The Lightning arenât the Canadiens or the Maple Leafs, or even the Rangers, but the Bruins have plenty of reasons to dislike them.
âItâs the cream of the crop going at each other,â coach Bruce Cassidy said before Game 2 Tuesday. âI do consider it a rivalry. Youâre always going to have the Original Six; thatâs not going away any time soon. But the modern day â I look at like with Boston and Pittsburgh earlier in the decade. They had some good matchups, good playoff matchups. Two good teams that were winning, top-end players.â
And as in any good playoff series, there is some hard-edged, hateful play. Cassidy made no lineup changes for the second go-round with the Lightning, which meant his fourth-line attack dogs â Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly, and Chris Wagner â were on the hunt again.
Led by Nordstrom, who delivered seven hits, they landed 18 of the Bruinsâ 37 pops in Game 1. On review of that game, Cassidy was pleased with how they made their mark.
âGood, solid contact,â he said, noting how well the other two read off the first forechecker. âThey reload for one another. When one guy is finishing a check, a couple other guys are probably taking a read on, âWell, is he on the right side of the puck after the check? Did the puck advance up the ice or did they go back with it?â
âThereâs different ways. You can string three or four hits together if your forecheck is on time. If the puck moves up the ice, then itâs one and done and the other guys have to make sure theyâre in good defensive posture and probably check with their legs or their stick or both.â
Tampa Bay wasnât shy about playing the body, further underscoring the evenness of this heavyweight matchup. Cedric Paquette (seven hits), Blake Coleman (six), and Anthony Cirelli (five) matched the Bruinsâ total. Instead of one line of mashers, those three skate on different units.
His fourth line also stayed out of the penalty box, minus a Wagner roughing call (âNot sure what he did to deserve that one,â Cassidy shrugged), and were aces on a penalty kill that frustrated Tampa (0 for 3).
In a brief pregame press conference, Lightning coach Jon Cooper wasnât giving anything away regarding his major absence on the back end.
Toward the end of the Zoom session, he was asked who could go in for Ryan McDonagh, who was injured during Game 1.
At puck drop, we learned the Lightning went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Luke Schenn and Braydon Coburn drew in. Fourth-liner Carter Verhaeghe sat.
Carlo, who broke out as a shutdown defenseman in last yearâs postseason, skated 17:30 in Game 1, and his 13:42 at even strength was greater than only Clifton.
Some of that, Cassidy noted, comes from the rise in Charlie McAvoyâs ice time. He has been in the 24- 26-minute range, and is trusted as the right-shot rearguard on offensive-zone faceoffs next to lefties Torey Krug or Matt Grzelcyk. (McAvoyâs usual partner, Zdeno Chara, was not sent out for an offensive-zone draw in Game 1.)
The Bruins are also cognizant of the schedule. With two back-to-backs ahead â Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and next week, if Games 6 and 7 are needed â keeping Carloâs workload a bit lighter than usual could pay off, particularly if the Bruins have to kill a rash of penalties or protect leads, two of Carloâs specialties.
Ondrej Kase entered Game 2 looking for his first goal as a Bruin. In Game 1, Kase led the Bruins in five-on-five shots (four) and scoring chances (seven). Three of those came from in close. For the postseason, Kase and Jake DeBrusk were tied for the team lead in five-on-five scoring chances, 21 each.
In addition to being a reflection on their doggedness and the work of setup man David Krejci, it was reflective of Kaseâs frustration. DeBrusk has cashed in on three of his chances, Kase zero.
âAs long as weâre winning and youâre getting your chances, typically youâre comfortable with your game,â said Cassidy, not bothered by the zero next to Kaseâs name. âIt certainly hasnât affected his demeanor. Heâs always in a good mood around the rink.
âI donât think itâs affected his play away from the puck. Weâre still getting to know all his details of his game. We havenât seen him a lot. Work ethic, second effort on the puck continues to be there every day. Thatâs what we need out of him.
âLike I said, hopefully he catches a break here and gets one to go for him because he might be that streaky guy like Jake when he gets hot.â
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