Here are a few hits and misses from the Bruins 4-3 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Tampa Times Forum on Saturday night.
*Carl Soderberg finished with a goal and an assist, and showed off the rare hands and moves for a player that’s 6-foot-3 and 220-pounds with his breakaway score in the second period. He managed to flawlessly receive the puck, stay on-side and then slide the puck through Ben Bishop’s five hole all in one fluid range of motions. Soderberg now has five points in the six games since the Olympic break, and has looked like a confident, comfortable, different player since moving to his natural center position just prior to the Sochi Games.
*Johnny Boychuk scored the game-tying goal in the third period with a scorching shot from the right point, and finished a plus-2 in 20:49 of punishing, physical play in all zones. Boychuk generated six shot attempts, and finished things out with a flourish in the third period when he cut off a potential scoring chance for Tyler Johnson, and then body-slammed the Lightning skill player in the corner as an exclamation point at the end of the sequence. On a night when the defense had some weak links, Boychuk was their strongest performer.
*Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg helped spearhead an excellent night for the third line, and connected on the Big Swede’s breakaway in the second period. It was Chris Kelly, who had his head up and then flipped a long stretch pass to Soderberg for a beauty of a breakaway score that beat Ben Bishop. Who says Kelly is all defense all the time anyway? Kelly, Soderberg and Loui Eriksson have really started forming a third line that the Bruins can rely on for offense, and that’s an important part of their success.
*Reilly Smith hasn’t scored a goal in the last 11 games, and has clearly struggled at points over these last few weeks. But Smith pulled out a nice move in the shootout on Bishop, and secured the win for the Black and Gold in a move that might just be the thing to get him back producing at a higher level. Some still think Smith’s current offensive pace is a bit in over his head, but his skill and ability to create offensively certainly are undeniable.
*The Bruins have won eight straight games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and haven’t lost vs. Tampa in nearly two full years dating back to March 13, 2012. The last loss to the Lightning is so long ago that Marty Turco was the losing goaltender on that evening.
*Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson had their feet on the gas pedal all night long for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and impressed with the way they pushes the pace while Steve Stamkos gets his feet back up to him. The Bolts still look like a playoff team to these eyes, with or without Marty St. Louis.
*The David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla line was shut out by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and finished with a combined minus-six while only producing two shots on net through the first two periods of the game. They woke up a little bit in the third period and Lucic had a decent game, but the Bruins top line simply didn’t show up enough in a big divisional game.
*Dougie Hamilton was on ice for two of the first three goals against, and made a couple of mistakes while out on the ice with Zdeno Chara as the shutdown pair against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Hamilton stumbled in the second period on a play where Tyler Johnson spun him around like a top before opening the way for an Ondrej Palat score, and the B’s second year defenseman wasn’t able to block a Valtteri Filppula shot on a defensive breakdown following Carl Soderberg’s goal. The defensive difficulty turned into Hamilton playing reduced minutes in the third period and overtime, and one has to wonder how long D-man struggles will take before they open the door for Andrej Meszaros.
*Tuukka Rask appeared to be fighting the puck all night as several trickled their way through the net, and allowed a couple of rough ones get by him before he stiffened up against the competition. Rask really earned his money in the shootout shutting down Tampa’s attackers until Reilly Smith could end things.
*Zdeno Chara played 27:28 of ice time in the win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and that’s about four minutes too much with the Bruins looking to conserve his legs for the postseason. The good news is that Chara was able to skip Saturday’s morning skate, and it would appear part of his regular rest program will be skipping morning skates and regular practices within a busy schedule of games over the next month.