Notes: Bruins, Lightning use long layoff to prepare

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Notes: Bruins, Lightning use long layoff to prepare

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

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 TheHockeyWriters.com 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 jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.