Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Lightning take page from Habs' playbook

Categories: BOS vs. TAM, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning

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With speed and persistence - and players like Hart Trophy candidate Martin St. Louis, left, and playoff revelation Sean Bergenheim, the Tampa Bay Lightning hope to neutralize the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) With speed and persistence - and players like Hart Trophy candidate Martin St. Louis, left, and playoff revelation Sean Bergenheim, the Tampa Bay Lightning hope to neutralize the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Lightning aiming for Montreal-like approach

When Guy Boucher was pre-scouting the Bruins, he paid special attention to Boston's first-round matchup against the Canadiens. In Montreal, Boucher saw a team much like his own.

"I think we're very close to what the Montreal Canadiens are," said Guy Boucher. "They've got good goaltending. They've got a lot of speed. They've got guys who can put the puck in the net. I think that's what we are. When we looked at that series, it's very similar to what, probably, we're going to see in this series."

Like the Canadiens, the Lightning play a smothering trap that gives opponents little space in the neutral zone. Where the Canadiens looked to sharpshooters such as Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec, and Brian Gionta to provide quick-strike offence, Boucher will turn to Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, and Vincent Lecavalier. While Carey Price stood tall for Montreal, Dwayne Roloson has been even sharper for Tampa Bay.

Where the Lightning have been lethal is their transition game. After they've sucked opponents in via their 1-3-1 system, the Lightning have turned instantly to offence. When they have the puck, they've funnelled their attack toward the net.

"It's a big part of their game," Milan Lucic said of the Lightning's defence-to-offence transition. "They've made the last two teams pay a lot for it. We've got to be smart with that.

"If you look at our past games when we've won games, you look at our breakout. Our D-men have done a good job supporting each other. As forwards, we've done a good job giving them outlets. It's important that we go up the ice together, establish a forecheck, make good chips, and make it hard on them. Make them go back in their own end and not turn pucks over at the red-line or blue-line. All those come into big effect.

"We can't wait to see what they're going to do. We've got to keep going with what we had against Philadelphia."

The Bruins had much more space against Philadelphia in the second round. The Flyers played a looser and more up-tempo game than the conservative Canadiens. Early in the series, the Bruins had a tough time fighting through Montreal's sit-back defence. Then when the Bruins gained possession in the offensive zone and looked for chances, the Canadiens were masterful at filling lanes and blocking shots.

Through two rounds, the Lightning blocked 233 shots, second-most behind San Jose (241).

"It's because they sit back, so they're always in defensive position," Claude Julien said. "That's a normal kind of thing to see. It's not about those guys being more committed than anybody else. It's because they're in position to block shots. As far as we're concerned, we've just got to get those shots through."

Malone assumes large role

Through the first two rounds, the Bruins had to battle against a big, tough-minded, left-shot forward. In the first round, Travis Moen saw some shifts on the second line with Gionta and Scott Gomez. Against Philadelphia, the Bruins had to deal with Scott Hartnell, who was often at his agitating best around the net.

In the Eastern Conference final, the Bruins will face their biggest challenge yet in Ryan Malone. The burly left-winger has been fighting injuries through the post-season, but has still chipped in with three goals and two assists.

Between rounds, Boucher has been giving Malone occasional rest days instead of making him practice.

"Before the year started, I heard all kinds of things about how this guy was a warrior and a playoff guy," Boucher said. "Through the big games this year, I saw it. He's been incredible. He's had some physical issues during the year, but also through these playoffs. Right now, he's fine to play, no problem. We're giving him some time off so he can do what he's been doing.

"I don't know if this guy knows what pain is. He's very courageous in going to the net, blocking shots, being first on the puck, getting hit hard to make the play happen. That's his trademark. That's who he is. A lot of our players have gained a lot from that. When you look at our toughest part of the year in terms of wins and losses, he was the one that was absent. The other guys were there, but we were struggling. He's a huge part of this team. A huge part of this team."

No change in Bergeron's status

Patrice Bergeron will not play in Game 1. The Bruins have not offered any insight on how much more time Bergeron will miss because of his concussion.

"We knew he was going to miss the start of the series," Julien said. "How much he is going to miss, I can't tell you right now. But he's on the right track and we're staying positive. I say that every day.

"I'm not going to say much more, because when it comes to concussions, you have good news, you have setbacks, you have all kinds of things that can happen. I'm not going to stand here and change my tune every day, except to tell you that right now, it's going in the right direction."