Bergeron was in and on. Tim Thomas was much more focused and contained than he has been in the first two games of the series. The defense remembered their job title. With these three things the Bruins win was almost a given.
Bergeron was just a dominant force wherever he was on the ice. Faceoff circle he won sixty four percent. His passes which are possibly his weakest offensive asset looked like Savard or Thornton at their best, particularly the one through Brewer to Peverley who was rolling straight into the crease. His penalty kill time was flawless. Let’s not forget he played over 19 minutes tonight and that’s as much as two minutes more than he averaged in the regular season and more than any other Bruins forward and behind only Seidenberg and Chara in total minutes.
In the first two games of the series I was genuinely worried about the play of Tim Thomas. This is rare. I wanted him to be the Bruins starter since the first time he was called up and I saw him in net. He’s just so damned fun to watch. In the first two games of the series he was not focused on the puck, his tracking of the puck carrier and most likely pass was off. At almost any point in the regular season the Kaberle turnover in game two doesn’t go in. As we’ve learned over the past few seasons, when Thomas is well primed by several games of play close together he’s in the zone and works magic. Tonight he was on his game, in focus and had 31 saves.
As a whole, including Kaberle, the Bruins defense was impressive. despite the Lightning finishing with a shot advantage, the Bruins had more offensive zone time simply because they took the puck away so much in the neutral zone. More importantly in their defensive zone, they allowed Thomas to see the first shot, and then gave him room to either smoother the puck or pass it along to an open player. There were very few bobbles, little frustration and lots of patience.
Paille was in over Thornton, but played a nearly invisible six minutes. Seguin looked very crisp, but was well covered by the much improved defensive structure of Tampa Bay. Ryder had a quietly impressive game. At one point the UFA to be ran over Marc-Andre Bergeron in the offensive zone. Late in the game he was key to the Ference goal, and all night he had his feet moving, stick on the ice and head on a swivel. Lucic had a solid game despite only getting one shot on goal and two hits. He setup the opening goal drawing Hedman out of position and allowing Krejci enough time to retie his skates, sing the Canadian, American, and Czech national anthems before tucking the puck in for the game winner at the 1:09 mark of the game. Particularly amusing was the manic stylings of Steve Downie late in the game, at the start of the third period he very nearly got a penalty when lined up opposite Brad Marchand who took advantage of all the free real estate and got into the erratic Bolt’s head.