Through two games, the Stanley Cup playoff series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins has delivered exactly as advertised.
So far, it’s been a pair of exciting, close, hard-fought clashes between the Eastern Conference’s top two clubs during the regular season, and heading into Game 3 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal Wednesday in Toronto, the series is tied 1-1.
« They want to play heavy and fast, and they’ve got skill, and I think we’ve got all the same things, » Bruins forward Sean Kuraly said. « It turns out to be two good teams going at it head to head. No one wants to go home, and you’re kind of seeing the effects of that. Each team trying to play their game, and usually whoever can play the most of their game ends up winning. »
In theory, the Lightning hold the momentum after a 4-3 overtime victory on Tuesday, but these are a pair of experienced clubs who know how to regroup. Certainly, the Bruins, with a handful of players from their 2011 championship squad still on the team, aren’t stressing at this point.
« That’s a team that competes hard and works very hard, » Boston winger Brad Marchand said. « To play that two nights in a row, it’s going to be a battle. We all play back-to-backs all the time. No excuses come playoffs time. »
One area that may come into play with the games on consecutive nights involves Boston goalie Jaroslav Halak. However, the 35-year-old veteran did not face an inordinate number of shots in Tuesday’s clash, and that may be the deciding factor whether he plays or the Bruins turn to Dan Vladar — who has yet to make his NHL debut.
« I feel fine, » said Halak, who stopped 36 of 40 shots in Game 2. « We just need to get a good night’s sleep and see how it’s going to go. »
The Lightning, who rebounded from a 3-2 series-opening loss, twice needed to erase a deficit Tuesday before recovering to win after seeing their own lead disappear late in the affair. However, they received full marks for the victory, and not just because they finished with a 40-25 edge in shots.
It’s not just the shot count. Tampa Bay may be known for its talented forwards, but there are key additions from last season in the likes of Patrick Maroon, Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman who are adding grit to the game plan.
« We’re just trying to do our job, » said Coleman, who scored twice. « We were all brought in for a reason, for very specific reasons to help this team win. I think if we stay true to ourselves, we’ll be in good shape. »
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said, « It’s remarkable what these guys have done for us. I’ve said this earlier, we’ve got a bunch of guys who have chips on their shoulder from Maroon to (Kevin) Shattenkirk to (Zach) Bogosian. Then our GM (Julien BriseBois) went out and picked up some guys with a little dirt under their nails. The Colemans and Goodrows. Not necessarily were those players brought in to put points on the board, they were brought in to make us a better hockey team.
« And the fact they are contributing in these big moments, showing up in the stats sheet, it just goes to show the character they have in them. »
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