Though some people agreed with Guy Boucher’s decision to start Mike Smith in game five, it was still a debatable move that didn’t really pay off. The Tampa Bay Lightning now face elimination and Boucher has announced that Dwayne Roloson will return to the net in game six. Roloson is undefeated when facing elimination and it looks like he’ll need to have an excellent game if he hopes to keep that streak intact.
But is that what we’re actually faced with here?
Tim Thomas has outshone Roloson in this series. From insane stick saves to just plain solid play, Thomas is one of the main reasons why the Bruins could win the Eastern Conference Championship tonight. Outside of the 6-5 offensive explosion in game two, the Bruins have won hockey games in this series when Thomas has been the star.
Tampa was victorious by a 5-2 score in game one and by a 5-3 score in game four. Other than the game two goal-fest, Boston has won games 2-0 and 3-1. In general, that suggests that if the game becomes a low-scoring, defensive affair, the Bruins hold the upper hand.
Considering the Lightning’s 1-3-1 approach and solid defensive play throughout this season, that seems a little strange.
In the two games that Tampa Bay has won in this series, they have scored five goals each time. If they hope to win tonight, they will need to turn on the offense again and hope to put five pucks past Thomas, but that will be much easier said than done. The Bruins understand that the Lightning have some potent offensive players and they’re going to try and keep this game a low scoring game, just like games three and five were.
The Lightning will need offense, not just excellent goaltending if they hope to play another game.
In round one, they won games two, five, six and seven. In those games they scored five, eight, four and one goal respectively. In round two, they scored four goals, three goals, four goals and five goals in their sweep of the Capitals.
The Lightning have won 10 games in this postseason and they’ve scored four or more goals in eight of those ten victories.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Bruins have won 11 games in these playoffs and seven of those wins saw them score four or more goals. It seems obvious to say, but if you can score four or more goals, you’re likely to win the hockey game.
That means Tampa Bay’s problem will be scoring goals, not necessarily preventing them. It won’t come down to Roloson standing on his head as much as it will the Lightning putting some pucks in the net. If they can only slide one or two past Thomas, the Bruins will be going to the Stanley Cup Final, regardless of what Dwayne Roloson does.
Those goals will be a little more difficult to score if Sean Bergenheim isn’t in the line-up for the Lightning. He has nine goals in these playoffs, which is more than any other player in the postseason. Tampa Bay will certainly miss his presence on the ice if he can’t go. The fact that he’s a strong penalty killer will also hurt the Lightning.
While a lot of the focus is on Roloson tonight, it should really be on Tampa’s forwards. If they can’t beat Tim Thomas somewhat regularly, it looks like this series could be over.