Notes: Thomas continues to dominate late

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Notes: Thomas continues to dominate late

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

TAMPA Its pretty easy to get caught up watching Tim Thomas during the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially late in games when he has become a veritable human highlight reel.

And if there ever was a moment to get caught up in Thomas' play, it was when he made an otherworldly stop with the blade of his stick in Game 5.

The stop batted a sure Steve Downie goal out of the net area, keeping the Bruins' one-goal third-period lead intact. It was no surprise Downie sat stunned on the Tampa bench by himself after the game was finished and the Bruins had taken the victory, 3-1.

The save is already going down in the annals of Bruins history as the best postseason save for the Black and Gold since an amazing Reggie Lemelin stop against the New Jersey Devils back in the 1988 Stanley Cup playoffs run -- a gigantic compliment for Thomas.

The compliments have been coming in waves, even from the enemy. Lightning coach Guy Boucher has called the Bs goaltender an enigma on numerous occasions, and he talks about the miracles being performed by the former Vezina Trophy winner.

In some ways, that kind of mystical talk takes away from what the 37-year-old goalie is doing during this playoff run. Its not about any miracles or mysteries with Thomas. Its about an All-Star playing at the very top of his game when it matters most for both himself and his teammates around him.

Thomas is securing his place within the game of hockey, and he has a chance to add something amazing to his Vezina Trophy and All-Star honors. The 33-save effort and Downie save was the latest in his heart-stopping run, but coach Claude Julien worries about his team getting a little too dependent on Thomas coming up with something amazing to bail them out.

You don't want to rely on your goaltender. He's an important part of our team, and it's nice to be able to rely on him, said Julien. But you don't want to go into the game relying on him.

You want to do your job. There's going to be some games, like we said yesterday, that what's important is a win is about finding a way. You fall down 1-0 in the first two minutes of the game, and, you know, it's a team that usually shuts other teams out pretty good."

The funny thing is that rather than rely on Thomas to be brilliant, his stellar play could inspire the Bruins with the confidence that their goaltender is back into "brick-wall" mode. It's a state that would also demoralize the Lightning, and get them thinking its going to take a perfect shot to get the puck in the net. That kind of mindset can set scorers into long scoring slumps when they start trying to pick corners rather than simply shooting at the net through traffic with a quick release.

The series against the Flyers was essentially over after the 52-save effort in Game 2, which so overwhelmed the Philly skaters that they couldnt regain their offensive mojo. There is every chance that could happen to Tampa Bay in Game 6 after the Tim Thomas Show shut them down in the third period on Monday.

Boucher is known for his mind games, but Thomas and the Bruins might just be playing the ultimate mind game with the Lightning right now in the conference finals. The big Cheshire Cat grin Thomas flashed in the third period of Monday nights win while chaos reigned around him was something special. It had to give Tampas scorers the uneasy feeling theyre in for a long road if they're going to beat him.

Speaking of Thomas brilliance, his former college teammate at the University of Vermont, Martin St. Louis, said that the Lightning will once again attack the Bs goalie with traffic and physical contact as they did in Game 4.

That means plenty of Ryan Malone and Vinny Lecavalier attempting to battle their way through defenders to Thomas, and plenty of the collisions that got Thomas pretty hot under the collar in Game 4.

Wednesday we're going to have the same mindset of getting pucks in the net, crashing the net, and making their goaltender . . . giving him a hard game to play, said St. Louis.

Julien would be the first to say that the Bruins managed to win Game 5 despite not playing up their potential. He'd also say that the Bs will have to be much better if theyre hoping to eliminate the Lightning in Florida on Wednesday.

We were still able to hang on and eventually give ourselves a lead. But I think we know we can play better than we did last night, said Julien. That's the positive that you can take out of a win, knowing that we're a team that plays better than what we showed. So we're going to need that kind of effort tomorrow if we plan on winning the hockey game, because they're going to play with desperation.

They're a good team. We've said that all along. They're a dangerous team. Offensively they create a lot of opportunities, even if you play well defensively. They're going to find ways. So we have to be on top of our game tomorrow.

Boucher made official what people had been speculating since the Lightning dropped Game Five at TD Garden the Bolts will go with goalie Dwayne Roloson in an elimination scenario during Game 6 at the St. Pete Times Forum with their season on life support.

The 41-year-old Roloson is an amazing 7-0 in elimination games throughout his career, with the goalie never getting a chance to ride things out during his last playoff run when he suffered an injury deep in the playoff run with the Edmonton Oilers.

Roloson was the guy that took us here, and that's how I felt before last game; but like I said, I felt like it was time to give him a little breather, said Boucher. At the same time I felt that Mike Smith played really well. So it was a perfect situation to put Smitty in.

If something were to go wrong in the previous game, put a new goaltender in for a do-or-die, I don't think it would have been a good moment for anybody. So this is a perfect situation. He's going to be the only rested guy on the two teams.

The bottom line in what makes Bouchers a choice a pretty easy one in a game with potentially dire consequences: Roloson is the guy that the Lightning brought in to be the answer in January, and Smith has started a grand total of six games since March 3. Not a tough choice to go with Roloson with the season on the line given his big game experience even if he is a little banged up.

No word on Tampa Bay catalyst Sean Bergenheim, who pulled up lame in Game 5 away from the action and wouldnt have been able to play for the Lightning had the game been played on Tuesday night. Bergenheim would be a big loss for the Lightning if he cant play hes been one of their biggest offensive weapons as a player thats operated away from the heavy defensive attention paid to the big name Lightning offensive players.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Source: Bruins preparing offer sheet for Jets D-man Jacob Trouba

Source: Bruins preparing offer sheet for Jets D-man Jacob Trouba

According to a hockey source, Don Sweeney and the Boston Bruins “are preparing an offer sheet” this week for Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba as an aggressive option to land a No. 1 defenseman after trades didn’t pan out at last weekend’s NHL Draft.

The Bruins have watched Trouba closely for some time, and clearly have an interest in the 22-year-old D-man with size, offensive abilities and a workhorse nature that’s seen him average more than 22 minutes of ice time per game since entering the league as a 19-year-old.

Trouba is coming off a six-goal, 21-point season while playing in 81 games for the Jets, and was a career-best plus-10 for Winnipeg. With Trouba, a restricted free agent, and the Jets locked into big money deals to fellow right shot D-men in Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers, the writing has been on the wall for some time that the Jets would need to give one of them up.

Now it appears the Bruins may be willing to put their money, and their assets, where their interest is, and come up with an offer sheet that totals a minimum of $47 million for Trouba’s services.

Part of that high total is crafting an offer that the Winnipeg Jets aren’t going to match, and part of that is the Bruins’ own doing while casually tossing away their own draft picks. Because they sent their 2017 third round pick to the Flyers for Zac Rinaldo and their 2017 second round pick to New Jersey for Lee Stempniak, the Bruins must put together an offer sheet with an average annual value (AAV) of at least $9.3 million that will require Boston to give up four consecutive first round picks as compensation.

The good news for the Bruins: for offer sheet purposes, AAV is determined by dividing the total compensation offered by the lesser of the length of the contract, or by five. For contracts longer than five years in term, this will result in a higher AAV than simply dividing the contract total by the number of years.

Example: a 7 year offer sheet worth $49 million total, would be considered an AAV of $9.8 million ($49 million divided by 5) for offer sheet compensation purposes. That means the Bruins could make an offer sheet to Trouba in the $7-8 million per season neighborhood on a seven year deal, a reasonable contract if Trouba turns into the No. 1 defenseman that the B’s are envisioning.

The real price for the Black and Gold would be surrendering four first round picks, but the Bruins have made five first round picks in the last two years while stockpiling their prospect cupboard. The B’s have also been hit-or-miss with their first round picks, so sacrificing a few of them for a surefire, young defenseman would theoretically be worth the price.

Clearly the offer sheet route is the product of Bruins’ frustration at being unable to broker a deal for Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler last weekend in Buffalo, and at the realization that they need a stud No. 1 defenseman in order to again be competitive in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps even the threat of an offer sheet could spur the Jets into dealing Trouba, just as the threat of an offer sheet pushed forward the trades of Dougie Hamilton and Brandon Saad last season. 

Dirty Water Media Bruins reporter James Murphy was also reporting the buzz that the B's are exploring their offer sheet option. 

Bruins go for size, defensive presence at center with Koppanen

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Bruins go for size, defensive presence at center with Koppanen

While the Bruins fourth round pick might sound eerily like Finnish fourth line center Joonas Kemppainen, the Black and Gold are hoping for much more from fifth round pick (135th overall) Joona Koppanen. The 6-foot-5, 194-pound Finnish center is obviously a big body in the middle of the ice, and already plays a responsible, smart game on the defensive side of the ice.

In keeping with the parallels to Kemppainen, Koppanen is a bit less developed on the offensive side of the game at this point in his young career as an 18-year-old.  

“I think that the draft was awesome and I’m really excited for the draft to Boston,” said Koppanen, who added “Tuukka Rask plays there” when asked what he knows about the Bruins. “My strength is to skating and I’m a good two-way forward.”

The Big Finn had nine goals and 26 points in 40 games for the junior team in Finland last season, and was shut out in seven games for Team Finland at the World Junior U-18 Championships. So he’s got some work to do developing his offensive game and getting both bigger and stronger, but the Bruins see size, strength and the work ethic to improve in Koppanen.

“He’s a big guy, and for a big guy he can really move around. He’s very good defensively and smart with his positioning. He plays hard,” said Bruins head scout Keith Gretzky. “The skill is the one area that needs to develop, and we think it’s going to do that. He was a guy that we targeted because he’s a big guy that can skate, and is good in his own end.”

One thing the Bruins focused on heading into the draft was acquiring some size at the center position, and they’ve clearly done that with 6-foot-2, 200-pound Trent Frederic and the 6-foot-5, 198-pound Koppanen.

It just remains to be seen what kind of offensive upside these gritty, tough competitors will have once they reach the pro ranks a few years from now, and that will go a long way to determining how good these picks end up being.

One thing is for sure: they must be projecting that Koppanen is better than Kemppainen, who was an absolute bust in the offensive zone. 

Lindgren brings toughness, leadership as Bruins second-round pick

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Lindgren brings toughness, leadership as Bruins second-round pick

Despite receiving a mixed reaction to their two first-round picks, the consensus is the Bruins made another good pick in the second round with Ryan Lindgren.

The 6-foot, 203-pound defenseman from the US National Team Development Program had a combined 10 goals and 37 points in 87 games played for the program last season, and was excellent at both ends for Team USA during the World Junior Under-18 tournament played during the year.

Lindgren isn’t flashy, doesn’t come into the next stage of his hockey development as an elite puck-mover and he wasn’t somebody that popped with amazing workouts during the NHL scouting combine. Instead he’s simply been a solid D-man with good leadership qualities, who is good at everything while also showing an eager willingness to block shots and sacrifice his body for wins at a very young age where grit doesn’t always come naturally.

“Lindgren blocks shots. He’s not the most skilled guy like [Charlie] McAvoy or anything like that, but he brings an element that we really liked as an organization,” said Bruins head scout Keith Gretzky of the University of Minnesota-bound Lindgren. “We believe that he’s a leader, and you win with those kinds of guys.”

The Minnesota-born Lindgren also captained both the USNDTP team and the Under-18 World Junior squad for Team USA where hard work is clearly part of his overall skill set.

“I’m a hard-working defenseman,” said Lindgren last weekend in Buffalo while sporting black eyes from a ball hockey league he plays in with older brother, and Montreal Canadiens goalie, Charlie Lindgren. “I think I’m a leader on and off the ice. I think I bring a big compete level, and I bring it every day. I’m more of a defensive defenseman, but I think I’ve got some offensive ability as well. I’m going to be physical and bring it every game. I’m going to block shots and do whatever it is to help the team win. That’s what I expect to bring every game.”

Now the Bruins can sit back and watch Lindgren’s development with the Gophers where he’ll undoubtedly become a gritty, tough leader and top D-man like he’s been at every level of his hockey career prior to being the 49th overall selection.

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs