BOSTON — The Bruins have won two of their three games with the Tampa Bay Lightning so far this season.
Boston routed the Lightning, 8-1, Dec. 2 and then pulled out a squeaker Dec. 28, 4-3.
So Lightning coach Guy Boucher’s innovative 1-3-1 neutral-zone forecheck hasn’t hampered the Bruins as much as it has other teams. After all, it’s helped Tampa Bay lead the Southeast Division for several months and rank second in the Eastern Conference for just as long.
As Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg describes it, the 1-3-1 basically features one Tampa Bay player positioned at the other team’s blue line and the other four “forming a wall behind” the first player.
“So you’ve got to have speed coming up the ice and kind of get the puck behind their wall. Most of the times, they’re not in motion like you are and you get to the puck first,” said the blueliner after the morning skate at TD Garden in preparation for the fourth and final meeting between Boston and Tampa Bay tonight. “If you’re patient enough and smart enough to do that tonight, we’ll be good.”
About five weeks after that last Boston-Tampa Bay match-up, the Washington Capitals tried a different tactic in an attempt to throw the Lightning off their game. The Caps basically sat back in their own end, throwing D-to-D passes for up to 10, 15, seconds before trying to breakout in an effort to get the Lightning to attack. While the defensmen played catch, the wingers worked up a head of steam to try to generate speed.
The Caps’ scheme worked that evening, but that might be too extreme an approach to work often without a team changing its own game too much. After all, the Bruins’ success starts with them adhering to their own systems and just making slight adjustments.
“You want to move the puck as quick as you can, obviously. If it’s not there, it’s not there. It’s kind of one of those things. If you give them too much time and too much of an opportunity to get set up into their forecheck … You can be too patient at times,” said Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid. “You’ve just got to read what they give you. You don’t want to be standing still against them.”
It’s rare that the Lightning venture away from their plan and suddenly take the bait and attack. So the best decision is probably to attack them.
“They don’t open up, no matter what you do. So you just have to go in your lanes and get speed and gets pucks to the other side or dump it deep,” said Seidenberg.
Sometimes these things are easier said than done. But the Bruins have defeated the Lightning twice, so they know their solution to the problems presented by Tampa Bay tend to work.