A trio of thoughts now that we’re down to three teams left in the Stanley Cup chase…
• I liked Guy Boucher’s decision to start Mike Smith in Game 5 and I think the Tampa bench boss is doing the right thing by going back to Dwayne Roloson for Game 6.
Smith deserved to start because he was providing stable goaltending and with Boston reeling after blowing a 3-0 lead in Game 4, I thought as long as the Lightning weren’t done in by bad goals – like the ones Roloson had been letting in too frequently – they had a good chance to get a series lead.
Thanks in large part to Tim Thomas’ ability to bounce back, that didn’t happen. Now, to win this series, you have to figure Tampa must win at least one game it doesn’t deserve to, because Boston is the better squad and will be so hungry to get to the final.
Roloson may have hit a rough patch, but he gives Boucher and the Bolts a better puncher’s chance because he’s demonstrated an ability to get hot fast.
• Last week, I wrote a column for the current issue of The Hockey News that more or less stated teams that consistently contend, yet ultimately fall short of a championship, should be less inclined to “blow it up” than in years past because winning the Cup is so much harder than it used to be.
Naturally, tweaks are necessary when a club like Washington can’t make it past the first two rounds in four consecutive years, but with star players so hard to come by, are clubs really better off making wholesale changes in the hope of a better future?
The San Jose Sharks are, of course, the poster boys for not achieving their ultimate goal. But if you’re Sharks GM Doug Wilson, are you going to tear down a team that has made the conference final in consecutive years and, potentially, will end up losing to the eventual Stanley Cup winner in both 2010 and 2011? Joe Thornton has finally proven himself to be a great playoff player and leader; the young corps is coming together nicely; and the team’s desire to win, in theory, should be growing stronger with each passing unsuccessful year.
I’m sure Wilson will look at any and all ways to improve the team, but in a league where the margin for error is so thin, it’s tough to imagine blowing apart a very good team packed with players either in or just entering their prime.
• We won’t be breaking any news by suggesting Patrice Bergeron is playing like a Conn Smythe candidate, but it’s worth re-iterating.
Ryan Kesler is appropriately garnering much acclaim for his two-way performance, but it’s interesting to note Bergeron actually has a marginally better points-per-game mark with 15 in 14 contests this spring, as opposed to Kesler’s 18 in 18.
Kesler is winning a healthy 54.7 percent of his draws, but Bergeron’s whopping 62.9 mark is the best of any player left in the playoffs and his plus-10 rating trails only the plus-11 showing of teammate Zdeno Chara.
If the Bruins go all the way, look for Bergeron to skate off with post-season MVP honors.
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