whether that happened all the time or not, that’s another issue,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien during his post game press conference.” But the one thing we wanted to do was really take away their time and space. We always encourage our D’s to close the gap, and if we close the gap, we took away some of their space, and by closing the gap, we’re also in really good position to throw our body around.
“Our guys battled hard tonight. I thought our forwards did a great job of directing them in the area that we wanted to direct them,” he said. “It was a really good team effort. We’re a team that can play physical and we were tonight, but we were disciplined in our physical play and that was important as well.”
Meeting the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals will be the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks don’t bring the speed that the Canadiens or Lightning did, but they got the talent, and the Bruins defense will face their toughest challenge yet. But something tells me the blue-liners will be up for the challenge.