Tag Archives: Dennis Seidenberg

Bruins sign Johnny Boychuk to 3 year extension

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli got a head start on what is still likely to be a very busy off season in Beantown this summer, signing defenseman Johnny Boychuk to a 3-year contract extension that will carry a cap hit of $3.36 million. That still leaves Chiarelli with a sizable list of free agents, both unrestricted and restricted, to address before the 2012-2013 season, but it’s nice to see him being proactive and taking care of something that was clearly at the top of his to-do list early. After this season Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, and Joe Corvo will all be unrestricted free agents while Benoit Pouliot and Tuukka Rask will become restricted free agents.

Clearly there is still some work to be done, with Tuukka Rask probably sticking out as the most important guy on that list, but for now let’s focus on the Boychuk deal.

At first blush, I’m sure a lot of the reaction to the amount of money Boychuk got in this deal will be that of shock considering he got a pretty decent raise from his current $1.85 million dollar a year contract. Also, when you look at his offensive numbers since he’s become a mainstay in the Boston lineup 2009, it certainly doesn’t help make his case for such a hefty pay raise, as he had 5 goals and 10 assists in his initial year here, followed by a season of 3 goals and 13 assists. To this point in the season he has only managed to tally 3 goals and 7 assists. Certainly not lofty numbers. However I think it’s important to look at the entire makeup of a player, and especially a defenseman, before making a final judgement on whether he is worth the money he makes.

In the case of Boychuk, there are a few things about his game and what he has done in Boston that warrant the kind of contract he received, which is a fairly standard contract for a top-4 defensemen in the NHL these days. First, he is a guy that really fits in well in a top-4 role and is someone who can really eat minutes on the back-end. For the B’s, Boychuk actually slots in on the first pairing playing alongside Zdeno Chara and so far this season has averaged just over 20 minutes a night. Granted he’s numb three on the depth chart as I’d say Dennis Seidenberg is probably the number 2, Boychuk is still an extremely important part of the Bruins d-corps.

On top of his ability to log important minutes, he has also proven that he is by no means a liability defensively, as he’s been a plus player in each of his three years with Boston, and as of right now is a +23 which is good for 5th best among all NHL defensemen. I’ve really been a fan of his game since he’s been in Boston. He’s been a very steady presence on the back-end. He’s  an above average shot blocker, which is you look at a team like the New York Rangers, has become a pretty invaluable part of the game lately. He’s also someone who loves to bring a physical edge to the ice and has shown an ability for throwing those big, game changing types of hits.

And to be honest, I really believe there is a lot more offensive potential in his game despite the modest numbers he’s put up in three years with the Bruins. This is a guy who, in 2008-2009, won the award for best defenseman in the AHL playing with the Providence Bruins after posting an incredible season of 20 goals and 45 assists for 65 points. I also think he turned a bit of  a corner with his play during last year’s playoff run as he scored 3 goals and 9 assists during the B’s run to the Cup. Despite his slow offensive season thus far, I feel he certainly has the ability to become the kind of defensemen who can give you a solid defensive game, play some big minutes and score somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 goals. He has an absolute cannon of a slap shot and likes to jump into the play offensively when the opportunity presents itself. He also gets time on the power play, mainly because of his shot. A guy like that though is valuable in today’s explosive and offense-heavy NHL.

I think the main reason for Boychuk’s raise though, lies in his formerly impending status as an unrestricted free agent. He’s a guy who, at 28 years of age, still sits firmly in his prime. It was likely that had Chiarelli waited and allowed Boychuk to hit the open market he could have garnered offers north of the $4 million range. A comparable guy is the Hurricanes Tim Gleason, who plays a similar physical, stay at home type of game and probably is more limited offensively then Boychuk while being a bit more solid defensively. Gleason is currently in the middle of a contract that pays him just over $4 million a year. Also, you can look at guys like Tomas Kaberle ($4.25 mill) and James Wisniewski ($5.5 mill) to know that with Johnny B at $3.3 million for the next three years, the Bruins locked up a known commodity, someone who has entrenched himself into the Bruins top-4 and who has developed some really good chemistry with big Z, for a pretty reasonable price.

I for one am glad that Boychuk will be sticking around. Hopefully we can see a lot more of this over the course of the next three years:

 

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It’s a brand new series

What a night at the TD Garden last night. The Bruins did what they had to do and held serve at home, winning both games to even the series back up at two games a piece. The impressive thing about this two game set at the Garden was the dominating fashion in which the B’s won both games. They beat the Canucks by a combined score of 12-1 in these two games and really controlled every single aspect of both games. Last night’s 4-0 win to knot the series up at two was the second consecutive game in which the Bruins were able to get to Roberto Luongo. They lit him up for eight goals on Monday and once again unleashed an onslaught on him last night, this time successfully chasing him from the goal as he was yanked after the fourth goal got by him. Luongo is traditionally thought of as a bit of a head case. A goalie who is not all that mentally tough and someone who has a tough time handling adversity. This has so far proved to be true with his performance in these last two games, and if the Bruins can keep him off his game the goals should continue to come.

After all the talk about how good and how talented of a team Vancouver is, and how difficult it was going to be for Boston to win this series, which predictably continued after the Bruins got down 0-2 after the first two games in Vancouver, the B’s have rebounded nicely and looked the much stronger team through these last two games. Now the series shifts back to Canada’s wild west, and with the series tied at two it is officially a best of three series. Hopefully the B’s can continue to ride the momentum.

Here are some of my thoughts from last night’s game.

Rich Peverley

I was going to start things off by talking about Tim Thomas, but Timmy has gotten his fair share of props already this post-season (with good reason) so I figured I’d start things off by giving Peverley his due. Last night was the reason Chiarelli brought him in at the trade deadline. He was talked about as a solid depth guy, capable of playing center or wing and fitting into various roles. He’s a very speedy guy with strong hockey smarts, above average hands and a good shot. He hadn’t contributed much offensively this post-season, but he has contributed in plenty of other ways. However, last night he finally stepped up when the Bruins needed him to most. With Nathan Horton now sidelined for the remainder of the playoffs, Peverley Hills Cop was elevated to Horton’s spot on the top line with DK46 and Lucic. All Peverley did was score twice, the first goal of the game which proved to be the game winner and the last goal of the game which chased Luongo and likely made him cry after the game. Hopefully #49 can continue to bring his A game and provide the scoring touch the B’s need.

Tim Thomas

Now it’s time to talk again about Tim Thomas. The post-season has been an incredible ride, and Timmy has obviously played a huge role in getting the Bruins to the position they are in right now. What more can really be said about the guy. He was absolutely amazing once again last night, stopping 38 shots for his third shutout of the playoffs. He is now working with a goals against average of 2.11 and a save percentage of .936 in 22 games this post-season. Those numbers are just insane, plain and simple. Add to that the way that Timmy has mixed it up with some of the Canucks players these last two games, laying out one of the Sedin sisters in game three to record an official hit (which is probably one more hit than Henrik has recorded this series) and then taking exception to Burrows stick work last night and laying the lumber on the biter, causing a bit of a melee in front of his crease. It’s not hard to understand why Boston fans love this guy so much. If he continues to play at the level he has been at this series so far the Canucks will certainly have their hands full.

Michael Ryder

The enigma that is Michael Ryder has certainly been one of the more frustrating players in black and gold throughout his four-year tenure in Boston. He’s a guy that boasts all of the physical tools and talents that should make him a legitimate goal scorer at the NHL level. He’s a big, strong guy with decent hands and an absolute laser beam of a wrist shot. 30 goals every year should really not be such a difficult number for him to attain. However his streakiness and refusal to bring it night in and night out has made him inconsistent and maddening to watch at times. However, the last two games of this series, Ryder has finally arrived to these Stanley Cup Finals. He’s stepped up his game with the absence of Nathan Horton and has begun to really play at a high level. He’s got a goal in each of the last two games as well as an assist, but more than just production, he has brought a much more complete effort. There was an instance last night where on the powerplay Boston turned the puck over and Mason Ramond raced in on Tim Thomas. Ryder dug down and back-checked hard, catching up to Raymond and lifting his stick from behind to regain possession before the Nuck could get his shot off. It’s nice to see Ryder play at such a high level and hopefully this will continue.

Dennis Seidenberg

We’ve talked about Seidenberg before during this playoff run, but it begs mentioning again that the Germany native has been an absolute beast throughout the post-season. Paired with Zdeno Chara, the two have formed probably the scariest and most dominating shut-down defensive pair of all the playoff teams this year. Seidenberg in particular has raised his game up a bunch and has really complimented Big Z nicely. Last night was one of Seids’ best games of the post season, I think. He was steady defensively, but more importantly he played with a really mean, physical edge last night. That is the key to success against the Canucks as they are a team full of pretend tough guys and diving pansies. Once you start roughing them up and getting in their face they fold like a lawn chair. Seidenberg laid out several Vancouver players last night and was just strong from start to finish.

Brad Marchand

Is there anyone better than Brad Marchand right now? He’s bringing it in just about every aspect of the game night in and night out right now. He’s putting the puck in the net. He’s throwing his weight around. He’s doing plenty of chirping and getting the Canucks off their game. He’s killing penalties and even getting some power play time. The rookie has been a sensation all season long and that has only continued into the playoffs. He scored his 8th goal of the playoffs last night to tie for second on the Bruins in playoff goals with Nathan Horton, behind only David Krejci. My favorite Marchand moment by far last night though was the ruckus he caused with just over two minutes left in the game. Racing for the puck in the Vancouver corner with Christian Erhoff, he cut into the middle on the d-man but was sure to grab his shoulder and drag him down. He got called for the interference penalty, and rightfully so. After the whistle blew though, Daniel Sedin came in hard on Marchand seemingly going to make some contact and get in his face, so Bad Brad made a quick decision and went low, sending the creepy twin over his back and bringing a roar up from the Garden crowd. From there he immediately dropped his gloves as Keith Ballard engaged him. Just a great sequence from the 21-year-old rookie.

Milan Lucic

It’s no secret that Lucic has really struggled for most of these 2011 playoffs. He’s looked slow for a lot of it, made some questionable decisions with the puck, failed to produce much and has not really made the impact that many of us expected. I think he has been much better in these finals so far though, not surprising considering the opponent. I also think last night was his best playoff game since probably game four against Philly. He looked like he had much better jump in his legs. He was moving, getting in on the forecheck and throwing his weight around and making things happen offensively. The move he made on Kevin Bieksa before setting up Peverley for his second goal of the game was just silly and quite frankly not something a man of his size should be able to pull off. Also I really liked Looch’s willingness to shoot last night. He was firing rubber at Luongo all night, even catching him on the mask once or twice, which I’m sure only served to rattle the goalie that much more. I also don’t think he’s done leaving his mark on this series just yet.

Nathan Horton and the MVP Jacket

Perhaps some of the best news to come out after last night’s game was the appearance Nathan Horton made in the Bruins’ locker room post-game. The status of the injured winger was still unclear going into the game last night. We knew he was diagnosed with a severe concussion and released from the hospital, but that was it. He surprised everyone, including his teammates, by showing up to the locker room after the win to congratulate the boys, which I can only imagine sparked everybody in that locker room even more. Horton apparently had wanted to continue the tradition of passing on the MVP jacket, and fittingly he handed it off to the guy who replaced him on the first line in Rich Peverley.

Well it’s really anyone’s series at this point, but I’d say the momentum is clearly with the Bruins right now. Hopefully they can continue to ride that and bring Bruins Nation home a trophy, a big one.

Believe in Boston.

– Fredi

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Stanley Cup Finals Preview

It’s finally time for the puck to drop on the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals and all of Boston waits in anticipation for 8 pm and the Bruins first appearance in the finals since 1990. Suffice it to say, the city of Boston has been waiting impatiently for a long, long time for the cup to come back to Beantown. Not since the days of Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito has Lord Stanley’s Cup belonged to the black and gold. This year’s post-season run has certainly been pretty magical so far. Bruins fans have experienced some serious lows and exhilarating highs on the way to the championship. They faced some of their greatest adversity and exorcised some of their worst demons along the way.

The question after the way the Bruins have exited the last three playoffs has been can the Bruins step up when it counts most and win a game 7. Well they’ve passed that test with flying colors twice thus far. What’s more, they did it for the first time against their most hated rivals in the Habs, winning an exciting game 7 in overtime at home. From there, they moved on for a much-anticipated rematch of last year’s conference semifinals with the Flyers. We all know how things played out last year with the B’s epic collapse. Well all they did this year was sweep Philly right out of the playoffs in impressive fashion, moving on to their first conference finals since 1992. Then it was a date with the Tampa Bay Lightning with the Prince of Wales trophy up for grabs. Tampa was no doubt a formidable opponent, boasting perhaps the most potent offensive attack in the entire playoff field, an incredible special teams and veteran journeyman goalie playing out of his mind and seemingly fated to win the Cup. After an exciting back and forth series, the Bruins stood tall in another game 7 at home and gave the Garden faithful what they wanted in a booked trip to the Stanley Cup finals.

So here we stand. Two teams are left. One series and one team stands in the Bruins’ way of the ultimate goal in the Vancouver Canucks. If you read really any of the hockey media outside of Boston, they’d have you believe that the series is all but a formality and the Bruins don’t stand a chance against the juggernauts that are the Canucks. They are too deep, too talented, have too much offensive fire power and too strong of a goalie in Roberto Luongo. The Bruins simply can’t match up talent for talent with the Nucks, and they are most likely already engraving the Cup with the names of the Vancouver roster. To be honest, it sounds very similar to the analysis we heard just prior to the B’s series with Philly, minus the goaltender talk of course.

The Bruins though have really been underdogs throughout these playoffs. People said Montreal was a bad matchup for them. They said Philly was too tough and talented. They said the Tampa was too explosive offensively. However, all Boston has done throughout is prove their detractors wrong. They continue to step up to the plate and perform. I also think that this is a much closer match up than anyone outside of Boston wants to believe.

The series pits the two best goaltenders of the 2011 playoffs against one another in Luongo and Timmy Thomas. I don’t really see how you can give one team the edge over the other in this stat. Offensively, sure the Canucks have the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler. The Bruins, though, have the depth through their three lines to combat that firepower. The first line of Krejci, Lucic and Horton combined for 18 points in the Tampa series and has been a force. Bergeron has at times been the Bruins MVP this post season. Brad Marchand has shown a knack for scoring timely goals. Tyler Seguin has exploded onto the scene with his 6 point performance in the conference finals and has shown instant chemistry with Michael Ryder and Chris Kelly. Then you have a guy like Rich Peverley who’s been relegated to the fourth line but has also been Claude Julien’s go-to guy when he feels the need to mix lines up a bit, evident by his 16-minutes of ice time in game 7. Defensively, you’ll hear a lot about the Canucks’ depth on the back-end and high-end puck-moving abilities throughout their six d-men. They don’t have a single defensemen, though, that comes close in comparison to big Zdeno Chara, and Chara has been a monster throughout the playoffs. Paired with Dennis Seidenberg, they combine to form probably the best shut-down d-pairing in all of the playoffs. Andrew Ference has elevated his game and been a warrior, as has Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid, blocking shots and bringing a real physical presence. Tomas Kaberle has certainly had more struggles than we care to remember, but he also boasts the potential to have a real break out series.

Vancouver is certainly the favorite and a very, very talented team from top to bottom of their roster. If they have no fear of the underdog, though, they could be in for a very rude awakening.

Believe in Boston!

– Fredi

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Bruins headed to Stanley Cup finals!

Wow. What a night it was in Boston last night. Words can’t even describe how amazing I felt last night. After stressing out for a full three hours watching the B’s and Lightning battle it out in game 7 while trying to enjoy my birthday, the Bruins delivered the best birthday present I could have asked for last night. A trip to the Stanley Cup finals. It still seems so surreal to say that. The last time the Bruins played for the right to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup, it was 1990. I was 5 years old. Cam Neely and Ray Bourque were still in their prime. I’ve waited a long time, and suffered through some crappy seasons and heart breaking defeats. Bruins nation and the city of Boston have been absolutely starved for a Stanley Cup. And now the B’s are within inches of the best prize in all of professional sports. Four more wins.

You know you can count on the Sports List to provide you with plenty of Stanley Cup Finals coverage over the course of the next few days leading up to game 1 on Wednesday night in Vancouver. Let’s reflect a bit more on the epic game 7 that was last night. What a hockey game that was. What a series we just witnessed.

Here are some of my thoughts combined with those of my colleague Size.

The atmosphere in Boston

I unfortunately did not have the pleasure of being in the TD Garden to witness last night’s game live, and I can only imagine how amazing it likely was in and around that building. I did however venture out into Boston to watch the game with friends at a bar, and I have to say the atmosphere in the bar that I was at was amazing. The Bruins game was on every single TV and every last person in that bar was completely entranced by the game. When Horton scored, the place absolutely erupted. And then when the clock ran out and the Bruins were really on their way to the Cup finals, people were going insane. Outside the bar it was more of the same. Spoked B’s all over the place. People high-fiving and chanting. It was just awesome. I forgot how great this city can be when they all unite behind one of their sports teams. Hopefully the Bruins can ride this momentum and give us all more reason to cheer in about two weeks.

Tim Thomas

Once again we had the pleasure of watching Timmy at his absolute best. One of the best stories in all of the NHL. The guy has literally had to claw his way into a starting job at the NHL level, and it’s that never-quit approach that he brings that has endeared him to the entire Bruins fanbase. He’s an absolute warrior, and when he’s on top of his game he is damn near impossible to beat. You just knew he was going to do absolutely everything in his power to give his team a chance to win last night. He certainly delivered with his second shutout of the post season in a strong 24-save performance. It’s just so awesome to watch him succeed because I can’t think of many more guys in the league who deserve it as much as he does. He’s paid his dues, and is now rewarding the franchise that gave him his shot and showed some faith in him when it seemed nobody would. If the Bruins can complete this run and win the Cup, Thomas will definitely get serious consideration for the Conn Smythe.

Claude Julien

Claude has certainly taken his fair share of criticism throughout this regular season and playoffs, and I do think he’s deserved plenty of what he’s gotten. However, if you’re going to knock him, it’s only right to give him his due when he deserves it. I think last night was probably his best coaching performance of the playoffs. Recognizing that Recchi’s ice time needed to be limited. Recognizing that Seguin was having a strong game and rewarding him with increased ice time. Mixing the lines up. Getting Peverley, who had been designated to fourth line duties with the return of Bergy, more well-deserved ice-time by mixing him into different lines. He really maintained a strong game plan last night and did a great job keeping his team focused.

David Krejci

My friends know that I’m a huge DK46 fan. I own a Krejci winter classic jersey and he is by far one of my favorite players on the team. I was, with everyone else, very down on the way DK played in the Montreal series. He’s the team’s number one center and absolutely has to be producing. However, since the first series, Krejci has elevated his game a ton and become one of the Bruins’ most dangerous offensive players along with his running mates Lucic and Horton. He’s created offense, both in setting up his line-mates for scoring opportunities or taking matters into his own hands. His slick playmaking was on display once again as he set up Nathan Horton for the game winner with a picture perfect pass, under two Tampa d-men’s stick right on Horton’s tape for an easy open-net tap in. It was a thing of beauty. It’s been awesome watching these guys play at such a high level. Krejci leads the B’s in post-season scoring, along with Horton, with 17 points. He also leads the team in goals with 10. Both guys will likely get Conn Smythe consideration as well if they keep this play up and help the B’s bring home the Cup.

Team Defense

This was really on display last night. All year-long we’ve watched Julien roll out his system that focuses so much on team defense. Forwards getting back and helping out defensively. Defensemen helping out Thomas with blocked shots and clearing away rebounds. Clogging the middle of the ice and forcing their opposition to play on the perimeter. Last night was probably the best overall performance by the B’s defensively of the post-season.

Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg

What can you really say about these two guys other than they are absolute beasts. Chara played just over 26 minutes and Seidenberg played just over 27. They were far and away the TOI leaders for Boston, playing in every single important game situation. They were relied upon to shut down Tampa’s potent offense and did an amazing job last night. These two are huge keys to the Bruins success, and when they are playing like they did last night the B’s are a tough team to beat.

Respect for Tampa

We’ve obviously had our fun at the Tampa Bay fans’ expense throughout the course of this series. And I will stand by my earlier blog post that Tampa fans are a collective group of frauds. This series has definitely instilled a certain amount of respect in me for the Tampa Bay Lightning, however. That’s a team that is really just hard to hate. Outside of that puke Steve Downie and probably Victor Hedman, there aren’t any guys on that roster that really enrage me. It was a very different feeling series than the Montreal and Philly series. Those are two teams extremely easy to hate. Tampa on the other hand is an extremely talented team with a lot of classy players. How can you not root for a guy like Marty St. Louis? Steven Stamkos? Warrior. 21 years old, one of the best players in the NHL. Takes a slap shot to the face and misses all of 5 minutes while they stop the bleeding and throw a cage on his helmet. No doubt that franchise is going in the right direction and should once again be a top team in the East next year.

Thats all I got for you guys today. I’m still on cloud 9. I plan on keeping the celebration going all weekend long. Like Jack Edwards said earlier in the playoffs, Boston has Stanley Cup fever once again and I am loving every second of it.

Believe in Boston!

– Fredi

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Bruins – Lightning Series Preview

Well it’s now been three days since the B’s punched their ticket to the Eastern Conference finals, completing the sweep of the Flyers and exacting the revenge that they, and Bruins fans everywhere, were seeking after last year’s collapse. Obviously I’m extremely pumped up to watch the black and gold in their first conference finals since the days of Neely, Bourque and Oates back in 1992, and the layoff here as we wait for the Western Conference finals to be set is killing me.

The Canucks moved on by beating Nashville in game 6 last night, and the Sharks and Red Wings will play game 6 tonight in Detroit. If the Sharks can close things out tonight, we’re likely looking at game 1 for the B’s-Lightning on Thursday night at the TD Garden. If the Wings can force a game 7, then they’ll probably open things up Saturday night.

The Bruins took the regular season series with the Lightning, winning 3 of the 4 games. However, that really isn’t a proper gauge of how things should go in the conference finals. With the exception of the early December 8-1 blowout the B’s delivered to Tampa at the Garden, the rest of the series was extremely tight. Tampa won the opening game 3-1 down in Florida, and the other two Bruins’ wins were one-goal decisions. The B’s also never faced Dwayne Roloson, who has really stabilized what was a revolving door in net for the Lightning for most of the season and has played his best hockey of the year in the playoffs. It will likely be a battle, and I can easily see it going the full 7 games, thankfully the B’s have home ice advantage once again.

Let’s take a look at the positional breakdown:

Forwards

One thing that you’ll see is a trend for both Boston and Tampa is that each team boasts a lot of depth at all positions. As far as their offenses are concerned, both coaches have been able to consistently roll three lines throughout the first two rounds of these playoffs, spotting their fourth lines in here and there. The B’s offense will take a big hit for at least the first part of this series with Patrice Bergeron suffering a mild concussion from a hit he took in game 4 Friday night. Bergy has been Boston’s best all-around forward through the first two rounds, leading the team in points with 12, assists with 10, hits with 31 and face-off percentage with 64.2%. It will be tough to make up for the loss of what Bergeron brings to the table, but it will mean we get to see Tyler Seguin get his first taste of playoff hockey, and I’m excited about that. On the other side, the Lightning will get Simon Gagne back for the conference finals. Gagne went out with a minor concussion in the opening round of the playoffs against Pittsburgh, and missed all four games of the semis. Gagne just increases the overall depth for Tampa.

So in comparing these two offenses, there is really no question that the Tampa Bay top 6 is likely the most talented group of 6 forwards left in the playoffs currently. Steven Stamkos has proven himself a legitimate NHL goal scorer in his third year in the league, Marty St. Louis is still one of the league’s best wingers, Ryan Malone flanks those two and is a big bodied, grinding forward with a nose for the net. Their second line is centered by Vinny Lecavalier who has been a strong playoff performer throughout his career, with Teddy Purcell on one wing and Gagne on the other. Gagne is also a proven playoff warrior while Purcell is a talented young forward who has really blossomed this year. The B’s combat that with their effective first line of David Krejci between Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic. This line was a force in the Philly series, and Lucic finally broke out of his slump with two goals in game 4. Their second line had been extremely effective with Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi. Marchand has really been a nice surprise in his rookie season, and is tied for the team lead for playoff goals (5) with Horton and Krejci. Recchi has provided that steadying veteran presence as expected. Chris Kelly will take Bergeron’s spot centering this line and the B’s success will hinge on his ability to click with his new line.

The real x-factor on offense will be the play of both teams’ third lines. Tampa’s third line of Steve Downie, Dominic Moore and Sean Bergenheim has been extremely effective through the first two series, and Bergenheim has exploded to lead his team with 7 goals thus far. For the B’s, the third line had been Kelly between Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley. That line had been very solid for the B’s, especially in the Montreal series. If Seguin can come in and providing some energy and offense, the B’s won’t miss a beat, however that is a big if. You definitely have to give the slight edge on offense to Tampa though.

Defense

As is the case with the offense, both teams have some solid depth on the back-end as well to compliment their forwards. Again, both coaches have been able to roll through their 3 d-pairings pretty consistently, obviously leaning on their top 4 in critical times. For Tampa, they will likely be without Pavel Kubina for part of the series, which is a tough loss because he has been very effective, particularly on the powerplay. For Boston, they’ll get back Adam McQuaid who has been a very solid physical, stay at home guy for Boston all year-long.

The question mark for Tampa will be whether Guy Boucher goes with Randy Jones or Marc-Andre Bergeron as his 6th defenseman. Depth-wise, it is more or less a wash for both teams. Eric Brewer and Mattias Ohlund have been a strong number 1 pairing for Tampa, while Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk have been able to recreate their magic from a year ago for Boston. Second year d-man Victor Hedman has really come into his own in these playoff for Tampa, while Dennis Seidenberg has been an absolute monster for Boston. The real difference between the two corps is Boston’s captain, big Zdeno Chara. Chara had his struggles in the first series due in large part to experiencing dehydration, but has gotten stronger as the playoffs have gone on. The fact is Tampa really doesn’t have a d-man on their roster that can match up with Z. With that in mind you have to give the edge to Boston here.

Goaltending

I think we’re all really in for a treat in this series with the way Tim Thomas and Dwayne Roloson have been playing throughout the playoffs so far. Thomas, after a tough first few games against Montreal, has been at the absolute top of his game since providing the B’s with the Vezina-caliber goaltending that the Boston faithful have come to expect. He completely shut Philly down in their quick four game set and is definitely a big part of how Boston was able to get to this point. On the other end of the ice, Roloson (who is the only goalie in the playoffs older than Thomas) has been the only net minder able to post better numbers than Tim Thomas, albeit just slightly. Both of these guys are playing lights out right now and really putting on a show as neither one of them plays a very sound butterfly style, bringing a bit of an old-school flare to the ice with them each night. The way both are playing, you have to say that goaltending is a definite wash coming into this series.

Conclusion

I honestly think this series is just about as even as you can get. You’ll see both teams rely on a strong defensive structure, and play a bit of a trap at times, relying on being able to capitalize on their opponent’s mistakes with quick counter attacks to get on the board. Both teams are capable of playing a shut down game when necessary, and through the playoffs so far, both have proven themselves capable of lighting the lamp. The real key to this series will be how it is officiated, and no I’m not trying to pin anything on the refs already. The fact is that Boston has been arguably the best even strength team throughout the playoffs this year, while they have struggled mightily on the powerplay, scoring only two goals with man advantage in the post season. They have been solid on the penalty kill however. Conversely, Tampa has really made their special teams into a weapon this post season. They have had the best powerplay and the best penalty kill all playoffs long. If the Bruins can nullify, or at least cool off the Tampa powerplay then I think they will be ok.

I see this series going 7 games, with Boston moving on to their first Stanley Cup finals since the early 90’s in front of their home crowd.

– Fredi

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