BOSTON — Sixty minutes with no penalties.
Though that feat is rare even in a Game 7, referees Steven Walkom and Dan O’Halloran let the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning decide who would advance to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Vancouver Canucks.
With the Bruins being such a good 5-on-5 team they were able to use that strength to their advantage. Though the Lightning have also been a good 5-on-5 team, they thrive on beating teams with their strong special teams, both on the power play and penalty kill, and did so in their win in Game 6.
But on this night the Bruins were able to play to their strength throughout the contest and were finally rewarded at 12:27 of the third period when Nathan Horton crashed the net and scored the game-winner and secure their first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1990.
“What I liked about the referring is that they let the two teams decide the outcome,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “I think both teams were very disciplined tonight…it was about staying focused and doing the right thing here. I’m not saying that just because we won I’m saying that because even when it was 0-0 I really liked how the game was played.”
The fact that the Bruins haven’t played well on the power play would usually mean danger signals for many teams at this point of the postseason. It’s been well documented how their ineffective play on the man advantage can haunt them at any point during the postseason, especially against a team like Vancouver, which possesses the best power play this postseason.
But the Bruins were able to down the Canucks back in February in their lone meeting this year playing 5-on-5 hockey and there’s no reason that can’t continue even though the officials will blow the whistle more often than not.
“A lot of times our power play is not working so we need to be good 5-on-5,” Horton stated. “Obviously if we’re going to have a chance we need to get better on the power play. We have a couple days to practice that, but we have to keep working hard and keep pressing 5-on-5, because that’s where we want to play.”
Though the fact that there were no penalties called might indicate that the game wasn’t physical, the teams on the ice would dictate otherwise.
“The refs let us play. There were penalties that could’ve been called on either side,” defenseman Andrew Ference said. “Both teams had very good discipline and I think it we played a good hockey game.
“I don’t think either team got ripped in that category. We stuck with it…and obviously we needed it.”
While Tampa was outshot 38-24 they still created some quality chances during the course of the contest.
The Bruins were able to put in a complete effort and dictated the pace of the game from the get-go.
“I thought right away you could tell we had all our legs and energy going,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “Obviously that was the key to make sure we we’re getting the momentum right away and not giving them a chance to do that.”