Boston Bruins

Notes: Bruins, Lightning use long layoff to prepare


Notes: Bruins, Lightning use long layoff to prepare

By JoeHaggerty

WILMINGTON, Mass. Strange days are here indeed for both the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning as they wait for the Western Conference to determine its finalists.

With victories from both the Predators and Wings over the weekend, the BostonTampa Bay series continues to get pushed back. Now it looks like things might not be getting started before Saturday at TD Garden.

But that hasnt stopped the Bruins coaching staff from working on their scouting reports and readying game plans as the Bs players plan to get moving with a Monday morning practice after enjoying a weekend off.

In strengths, weaknesses and style of play, the Lightning are a more explosive, slightly more disciplined version of the Montreal Canadiens, though they might not flop quite so much as P.K. Subban and the Montreal Diving Club.

The Bolts are also, however, a softer defensive unit that relies on a trendy trap over physical toughness, size and grit around the net when it comes to their defense corps.

Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher is credited with bringing a very innovative version of the 1-3-1 trap to the Lightning, but Bruins coach Claude Julien said the Lightning have different versions of the trap that they use to spring their golden offensive trio of Martin St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos.

Given that the Bruins had their hands full with Montreal in a seven-game series that featured some great individual performances from the now-injured Patrice Bergeron, it looks like it will be a competitive matchup between Boston and Tampa Bay once things finally do get going.

A healthy Bergeron would have given the Bruins an edge in the series, but now they head into the seven-game showdown as slight underdogs.

The Lightning are very good at taking care of the neutral zone and they make it hard to penetrate. They are also a team that throws a lot of pucks towards the net, said Julien. Montreal did that also. Whether it was from behind the net or from the corners or tough angles, they threw it at the net and they always had someone going there. There are a lot of similarities when it comes to that.

Defensively, they are a team that will collapse, overload and there are similarities with Montreal. They also have that skill level. So I think there are some of those things that are similarities with Montreal. But they still have their unique style and their coach has certain things he like to see from his hockey club that differs from the Montreal coaching staff.

Big defenseman Pavel Kubina and forward Simon Gagne are injured and werent with the rest of their Lightning teammates during a Sunday practice. Both took shots to the head in Game 1 of their sweep over the Capitals and havent played since; they're listed with "upper-body injuries". Based on the comments coming out of Tampa, Gagne is close to returning while Kubina might not be ready to go at the outset of the series.

The Bolts lost three of four to the Bruins during the regular season, but are a little different now. The first three meetings between the B's and Tampa Bay came before Jan. 1, when the Lightning acquired Dwayne Roloson and solved their goaltending problems. (Roloson didn't play in the post-Jan. 1 game between the teams, a 2-1 Boston victory at TD Garden on March 3.) Also, Lecavalier was injured for a large chunk of games in the middle of the season.

Meltdowns like the ones authored by goalies Mike Smith and Dan Ellis early in the season arent going to happen with Roloson in net.

Boucher noted the similarities between the teams in these playoffs -- both fell behind 0-2 in the first round (Boston against Montreal, Tampa Bay against Pittsburgh) but rallied to win in seven games; both swept in the second round (the B's against Philadelphia, the Lightning against Washington) -- and also pointed out that they finished the regular season with identical 46-25-11 records.

There are a lot of things that are pretty similar, he said.

Were expecting them to be who they are and nothing less. Once youre down to the Final Four and youre hoping for any little break in an opponent, then youre sadly mistaken.

Boucher repeatedly called Tim Thomas an enigma during his comments to reporters after Sundays practice, and pointed to the Bs goalie as the biggest potential difference-maker in the series.

That might a first for Thomas, but that might also be Boucher's way of motivating Roloson.

In any case, it's all just words . . . but that's all we're going to have until the puck finally drops at an undetermined point later this week.

Julien expanded on Claude Giroux' hit on Patrice Bergeron in the third period of Game 4 that has left the Bs center with a mild concussion. It came after Bergeron had executed a pass and taken three skating strides forward, and many within the Bruins dressing room felt like it was a very late hit.

The Bs coach agreed, but didnt feel it was dirty.

Its borderline," he said. "I just wish sometimes we dont want to take the physical part of the game out of it. It is part of it. You just wish somehow we could cut down on those concussions . . .

Youre told to finish your checks, but yet theres times where you say, Hes made the pass and lets turn and get back into the play. A lot of it is culture. I think its something that at some point you hope that everybodys going to get on the same page: players, coaches and everybody involved in the game of hockey. Weve got to change the culture here and try and minimize those things -- but its easier said than done.

Julien said that signing Shane Hnidy as an extra defenseman has provided the desired effect in the dressing room, where the Bruins have missed the leadership over the last few seasons. Thats a lament that Julien, general manager Peter Chiarelli and team president Cam Neely all made after Hnidy left, and its something they did well to address once the veteran defenseman had asked to rejoin the team once his shoulder healed.

Hnidy played less than three minutes in each of his two games against the Flyers in the second round of the playoffs, but hes still been impactful.

People talk about Shane, its one thing we really missed about him what he did in the dressing room, said Julien. He is a pretty determined and pretty important guy when it comes to the dressing room and getting his teammates ready. He is ready to do the job and he makes sure that everyone around him is as well.

Per the wonderful world of twitter and correspondent Mike Miccoli, Tyler Seguin will become the first top-five pick from the previous draft to play in the conference finals since Darius Kasparaitis in 1992-93.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Beleskey happy to return from foot injury


Beleskey happy to return from foot injury

BRIGHTON, Mass – It was absolutely an “uh-oh” moment for Matt Beleskey when he was hit on the foot with a shot Monday night in the Bruins' preseason opener against the Canadiens. Beleskey, 29, was just hoping that his foot wasn’t broken in what would have been another shot of bad luck coming off a tough season for the hard-nosed winger, so his hopes have been answered given his presence in the lineup for the preseason game Saturday night vs. the Detroit Red Wings.

Beleskey missed the past two preseason games and most of the practice time as well but returned to the ice on Friday before getting ready for tonight's game. With plenty to prove while coming off a down second season in Boston, Beleskey knows he needs a strong camp that can’t get derailed by injuries or assorted bumps and bruises.

“I definitely did not want a broken foot to start the year, so I’m glad that I was fine,” said Beleskey, who finished with three goals and eight points along with a minus-10 in 49 games last season. “I took a puck in the face during warm-ups and the shot to the foot in the third, so that’s quite a good start to the year. But hopefully, I’ve got those out of the way now.

“I felt really good in the last game. It was great to see some of the work I did in the summertime paying off, so now we build on that [against Detroit] and keep things moving. There are a lot of great players here [in camp] and there’s great competition. I’m just here to play my game and prove myself, and I’ve got all the confidence in the world I can do that.”

Now that he’s been given a full bill of health again, Beleskey will get just that chance skating with Sean Kuraly and Ryan Fitzgerald on Saturday night in Hockeytown amid a deeply competitive situation for Boston’s third line. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings for the Bruins against the Red Wings in Boston’s fourth game of the preseason:





Morning Skate: Sean Avery vs. Tortorella


Morning Skate: Sean Avery vs. Tortorella

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while amazed at what has united Lebron James and Steph Curry in this wacky country of ours.

*Sean Avery has some brutal things to say about John Tortorella in his new “screaming for attention” book, but then again Avery is one of the biggest low-talent dirtbags that the NHL has ever seen. So you probably need to consider the source.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) John Shannon has a few thoughts on where the NHL needs to go in their relationship with China now that they’ve played preseason games there.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the details as Steven Stamkos stood out in his preseason debut and the first game back from last season’s injury.

*The NHL has yet to determine whether or not Marian Hossa is eligible for LTIR with a skin issue that is expected to be career-ending.

*PK Subban talks about his rule of thumb while staying away from controversy with an active social media account.

*Mark your calendars for the annual Comics Come Home event on Nov. 18 to raise money for the Cam Neely Foundation. Here Neely talks with SI about his friendships with a number of local comics, and how the comedy event became a tradition in Boston.   

*For something completely different: Today marks the 40th anniversary of David Bowie’s classic “Heroes”, so it feels like a good time to get the story behind it.