Brewer/By S. Bradley

Throughout the Bruins-Lightning Eastern Conference Final, TheBruinsBlog.net will collaborate on Q&A features before every game with Jon Jordan 0f Beasts of the Southeast over at Kukla’s Korner.

 

Here’s the next installment as we wait for Game 2 of the series Tuesday night.

MK: Wow, as you wrote in your questions to me, the Lightning really did dominate Game 1. I can’t say I’m that surprised, considering the Bruins tendency to get out of the gates slow in series and in games, and the fact that we both expected the Lightning to pester the Bruins with their forecheck. That they hardly used the 1-3-1 is only mildly surprising.

As I mentioned to you on Twitter, I am a full-blown converter to the House of Hedman after just watching the first two periods of Game 1. Victor Hedman seems like he’s always in position, he uses his reach, he puts his body on the line to stop pucks and hits like a ton of bricks.

In fact, the entire D corps – minus Tyler Seguin’s new butler Mike Lundin – was really sound. There’s so much talk about Dwayne Roloson but how about Eric Brewer’s value to this team? Would the Lightning be here without that guy? (A guy who I wanted the Bruins to consider ahead of Tomas Kaberle along with three or four other guys, but I digress…)

JJ: First of all, I can’t tell you how relieving it is for you to at least only categorize the non-exclusive employment of the 1-3-1 as a “mild” surprise. That shows you allowed for some variation to occur, which gives you roughly 237 points more than the Versus crew on my scorecard, as they showed their collective arse a little bit last night in seeming shocked at some aggression from the Tampa forecheck. As head coach Guy Boucher reminded the masses postgame, sometimes they use it in full force, sometimes they don’t. It’s a staple of the system and a comfortable fallback, for sure, but it can also be a situational strategy.

Pat on the back to the Bolts for getting one over on the B’s in the early going and a hearty “Tsk, tsk” Boston’s way for not being prepared for what should have been a predictable wrinkle.

Glad you’re seeing some promise in Hedman. He’s really come a long way. And I don’t consider myself going out on a limb when I call him a budding perennial All-Star. He’s that good – and he’s 20. Look out down the road. (But I am a bit suspicious, my friend, that you may be attempting to put the horns on No. 77 with your praise here…) By the way, speaking of No. 77, did you know that Hedman chose the number (at least in part) out of respect for some guy named Raymond Bourque?

As for Brewer, you hit a fine point in considering him alongside all the talk about Roloson. Those two together have taken Steve Yzerman a long way toward his status as a GM of the Year finalist. And each has brought to his respective position for this team what can be summed up in one simple word: Stability.

It may be more easily seen in Roloson’s case, especially since, when he was acquired on New Year’s Day, the one glaring weakness in this Lightning team was its goaltending. Had things continued down the path paved at that time by Dan Ellis and Mike Smith, at best, their playoff presence would have been littered with question marks. Sure, either Ellis or Smith could get hot, in theory, but neither possesses the steady track record of Roloson, who has proven to be every bit the battler as advertised prior to his arrival. He had a blip or two on the radar early on in this run but his body of work, as a whole has been absolutely stellar. Start with that .967 save percentage – and maybe end there as well.

But you asked more specifically about Brewer, didn’t you?

Same end result as Roloson, really, only less flashing-neon-sign-in-the-night obvious. And that’s kind of the point. Brewer gets top line match-ups, more ice time than anyone and primo responsibility in all situations. And he does the job, fanfare or not, which fits this team perfectly – all for the greater good, doesn’t matter who scores, or who does what, as long as the end result is as intended.

But a goaltender acquired with the intent of having him take over as a number one will do just that, if things work out as hoped, while people take notice, almost by default.

What Eric Brewer has done is less about what he brings to the team as an individual than it is about what he has done for the defense corps as a whole. Eating up the kind of minutes he has to this point (26-plus per game) has lessened the load on all, from d-men like the young Hedman to a seasoned veteran like Mattias Ohlund and on down the list. Brewer’s ability and experience has made the learning curve for those in need more manageable and the pressure on others heavily depended upon far less.

Talk about a perfect find…

MK: Well, it sounds like Hedman has forgiven Milan Lucic for the punch at the end of Game 1. Of course, we won’t know for sure until Game 2 starts. I can’t foresee Hedman trying to go after Lucic. Do you? Will anyone try to exact some revenge? I’m betting Steve Downie’s planning another jump of Brad Marchand (like in the ’06 WJC training camp) soon. Am I right?

JJ: I’d be stunned if Hedman made it a point to go after Lucic – or anyone else (save for Montreal’s Scott Gomez, with whom he’s had some choice encounters the last two years), for that matter – but he did say that he needs to be more prepared for that type of exchange moving forward. So, it sounds like Hedman understands the need to be ready for a little post-whistle extra lovin’ from Lucic and pals from now on.

At the same time, he’s accountable to his teammates and should be cognizant of putting his club in a bad situation by retaliating or even engaging an aggressor. At some point, of course, one has to stand up for one’s self – or a teammate – but I’m not expecting much more in the way of three-goal decisions in this series and with tighter contests comes an added importance to remain composed. As of now, I’d give the Lightning the edge in that department, given what we saw at the end of the last one added to the frustration of the loss for the Bruins.

The Bolts can take care of themselves, if need be. But there’s far more than the ol’ “man card” or personal pride at stake here. They get that. Time to move on…

Horton/By S. Bradley

MK: For me, the Lucic punch and the Nathan Horton swipe at Dominic Moore’s face right before were bush league plays. They might not be suspendable offenses, but the Bruins have to control their tempers better. Horton, especially, has had a tough time knowing when to cross the line and how to control his anger. What’s the take from Tampa on Lucic and Horton’s manhood right now? Are Lightning fans going to demonize these guys?

 

JJ: You’re right that those were inexcusable actions and, were this the regular season, I might be calling for some retribution but they gotta let that go stat.

You’re also right that the Bruins have to keep their cool. From the onset, special teams have stood out as an advantage for Tampa Bay, obviously. As the more physical team, I thought (and think) that the Bruins could easily take that past the point of temperance and give the Lightning some unnecessary power play advantages. Given the Bolts’ success to that end thus far in the playoffs, that could easily be a recipe for disaster for Boston.

Lucic and Horton’s indiscretions came when game one had already long been decided, granted, but future instances similar in nature won’t be at all conducive to Bruin success.

Again, I don’t think we’ll see that in what still expect will be a close series, game-to-game, from here on out. I know it won’t get like that on the Tampa end and, for Boston, it had better not either.

MK: Bonus question: Rene Rancourt has sung the anthem at Bruins games for more than 30 years and has sung at all four major sports teams’ games, plus the New England Revolution. I know the Lightning are still in their teens, but what are some traditions that have been established down there? Other than wearing your Parrot Head shirts and counting the days until Gasparilla.

Well, we had a guy here for a long time who looked like Ben Vereen, in my opinion, that used to sing the anthem often (and he was quite good too, be he Mr. Vereen or not). (MK note: I’m a huge Vereen fan and once saw him in “A Christmas Carol” at Madison Square Garden.)

But let’s talk about some traditions that have been abolished before we get into what’s new down here in “Hockey Paradise”.

Haven’t seen Hulk Hogan around recently. Whether that’s good or bad, I haven’t yet decided. (MK note: If I saw Hulk Hogan at a Lightning game that would be huge since I never saw Ric Flair when I was in Raleigh in ’09. But I did meet Brutus Beefcake in ’09 in Boston.)

They don’t do the lame “Let’s play hockey!” thing pregame anymore. (I always wondered:
“What the hell else are you expecting them to do?”)

ThunderBug

And it seems as though ThunderBug’s assaulting a visiting city’s iconic figure prior to the opening faceoff has waned as well. (Bug vs. “Rocky” any time Philadelphia was in town was always a life-enhancing thrill. Of course, by “Rocky”, I mean “Lightning intern in a grey sweat suit willing to take a mascot punch at center ice”.) Oh, the glory days…

Presently, the pregame video hype works the crowd into a frenzy. The ice is used as your video screen and the overall production is first class. Also, as a warning (because you might get scared) there are electric currents flowing around each goal crease, up and down the blue lines and chasing the designated youth player that circles the rink with a Lightning flag just before the anthem. Sources tell me these are merely part of the show and that you, or anyone else, will be in no immediate danger. (But wear rubber-soled shoes just in case. After all, this is the playoffs… Gamesmanship!)

In short, we may not have an answer to the venerable Mr. Rancourt (and his glorious mustache), but we do have a few bells and whistles.

If that’s not enough, there’s a big dude in Punisher makeup in one of the corners of the lower bowls who sticks his tongue out a lot and seems to enjoy the camera. And I suspect that they give away trivia answers to the contestants each game before putting them up on the LightningVision big screen, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone get one wrong. Oh, and they do dance contests too, so that’s good.

Right? (MK note: Depends who’s dancing and how cute she is.)