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Bruins Vs. Lightning, Game 2: Boston Needs To Play Into Tampa's Hands To Win

In a four-game sweep over Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, Tim Thomas allowed seven Flyers' goals. In just over 57 minutes of ice time in game one of the conference finals against Tampa, he allowed four. 

Many point to rust as the reason; after all, Thomas is 37 years old and a week off has been known to slow much sprier a goaltender in playoffs past. 

"I don’t [think the time off affected us]. Both teams had the same layoff. We actually came out playing pretty good. They got the first goal because they did the correct things to score a goal in those situations better," said Thomas of the Lightning's early attack in which they scored three goals in 1:25 to build an insurmountable lead, ultimately winning 5-2.

Most goaltenders command a lot of attention from the media. Thomas is no exception. And after Monday's practice, another crowd surrounded him in the locker room asking about his team's preparation for game two, an almost must-win game for the Bs if they hope to have a chance in this series.

But instead of talking about the game, Thomas decided to lead a discussion in current events, noting that hockey is "just a game" and that Israel is under attack "on multiple fronts" and suggesting that maybe, just maybe, his focus wasn't where it should be. 

Which is difficult to understand for Bruins fans, many of whom have - literally - waited a lifetime to see their team appear in the Eastern Conference Finals. The urgency the Bruins had played with in their first 11 playoff games was absent in game one, their trademark grit hampered by the lack of Patrice Bergeron in the lineup. 

Boston did have an extra dimension with the presence of Tyler Seguin, who had a hand in both goals his team scored Saturday night. But it wasn't nearly enough, and it didn't help that the kid sat for 15 minutes after scoring the team's first goal - and his first career playoff tally - and it seems like head coach Claude Julien is still struggling with how to use the young stud in Bergeron's absence. 

The Bruins succeeded in shutting down Tampa's big guns in Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, but were undone by Sean Bergenheim, among others, which has to be a cause for concern for Boston; their top defensemen are able to stop the Lightning's firepower, but it's Tampa's higher-numbered lines that have got the Bolts to this point in the playoffs. With Tomas Kaberle continuing to struggle, the Black and Gold need a defensive shot in the arm to get back in the series. 

Of course, they're not likely to have Dennis Seidenberg kicking the puck to the opposing team or Tim Thomas just whiffing on shoulda-been saves, but their inability to get Dwayne Roloson moving laterally - which, at 41, he doesn't do as well as Carey Price did, but probably does quite a bit better than Sergei Bobrovsky or Brian Boucher - is a concern.

The Bruins need to do a better job getting bodies in front of the net and need to fire pucks through the slot to make Roloson think. They need to hit Tampa in the mouth early and beat them on the boards, where they're stronger and bigger and should find success. But perhaps the most important piece of the Bruins' offensive gameplan involves playing into Tampa's hands.

The Lightning, after all, lead the NHL in blocked shots this postseason. They're fearless when it comes to going to the ice, whether on a knee or on their stomach, and have made Roloson's job pretty easy on account of it. The Bruins have at least two defensemen with slapshots that register triple-digits on the radar gun in Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk. If Tampa wants to go to the ice, the Bruins' shooters need to make them pay for it - or, at the least, make them think twice about going down. 

The Lightning continue to excel on special teams, and the Bruins need to know enough to stay out of the box and force their opponent to kill lots of penalties. Even if Boston can't score on their power plays, they can wear Tampa down by putting them short-handed. Putting Tampa down a man will help the Bruins get position down low and between the circles to set up the cycle, creating looks from in close or forcing Tampa's defense to collapse, thereby opening up looks for the men on the point. 

The recipe for success is always easier diagrammer than executed. But these Bruins are the stronger, better team and as long as they don't start flat again, they should be in better shape. How they start comes back to how focused they are. They'll be without Patrice Bergeron again tonight, according to the Globe, which means they'll have to dig down and win some attacking-zone faceoffs, bring a physcial forecheck and win the wall battles that they weren't able to take Saturday night.

For Tim Thomas and the other 18 guys in Black and Gold Tuesday night, the focus has to be on the ice. Not Israel, not Vancouver, not anywhere else. Tampa's no Montreal, and a 2-0 hole in this series will prove impossible to overcome.