Pregame in Tampa: Shutting Down Top-Ranked Offense
Defense-first B's prepare for Lightning's firepower up front
TAMPA, FL - After three days without a game, the rested Bruins are looking forward to jumping back into game action tonight in Tampa against the Lightning - happy to return to their gameday routines, beginning with a morning skate at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Sitting back and watching other Northeast and Eastern Conference opponents pick up points has not been easy for the Black & Gold, who have not had the opportunity to place more points next to their name in the standings since earning two in a 3-2 win over Winnipeg on Sunday.
"It’s one of those things that we really wanted to accomplish, knowing that we’d be behind most of the teams, if not all the teams, right now - we wanted to stay in the pack," Coach Julien told media following pregame skate, on the B's 9-2-2 start that has seen them earn 20 of a possible 26 points. All accomplished through the season's first 13 games - the lowest number of games played of any team in the NHL.
"Slipped a little bit right now, we’re sitting in fifth and just because you've got games in hand, doesn’t mean you’re going to be back in first, you still have to win those games."
"But, to be in the pack that’s in a playoff spot is important for us, right now. I’ve always said, the first goal is to make the playoffs before you even think about anything else past that. Right now, we want to stay in that group, whether we have the least amount of games than anybody else or we catch up, we still want to be in that group and hopefully more towards the top."
The determined B's know the importance of banking two more points tonight to get back into the standings race, especially with the hectic schedule awaiting them after the luxury of multiple days in a row without games during February and their current road trip.
"Just focus on just what’s in front of us now," said Shawn Thornton, when asked about the B's upcoming schedule that won't see two days in a row without a game until March 28-29, and three back-to-backs.
"But in the back of my mind I’m aware there’s going to be 17 games in 30 days, or whatever it is. But, to make sure that we’re ready for that grind, winning these games, as many of them as possible, sets ourselves up in a little bit better position going into that grind, will definitely help."
"Yeah, it’s a little crazy," said David Krejci, on the teams out in front of the B's in the rankings. "We were watching the standings and hockey games, highlights, you see those teams that have 16, 17, 18 games, and we have only 13. So it’s kind of crazy but we know we are going to have a tough schedule in front of us in March."
Hopefully, the extra rest this week will be an advantage for Boston, who had seven players (and a coach) recuperating from being out with flu-like symptoms that kept them from the ice Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena.
"Any time you get a little bit of time off to rest it is a benefit, especially with what we went through this week with the flu bug," said Coach Julien. "But at the same time, you have to realize that you’re going to have to pay for it down the road and our schedule in the last two months is really, really hectic and compacted into almost every second night."
"You enjoy it while you can and you make the best of it, but we know at one point we’re going to have to make up for it somewhere down the road."
"Last game was a Sunday, now we play today and the next game is a Sunday again so we have a lot of time to work on our game and we did that so I think we’re ready," said Krejci - one of the B's to not catch the bug - on the extra time. "We’ve just got to go out there tonight and show that we can play the same game as we did in Winnipeg."
While the B's will be rested, Coach Julien will be keeping a close eye on ice time tonight, as the team looks to get back to 100 percent.
"Well, there’s no guarantees when it comes to that stuff," said Coach, when asked if he was confident the flu had run its course. "We’ve gone through two days without other situations happening, so that’s a good sign. With any time that you go through the flu bug and you’re dehydrated, it takes a couple of days to get through it."
"I think it’s going to be important for me tonight to keep my eye on the bench and gauge the players, as far as how quickly you want to change lines and how short shifts those guys are going to want to have if we want to have the energy and the tempo that we’re looking for."
Preparing for Well-Rounded Bolts
It's no secret that Tampa Bay's top six forwards can be lethal with their offensive output - led by Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier, and Marty St. Louis and with a heightened offense from former Bruin Benoit Pouliot (who has seen a jump in his play since getting moved to a top-six role with Ryan Malone injured). The Bolts are averaging four goals per game, and have the top-ranked offense with 59 goals on the season.
"Like in the past, Tampa has a really explosive offense, they’re really deep," said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, on shutting down the opposing talent. "A lot of skill, a lot of speed. It’s a good challenge for us tonight. We’ll try to shut them down and play a tough game."
But along with the firepower to the Lightning's game, they have become a more well-rounded team, with depth and a solid goaltending position.
"When you look at the players they have up front, they’re certainly dynamic," said Coach Julien. "They have guys that can score goals and can do some damage. When you look at their back end, guys like [Victor] Hedman, who was young but has gained experience over the years and is becoming a better player. The [Sami] Salos, the [Eric] Brewers, they’ve got some experience back there and you got guys like [Marc-Andre] Bergeron who helps them out on the power play a lot, has a great shot."
"Expanded a little bit in all areas and they’ve got a new goaltender in there that’s done a pretty good job for them. I just think they’re definitely a more rounded team and they’re filling in the holes and the gaps and becoming a legit contender."
"We take a pride in our defensive game so our game plan shouldn’t change," added Krejci. "We know we have to take care of our own end first and then go from there. Obviously we know they have some great players like Stamkos who can put a puck in the net and St. Louis and they got many guys so obviously we’ve got to be aware when they’re on the ice. Other than that I don’t think our game will change."