By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON While it's impossible to send everyone in the Bruins household an invitation back to Lake Placid to regain their focus, it looks exactly like what the doctor's ordering.
Three major gaffes in the first period turned into three Tampa Bay goals in 85 seconds, putting the B's in a 3-0 hole and leading to a sloppy5-2 loss to the Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night.
It was a flashback to the series start against the Montreal Canadiens, when the Bs were turning pucks over at a warp speed and taking needless, scary penalties that resulted in needless, self-inflicted wounds.
Furthermore, Claude Julien and the coaching staff had no answers to Tampa Bays 1-3-1 trap. Julien was too slow to make adjustments in the first few minutes of the game when Tampa coach Guy Boucher went away from it, and he clearly didnt want to favor Tyler Seguin despite how effective the rookie looked in his first exposure to a pressure-packed playoff series.
Some of the Bruins weren't as concerned as the score would indicate they should be.
I think we had a good first period. They just scored three goals, said David Krejci, who somehow lost 15 out of his 18 faceoff draws. I dont think they had better chances, or that they played better than us. I really liked the way we played, especially my line. I think we were all over them.
Just some bad breaks, you know. Like I said, give credit to them for burying the chances in the first period.
That attitude's got to change. And quickly.
The Lightning showed Saturday why they're such a dangerous matchup for the B's. Their trap is a nightmare for Boston's offense, and they're an opportunistic opponent that pounces on every mistake with speed and precision.
Montreal posed a similar matchup problem for the B's -- and, don't forget, the Habs pushed the Bruins to seven games -- but Tampa Bay is much better than the Canadiens. Literally every player on the Lightning roster is a scoring threat; 19 different players have ended up on the scoresheet through their 12 postseason games. Worse still: Tampa Bays best players never really got going in the Game 1 win as the role players did the damage.
The really big difference between Tampa Bay and Montreal: The Lightning got a much more committed and cohesiveeffort out of their skaters, and that means smaller stats, like faceoff winning percentage, were a landslide in favor of the Bolts in Game 1.
The Bruins' problems Saturday night were exacerbated by their mistakes. The first three goals they allowed seemed to run the gamut of ways they could shoot themselves in the foot and look nowhere else when it came time for the blame game:
The first goal came after of a couple of defensive hiccups in their own end, punctuated by a bad bounce off Dennis Seidenberg's skate that shot right to Sean Bergenheim when Tim Thomas couldn't freeze the puck.
The second was a softie allowed by Tim Thomas, as Tampa Bays Brett Clark somehow found an opening when he flung a backhanded wrist shot at Thomas' pads. But Clark was also allowed to waltz into the zone with nothing resembling tough neutral zone bite or defensive grit.
The third was the result of the continuing unmitigated disaster Tomas Kaberle has been since he arrived in Boston. He had the puck settled behind his net and was ready for a breakout, but was surprised by uncharacteristic forecheck pressure from the Lightning. He turned it over, and eventually a Teddy Purcell shot caught Thomas snoozing. Worst of all, Kaberle tried to claim after the game was over that he didn't get the puck taken from him -- and instead that it "slipped off his stick." Is there really a difference, Tomas?
I remember one time I came off the ice and I felt good about myself and then . . . boom boom, it's 2-0, said Krejci. It takes a lot of energy out of you and its tough to regroup. You got to stick with it as a team and go out there the next shift and try to get it back, but tonight it didnt happen.
Still, the Bruins have been here before; they lost not just the opener, but the first two games -- at home -- against the Canadiens before rallying. They looked just asragged and slipshod when it came to handling the puck against a speedy team counting on their mistakes.And this time they have an ace in the hole.
Tyler Seguin made his NHL playoff debut against the Lightning and notched two points, including a goal, on three shots in a smidge under 10 minutes of ice time. The 19-year-old said hes been working on taking his shot aggressively to the cage, and he certainly looked every bit the aggressor in Game 1.
They'll need him, and everyone else, Tuesday night in Game 2. They'll also need Julien and his staff to get coaching against Tampa Bay's Guy Boucher, the French-Canadian king of in-game adjustments.
Three weeks ago, a trip to Lake Placid in the middle of the Montreal series refocused the Bruins.
This time, they'll need to do it on their own.