Bruins

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

Talking Points: Khudobin's effort helps B's snap losing streak

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Talking Points: Khudobin's effort helps B's snap losing streak

GOLD STAR: Anton Khudobin continues his stretch of picking up points in all of his games for the Bruins as he made 27 no-nonsense saves in a straight-up, blue collar kind of hockey game between the B’s and the Kings. Perhaps even more encouraging the Bruins dominated much of the final 20 minutes while protecting a third period lead, so Khudobin was forced into making just five saves against Los Angeles in something a little less than a frenzied, frenetic between the pipes performance that we’re sometimes used to seeing out of the backup. The big period for the Russian backup was the middle 20 minutes when he was making 17 big saves and eventually improving to 4-0-2 on the season while just simply winning all the time these days.  

 

BLACK EYE: Just one shot on net and three giveaways for Anze Kopitar in 22:08 of ice time for the Kings, who did have an assist on Drew Doughty’s power play goal in the second period during the loss. Kopitar had three giveaways in a bit of a sloppy effort taking care of the puck, and he lost 12-of-22 face-offs as well while facing off directly against his Selke Trophy winning competitor in Patrice Bergeron. Kopitar has never been really all that impressive going up against No. 37 over the years, and he hasn’t really been a killer when it comes to facing the Bruins. That sort of thing played out again for the Kings against the Bruins this season with guys like Kopitar and Doughty not quite enough against Boston. 

 

TURNING POINT: The Bruins scored the game’s first goal in the first period, and that proved to be one of the big difference-makers in the eventual victory for the Black and Gold. Charlie McAvoy’s early goal put the Bruins on the board and forced the LA Kings to start chasing the game a little bit more in a strange sequence of events that hasn’t been the norm with the Bruins much as of late. Once McAvoy darted in after the offensive zone face-off and scored in the first, the rest was up to a Bruins team that’s managed to score the first goal of the game for just the seventh time in 18 games this season. Given the real lack of depth on the roster for the B’s due to injuries, it’s vital to take an early lead and force the Kings, or any other opponent, to respect their game plan a little bit more armed with an early lead.    

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie McAvoy was a beast for the Bruins while topping 27 minutes of ice time, scoring the game’s first goal in the first period and not depriving himself of any of the physical play over the 60-minute course of the game. It was McAvoy that took the puck in a win on an offensive zone face-off, and darted straight to the front of the net where he was able to lift a backhanded a shot past Jonathan Quick for the early goal. It was his second goal of the season, and his first score since lighting the lamp on opening night vs. Nashville. Above and beyond that McAvoy had a goal and a plus-1 rating in 27:53 of ice time, and filled out the dirty work portion of his job description with four blocked shots and four registered hits to go along with his skill contributions. 

 

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 – the alarming number of giveaways for Zdeno Chara in the win while also registering the game-winning goal in the second period amongst his 26:53 of ice time on the second night of a back-to-back game.  Chara was obviously far from perfect, but he was digging deep for the win. 

 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “No passengers. I think everybody pulled on the rope today. A lot of guys blocked shots and took hits to make plays, and that’s what it took.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN on what the difference was in Thursday night’s win over the LA Kings. 

Bruins snap four-game losing streak with 2-1 win over Kings

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Bruins snap four-game losing streak with 2-1 win over Kings

LOS ANGELES -- The Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings were two teams going in the wrong direction, the losses suddenly piling up for both of them.

Something had to change when they met Thursday night and it did for the Bruins, who made Zdeno Chara's tiebreaking goal in the second period stand up for a 2-1 victory over the Kings.

"Our guys were sick of losing," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said after his team snapped a four-game skid.

The Kings, however, continued their unexpected spiral. After starting the season 11-2-2 for the best record in the Western Conference, they have dropped four in a row.

"We're going to have to dig down," coach John Stevens said. "You can't have part of your lineup going. You need your whole lineup going if you're going to win. It doesn't matter who you're playing."

The Kings won in Boston on Oct. 28 in the last second of overtime off a faceoff. This time, the Bruins returned the favor.

Patrice Bergeron won a faceoff for Boston in the first period and the puck went to Charlie McAvoy, who skated across the crease and lifted a backhand over the shoulder of goalie Jonathan Quick.

"I thought we played a much more complete game," McAvoy said. "We really wanted to get a win. It's been a while. We put together a complete 60 minutes."

Los Angeles tied it 1-all at 4:33 of the second on a power play. Jussi Jokinen found Drew Doughty open in the middle and the defenseman flicked in his fourth of the season.

Boston regained the lead at 13:16 when Chara fired a slap shot from outside the lower part of the circle that deflected off the stick of Los Angeles' Trevor Lewis a few feet in front of the net. The puck nicked the back of Quick's jersey and went in for Chara's second goal this season.

"I'm real happy with the way we played," Chara said. "We battled and deserved to win."

But the Bruins still had to hang on to preserve the victory, with almost 27 minutes yet to play.

"It's been an issue for us, closing out games," Cassidy said. "We did it well, comfortable. We didn't look scrambly. We didn't look like we lost our composure or poise."

The Kings never got another puck past backup goalie Anton Khudobin, who stopped 27 shots and improved to 4-0-2.

Quick made 28 saves for Los Angeles.

"You had that sense we did not want to let it go," Chara said. "You had that feel on the bench."

The Kings aren't sure what to feel after getting off to such an impressive start and now suddenly reeling.

"I don't think we're playing a 60-minute game," Anze Kopitar said. "Parts of the games, we play like we need to be, where we're in their zone making plays, creating chances.

"And in parts of the games, we're just pretty much non-existent out there. That's got to change. We have to have a better effort from everybody for a full game."

NOTES: Boston center David Krejci returned after missing 11 games with an upper-body injury. He played 18 minutes. "I felt pretty good for my first game back," Krejci said. . Kopitar assisted on Doughty's goal, extending his point streak to a career-best nine games. . The Kings had one four-game losing streak all last season. . The Bruins earned their second road win of the season.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Head to San Jose to play the Sharks on Saturday.

Kings: Stay home Saturday to host the Florida Panthers.

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