October 8, 2011

Lucic, B's face tough test against Tampa

by Jesse Connolly

Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer tries to take the puck away from B's winger Milan Lucic. (Getty)

BOSTON – Heading into Game 2 of the 2011-12 season, the Bruins are preparing for a similar challenge to the one posed by the Flyers in their season opener. In order to make the end-result different this time around, they realize they’re going to have to play considerably better than they did on Thursday night.

The Lightning will come to TD Garden for the first time since dropping Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals by a score of 1-0, narrowly missing out on a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

“It’s still fresh in their mind last season, with how things ended for them,” Bruins winger Milan Lucic said. “Obviously we’re happy about it and they’re not. It’s just like last game. It’s going to be a good test here. You saw (the Flyers) were a team that was fast and playing like they were in full-form. (The Lightning) have got a lot of great players and it’s going to be a hard-fought game for us if we want to win tonight.”

Guy Boucher’s Bolts kicked off their campaign last night against the Hurricanes, earning a lopsided 5-1 victory in which many of their top guns shined. Martin St. Louis and Steve Stamkos each had two points in the victory, while the team’s aggressive penalty kill stopped all five of Carolina’s opportunities on the man advantage.

“Obviously we know they have a very solid system and they stick with it,” Dan Paille said. “They showed that last night defeating Carolina. They’ve got a lot of offensive power up front, so we’ve just got to be aware of who is out there on the ice and just make sure we maintain pressure.”

Boston’s effort to do that will all start in their own zone. The Bruins spent a good chunk of Friday morning’s practice working on their transition game, which proved to be a bit of a sore spot in their 2-1 loss to Philadelphia.

“I think a lot has to be focused on just moving the puck quick and (having) a lot of support on the puck,” said Lucic. “If you leave a guy by himself, it tends to be a 1-on-3 situation. You need numbers supporting the puck and you’ve got to be ale to do whatever you can to generate some speed, which is really hard to do against this team. Patience in our game and in the neutral zone will lead to success.”

And once they work their way up and into Tampa’s zone, playing smart with the puck and avoiding costly turnovers will be equally important.

“They’re a team you really have to limit your mistakes against,” said Lucic. “As soon as you make a mistake, it’s going the other way and it could end up in the back of your net – especially with the firepower that they have.”

After giving his players an optional skate this morning, Bruins coach Claude Julien hopes his club has the energy and focus to earn their first win of the season, but their level of play is more important to the Bruins bench boss at this point in the year.

“Right now, our team has to focus on how they want to play, not so much on the outcome,” Julien said. “There’s a lot of focus on the outcome right now, seeing if we’re going to win games or we’re going to be struggling to win games, but I think our focus has to be more on how we want to play. We can let that dictate whether we win or lose games.”