Were it not for Bruins head coach Claude Julien’s decision to keep Marc Savard and Nathan Horton pinned to the bench for 7:20 of tonight’s third period in Tampa, there’s no telling how the Bruins’ 4-3 win over the Lightning would’ve turned out
Boston’s pair of star forwards were on the ice for Martin St. Louis’ game-tying goal at 10:50 of the third, and then did not get back onto the ice until the Bruins went on the power play after Steven Stamkos’ boarding call at 18:10.
Obviously, Julien saw the same thing most of us did tonight — that those two forwards, most glaringly on the Tampa Bay possession leading up to the St. Louis goal, were not ready to compete against some of great offensive talents the Lightning boast tonight. The Bruins bench boss gave them plenty of opportunity to turn on their jets over 2 1/2 periods, but they didn’t. So they sat.
Savard and Horton posted even ratings on the night because they assisted on Steve Kampfer’s second-period goal just seven seconds after a Boston power play had expired. Most of the night at 5-on-5, when Savard’s line was matched against Stamkos’ or Vinny Lecavalier’s, the three Bruins failed to play tight defense or do what they’re really expected to do: force the other line to play in its own end.
Milan Lucic might’ve also been guilty of some lax play skating on Boston’s top line with Savard and Horton. But you can only do so much when your linemates aren’t matching your energy. Lucic made up for it with some solid physical plays, which earned him a spot next to Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron (in rookie Tyler Seguin’s spot) for that 7 1/2-minute stretch.
Horton and Savard’s loss was to the benefit of Boston’s “Energy Line.” Brad Marchand, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton took an extra shift or two, along with the Blake Wheeler-David Krejci-Michael Ryder line, during that key stretch that the game was tied.The three hard-working lines did a much better job of matching Tampa Bay’s intensity than the four-line approach had, especially in the third period.
The “Energy Line” deserved the additional time more than any trio. Marchand had already scored a goal and drawn two penalties; Thornton had been making a physical nuisance of himself; and Campbell was playing his usual sound defensive game and actually winning the majority of his draws prior to that line drawing what proved to be the game-winning penalty.
You can debate whether Stamkos’ hit that planted Campbell into the end wall was illegal or not, but that discussion will do nothing to change the fact that the Bruins got a power play out of it and then Recchi cashed it in.
There’s been so much complaining about Julien’s coaching — this year maybe more so than the prior two seasons — and some of it is warranted. And it’s true that he hasn’t too often sat any dressed player for a long stretch. But he has subtly taken a player out for a shift or two here and there. Tonight he proved once and for all that when necessary, he can remove two of his best offensive players if they’re not pulling their weight in any of the three zones.
Julien has preached that hard work will be rewarded since the second he came to Boston. Tonight he proved that the absence of effort can lead to an inability to get your name called, regardless of who you are. And that paid off with a yeoman’s win at Tampa.