Smith/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 at Kukla’s Korner.

Here are Jon’s most recent answers with Game 6 looming tomorrow night.

MK: Well, well, well. Guy Boucher pulled a fast one on me and many of my colleagues – except Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe – and went with Mike Smith over Dwayne Roloson. I’ve got to admit, that takes some major cajones.

What did you think of the move? I though Smith played very well, but he lost. So will Boucher go back with him?

JJ: First of all, you’re not giving me any credit. As I’m sure you remember (and have only omitted in a concerted effort to screw with my head), I totally kinda sorta maybe somewhat called the start for Smith (a little) after Game 4. Whatever, Matt. I don’t even know you anymore. [MK note: Full credit is granted. Also this was answered before Boucher announced Roloson today for Game 6 start.]

But seriously… Yeah, some stones on Boucher, eh? In looking back, it simply shows confidence in each of his goaltenders but, had that blown up on him, Boucher would have been criticized to no end. On two occasions, I thought the hockey gods were clearly working against Boucher, Smith and the Lightning last night: One, on a Boston dump-in, when the puck took a funny bounce off of a stanchion and right out in front of Smith, which could have ricocheted in easily; and two, when Johnny Boychuk decided against ringing another dump-in around the boards and instead fired one in on Smith from just outside the blueline. Smitty didn’t see it right away and had to get a quick glove up on what seemed such a mundane play.

Either of those goes the other way and maybe that game does get away from Tampa Bay, making Boucher look foolish. But again, some stones! By not being intimidated about what might happen, a coach is able to go with his gut and, even though the Lightning lost the game, Smith did himself, his coach and his teammates proud.

If I had to guess, I’d say Boucher goes back to a rested Roloson now, who has never lost an elimination game. The Lightning can’t drop another, obviously, so you play the numbers there, and they add up to Roli. [MK note: Wow JJ, you’re inside Boucher’s head. Does he know about this? Are you truly the evil mastermind and he’s your puppet?]

MK: Along the same lines, how do you think Roloson feels now? He took the team so far and now he could be left out of the celebration. What do you think behind the scenes the other players are thinking now that they have a guy who was in the minors for part of this season behind them rather than the guy who saved their season?

JJ: Well, again, I think we’ll see Roloson in Game 6, although I suppose I could be wrong there. Either way, I’m sure he isn’t throwing temper tantrums or anything, after not getting his way and starting again. (He’s long been out of diapers, you know.) Instead, my prediction is that Roli will use this as motivation and deliver a stellar performance for the Bolts tomorrow night – and maybe that was part of the idea all along. Not that losing Game 5 was ever part of the plan but, if Tampa wins that one, you can ride the hot hand and go with Smith in Game 6. They didn’t, so now you have a rested veteran who is perfect when facing elimination. Not a terrible situation to be in …

As for the players in the room, I’d be stunned if anyone questioned Boucher’s call. They’ve been on board with everything he’s done all season long and there isn’t any reason for that to change now. Beyond that, Smith has always been immensely popular with his teammates and, as evidenced by their play in front of him last night, the Lightning are once again confident with him between the pipes.

Quite frankly, I think this is all a bit overblown and, if the Bolts somehow end up winning this series, they can forge forward into the Stanley Cup Final knowing, without any reservation, that they have two capable goaltenders.

With the must-win Game 6 looming, however, that is still far off in the distance, as it should be.

MK: Well, Steve Downie decided to see your Nathan Horton criticisms and raise them a little [with his hit on Johnny Boychuk]. To me, that was just a foolish hit by a foolish player, and I would expect the league to at least come out with a fine if not a suspension. Had his back mostly turned and Downie could’ve let up. What do you think of the hit?

JJ: It was a foolish hit, yes. But to call Downie a foolish player reeks of some of the “Downie being Downie” talk I saw on Twitter last night. Anyone uttering as much simply hasn’t been paying attention to Steve Downie in the last two seasons. No need to go campaigning for Downie’s sake anymore, though, I’ve realized. People are going to see what they want to see and draw conclusions based on things that happened years ago and I can’t do anything to change that.

More on the hit itself: It wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen but, yeah, Downie has to let up there. He put his club in a bad spot and Boychuk in a worse one, with the B’s D-man looking to be out in the ozone with the pink elephants as he went to the Boston room afterwards.

Will he get a call from the league? I wouldn’t be surprised. But I don’t think the play in question is at all suspension-worthy. By the book, it was a boarding call and the call was made on the ice. It isn’t as though Downie ran Boychuk staring straight at his numbers, a la Matt Cooke/Fedor Tyutin in recent history, but it certainly wasn’t good. [MK note: As of 9 p.m., the league had not done anything about the hit and TSN’s Bob McKenzie had reported earlier there would be no discipline.]

Wait a second, though …  Did you just ask me what I thought the NHL was going to do for a situation that could conceivably call for supplemental discipline? Well then, I apologize, because my standard answer to anything along those lines is pretty simple (and a JJ favorite, as you’ve seen already this series):

Who the hell knows?

MK: Finally, real quick, how are the Lightning going to stave off elimination? Can Dr. Evil Boucher prevail or will fall into a pit of laser-beam-wearing mackerels?

JJ: I’m glad you’ve at least accounted for the possibility, now, of the laser beam attack but here’s a little secret I’ll toss your way: Forget the mackerels. The lasers come from the coach’s eyeballs. Heed the warning. And you’re welcome. After getting to talk with you a little bit recently and concluding that you’re a good dude (but, mostly just knowing that you’re a family man, like myself) I’ve deemed you worth saving.

You tried to slip this by me the other day and I defended those that I’m about to call into question a bit but it’s time for Tampa Bay’s stars to come through and deliver a win for the Lightning in game six. That’s how they stave off elimination: By climbing onto the backs of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos and riding them into a Game 7, where we all know anything can happen.

Since the nutty events of Game 2, where I think you and I may even have scored, Lecavalier and Stamkos each have one assist to their credit and St. Louis has an empty net goal. That’s not enough and the big guns need to connect in Game 6 for the Bolts to fight on.

Now then, Zdeno Chara and friends have done a number on St. Louis and Stamkos and I think Patrice Bergeron may have a little to do with Lecavalier’s mini-lull but the Lightning icons have no excuses. On the other side of things, Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and David Krejci took their fair share of criticism as recently as Game 4 and they at least connected for the big tying goal yesterday.

It’s time for one (or all) of the Lightning’s big three to step up. While this isn’t a team to rely on herculean individual efforts, Tampa Bay could sure use one of those to force a Game 7 and the three names most likely to do so are Lecavalier, St. Louis and Stamkos.

MK: See you at Game 6, Jon. Should be a great one.