TB needs more from Stamkos/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 are Jon’s answers to my questions on the off day between Game 3 and 4 of the series Boston leads 2-1.

MK: So did you enjoy the Tyler Seguin era? I can tell from your questions that you did. It’s over now, you know? We’re back living in the world dominated by Tim Thomas and the defensively sharp Bruins.

Of course, maybe they wouldn’t look as sharp if the Lightning’s stars were playing at their best. To me, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier had a lot more problems not only against Zdeno Chara, but even against the other Boston defensemen than you’d expect in their first home game of the series and with the second change.

What’s your take on how the Big Three are doing?

JJ: I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear how utterly disappointed I am in Seguin not scoring even a single point last night when everyone knows he was supposed to have netted at least a hat trick. How dare he?!?!? Clearly, he is not at all cognizant of his role as not only Boston’s savior but also the lone individual who can save us all from tomorrow’s scheduled Rapture. (We can only hope that someone informs the kid before we’re all doomed.)

My take on Tampa’s “Big Three” (no longer an exercise in futility, naturally, now that Super Seguin has come back to Earth): They’re a game removed from a combined nine-point output and Lecavalier and St. Louis still have a share of the overall postseason scoring lead with 16 points apiece. Cut ‘em some damn slack!

Boston squelched the flow of the Lightning all night long and the big guns were a (big) part of that. At first, I pondered whether or not the captain, in particular, had an off night. There were times when he didn’t seem to be able to kick things into that higher gear so necessary for postseason success. But, after some second thought, a little video review and a look back at the stat sheet, Lecavalier managed five shots on goal, had several prime scoring chances and led all Lightning forwards in ice time (23:09). If he looked to be slowed on occasion, he certainly wasn’t alone – and that’s more a credit to what the Bruins were able to do.

All that having been said, what got the Bolts to this point in the playoffs, from an offensive standpoint, was the balanced contribution from their stars and depth players alike. It doesn’t matter who gets the goal(s) as long as they come. Last night, they didn’t. Period. Obviously, that’s not going to win you any hockey games.

But by and large, I don’t have any complaints about the play of these three.

Tough crowd!

MK: I know the Bruins are supposed to be the more physical team here, but isn’t anyone on the Lightning going to throw a hit or make a body-sacrificing play that turns some momentum their way? Maybe Marc-Andre Bergeron’s hit would’ve been that play had David Krejci not come back or the referee not called a penalty, but what happened to the old Steve Downie that wanted to get in everyone’s face? He looks like a shadow of himself. Other than Downie, is there anyone else on Tampa capable of doing something like this?

JJ: First of all, thank you for the forum in which to vent on that atrocious call on Bergeron. Either the officials these days are so afraid to be the guy who misses the big, illegal hit that causes someone serious injury or they’re biting on what they think they saw on plays like this one. Either way, they’re consistently calling penalties that aren’t penalties and that has to be addressed.

In this instance, there’s no need to break down Bergeron’s hit on Krejci in any real detail other than to explain that he identified his target, lined him up and delivered a square shoulder to his adversary’s chest. (You know, a body check?) It jarred Krejci, as a shoulder to the chest at that speed is apt to do, and maybe his head snapped back a little bit on impact. That’s called inertia (or momentum, or something – I don’t know, I cheated in high school Physics). But it doesn’t automatically equate to a headshot, which I think is what the officials are thinking they might see, causing them to feel the need to call a penalty.

Complicating matters – and where the zebras may be getting tricked – is, on a play like the one in question, the hitter often attempts to disengage from the hit-ee by extending an arm (a push, if you will) after the fact. Bergeron did this on Krejci last night and I believe that was the genesis of the creative elbowing call. Only it’s not a penalty. It can’t be.

No wonder Lightning head coach Guy Boucher almost ate the officials with his eyes after said call.

But, onto your question, an overly-physical style doesn’t suit the Lightning well. They have some folks that can throw their weight around – and handle themselves with the fists if need be, even – but this team is adamant about remaining disciplined and structured (there’s that word again) and that even applies to a Steve Downie. (By the way, maybe he hasn’t rattled anybody, per se, but what about Downie not being physical are you seeing that I’m not? He’s been in Chara’s face – or as close as he can get to it – on several occasions already.)

Mattias Ohlund has attempted to step up from the back end to deliver a trademark hit at the Lightning blueline a few times in this series, with little effect, unfortunately for him. Mark Recchi got the better of their collision in Game 2 and last night, Ohlund whiffed in trying to lay out Chris Kelly, who walked around him for a scoring chance that otherwise wouldn’t have presented itself. So, the defensemen, as an example group, have to be careful. They were caught out of position so much in game two, I think maybe that element will now be underemphasized intentionally.

Malone/By S. Bradley

Ryan Malone, Nate Thompson and Adam Hall can be bangers out there, if they choose, so long as nobody’s running around trying to eliminate opposition players one after the other. In fact, any sort of “running around”, really, will take this Bolts team out of their comfort zone – and they can’t have that (again).

Instead, I think they’ll willingly continue to allow Boston to dictate the physical play, hoping that they’ll cross the line, as they have already at several points and take an ill-advised penalty. For that to leave any sort of positive mark, however, the Lightning power play will have to start clicking again, of course, and that didn’t happen in three chances on Thursday night.

MK: So the radio stations in this town whined about the marketing campaign in Boston about there not being any Lightning fans. And what do the fans of Tampa do in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final? Sit on their hands and barely make a peep.

When Krejci scored the first goal, I was pissed because I thought we were transported back to Boston and that would’ve meant the weather was going to suck when I went outside. I lived in Central Florida for two years and try not to knock the Sun Belt teams of this league. But compared to Raleigh in the playoffs, this was a lame performance by the Tampa Bay faithful.

Will we get a better crowd reaction in Game 4 or are they just waiting for the Cup or bust?

JJ: Okay, that’s it. I’m calling it here. No more about the billboards. I gave my two cents on this incredibly lame exchange before the game last night and I’m done. One excitable radio turd took it upon himself to speak for the masses and take offense to a series of harmless jokes at the expense of the Tampa Bay area. Ho-hum. Get over it.

As for the crowd last night, I can only suspect that the style of play, for the most part, took them out of the game for large chunks of time. There were peaks and valleys but little of the sustained noise – and a bit less of the intense vibe I’ve come to expect as well, maybe – that we’ve grown used to during this run. To their credit, though much like the team on the ice, by this point, it was far too little, too late, when prompted by the LightningVision scoreboard to get loud late, they did. Efforts to rally their troops fell short, as we know, so it’s back to the drawing board for the fans, as it is for the team (sort of… Remember, the Bolts don’t like to get away from what’s worked for them so much…)

I expect on Saturday that the home crowd will be as jacked as ever for matinee action – unless things quickly turn into a snoozefest once again, that is. But, even so, constant reminders of the postgame Cheap Trick show should be enough to send the elderly and decrepit Floridians in attendance (cause that’s all we have, right?) back up to the concourse for another round of brews, restoring the appropriate level of rambunctiousness to the Forum, as required, in short order.

By the way, I expect to see you, Mr. Kalman, singing along to the theme song to “That 70s Show” with me on the Forum concourse, if our respective responsibilities allow us to sneak out there in time.

Book it.