The Boston Bruins had a chance to put a stanglehold on the Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday afternoon at St. Pete Times Forum in the Eastern Conference Finals. Instead the Black-and-Gold's lack of a full 60-minute effort ended up being the nemesis once again.
the B's took a commanding 3-0 lead -- with goals from Michael Ryder, two from patrice Bergeron in a six-minute span -- in the first period of Game 4, and looked to be in the drivers seat.
However Tampa Bay quickly turned the tide around, scoring five unanswered goals, including three in just under four minutes during the second period onslaught.
The Bruins offense seemed to have it going early on. But David Krejci, in particular, was not his best -- especially inside the face-off circle.
"David had a tough night in the faceoff circle," Julien said of Krejci winning just 25-percent (3-for-12) of his draws yesterday. "And I think that kind of identified the type of game he had tonight. And wasn't the type of game we're used to seeing David play."
Krejci's performance on the face-off draws has been up-and-down all post season. In Game 1 against the Bolts, Krejci won just 3-of-18 (17%), but bounced back in a big way in Game 3 by taking 13-of-18 (72%).
It took a while for Krejci to get his offensegoing, overall, in this year's playoffs. Back in round one against Montreal, the 25-year-old had just one goal in the seven-game series.
It was in the Conference Semifinals versus the Flyers where No. 46 started heating-up, as he racked up a whopping 4-5-9 scoring totals, along with a plus-7 rating and 10 shots on goal.
"But there's more than David on that line," Julien said of the entire first-line least night. "I think it was a tough night for their line tonight. And we know what impact they have for a hockey club when they're on. And tonight was a tough night for that line."
But in the last two games against Tampa Bay, that line of Milan Luicic, Nathan Horton, and Krejci have combined for just 2-1-3, a minus-3 and five shots on net.
Horton's sub-par production in Games 3 & 4 may be overshadowed, but should not be ignored, by Krejci's 25-percent and minus-3 rating. Streaky as he may be, Horton has 13 points (6 goals) through 15 playoff games thus far, but has just one shot on goal in the last two games span.
"I didn't feel our players...a lot of our players did not play their best game tonight. And we are a team that when we're at our best, we win battles, and we win races and we're strong on the puck," Julien said. And from the second period on, I don't think we spent that much time in our own end compared to what we're used to."
But the loss clearly doesn't weight directly on the shoulders of Nos. 17, 18 & 46. It was miscommunication, turnovers, poor judgements, and unexplainable gaffes that lead top the Bruins 5-3 loss.
Goaltender Tim Thomas, for one, went behind his own net to play the wrap-around puck, looked up for Zdeno Chara, and turned the puck over for a Lighting goal. Lucic, skating out of his own zone, attempted to make a cross-ice pass in the neutral zone which was intercepted by Tampa Bay, and ended up in the back of Thomas' net -- the game-winner.
And perhaps the biggest gaffe, once again, was made by defenseman Tomas Kaberle. No. 12 was skating behind the net, one-on-one with Bolts' Sean Bergenheim, after the puck, when the smaller Lightning forward and NHL's post season scoring leader completely rode Kaberle off the puck -- winning the brief puck battle and lighting the lamp for the game-tying goal.
"We had some mistakes tonight that were clearly of our own doing," said Bruins head coach Claude Julein. "The first goal, miscommunication."
"And we made some bad decisions. We got stretched out in the neutral zone there and they attacked with three guys with speed and we didn't have a good gap. All the things we had done well the game before and in the first period of tonight was, again, kind of slipped and by the time you kind of get yourself going, a lot of damage is done."
When the Bruins make mistakes, turn the puck over, and lose those one-on-one battle, Tampa Bay has made them pay throughout this series. Time and time again, the talented Bolts capitalized on the Bruins gaffes, particularly in Games 1 and now 4.
The B's are 14-13 all-time when heading into a Game 5 with the series tied 2-2. If they want to take a 3-2 lead tomorrow night in front of their home crown inside the TD Garden, they'll have to limit those mistakes, and their best players will need to be at their best.