May 8, 2011

B's ready for Boucher, Bolts' defensive scheme

by Jesse Connolly

Lightning coach Guy Boucher has helped his team win seven-straight playoff games. (Getty)

WILMINGTON -- When it comes to talk about the Tampa Bay Lightning over the next few days, there's going to be one particular phrase heard quite often: the one-three-one.

In the event you're not up to speed on the Bolts, it's the defensive system employed by coach Guy Boucher, one predicated on clogging up the neutral zone. Boucher's counterpart in the upcoming series, Claude Julien, has noticed how much Tampa's players have bought into the beliefs of their bench boss.

"I think that the one thing they do well is they got a good compete level," said Julien. "They come and they play hard every game and they’ve got their own kind of system that they believe in and has served them well. (We'll) be able to talk a lot about the neutral zone and that’s one of their strengths."

Boucher, however, isn't a one-trick pony according to Julien. The man who guided the Lightning to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference will mix things up to throw his opponents off.

"Not only do they play a certain way, but they alternate," Boston's coach said. "You won’t always see the one-three-one, you might see that one-two-two. They try to keep the team on their heels there a little bit with that. And obviously the offensive zone, a lot of things are, a lot of pucks are going to the net. They always have somebody going there. They’re really a driven team and they’ve made it hard on teams they’ve played against so far in the playoffs and have had success at it. So we’re aware of it."

One other hurdle the Black and Gold have will be solving Dwayne Roloson. The former UMass Lowell  star, acquired in a midseason trade with the Islanders, owns the best goals-against average (2.01) and save percentage (.941) in the postseason.

"They went and got a veteran goaltender there at some point, and that also strengthened their team," Julien said. "So it’s up to us here to I think really focus on again continuing to play our game but also, we’ve had some success against them in the regular season.

"I’m not saying that that should give us an advantage, but there’s confidence and we know they’ve made some adjustments, and we’re going to have to make some adjustments as well. But I think compete wise I think both teams are up there."

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli foresees overcoming Boucher's system being a challenge, but believes the Lightning will have their hands just as full with figuring out his own club's strategy.

"They sit way back and they pounce and it’s hard to get through it," said Chiarelli. "And then everything goes to the net when they have the puck. Everything goes to the net and they overload defensively. So it’s not conventional, but they have guys who are dangerous, they have some size and they have a hot goalie. They've got a very good coach. I think it’s going to be both a tactical series and a heavy series."

Chiarelli often preached  that the team had to get through to the conference finals this year, a hump Julien finally got them over in his fourth season with the club. But, you can forget about the B's resting on their laurels now that they've reached what is essentially the NHL's final four.

"I think the guys knew that this was an important round to win," Chiarelli said of his team's sweep of the Flyers. "And as the round progressed, as we were playing well in each game, as the confidence was growing, I think they now recognize that the ultimate goal is that much closer. So, while it may be natural to have that sense of satisfaction and comfort, and sit back and the rest is gravy, I don’t think that applies with this group."