May 11, 2011

Bolts' big guns pose quite the challenge for B's

Lightning forward Steve Stamkos celebrates a goal against the Bruins. (Getty)

BOSTON -- Shutting down the star forwards from the Tampa Bay Lightning was a daunting enough challenge for the Bruins, but doing so without Patrice Bergeron promises to make it considerably harder.

Sans their Selke-worthy center, Boston will be up against it when it comes to keeping the likes of Steve Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier in check. With plenty of depth down the middle, however, the Bruins are confident they can stem the tide in Bergeron's absence.

"Obviously with Patrice being out, that's a huge hole to fill," said Chris Kelly, who coach Claude Julien currently has in Bergeron's place on the second line. "It's not a one-person job. I think it'll be a team effort that does that. We're a deep group here and very capable of doing that."

Boston's centers recognize that Bergeron wears many hats for this club as, beyond his offensive contributions, the 25-year-old pivot logs a big chunk of ice time on both sides of special teams and is relied upon heavily to win faceoffs.

"Well his loss is felt in a lot of areas," Greg Campbell said. "He was obviously big for the penalty kill. He was taking a lot of draws for us. Starting out in the defensive zone and winning that draw is key on the penalty kill. But I think we have six, seven or eight guys that are able to do the job and capable of filling in."

Campbell knows full well that the B's need to be extremely sharp while shorthanded, as Tampa Bay -- a team that finished sixth in the NHL on the power play during the regular season -- has been extremely successful on the man advantage during the playoffs.

"Their top guys are some of the top players in the league," Campbell said. "When you have that combination, it's obviously going to work. They always have had a power play that's, not to say it wasn't structured, but their parts move in and out and it's tough to defend. Sometimes you have St. Louis on the point and then he's down low. To have a game-plan (for them) is a little bit tougher than most teams.

"They have a lot of weapons. They have the one-timer from Stamkos, and if you take that away, they'll just move it over to Lecavalier for his one-timer. It's tough being down a man and having to cover all those guys."

However, it's not as though the Bruins haven't faced a number of extremely talented forwards to date, as neither the Canadiens nor the Flyers were lacking in firepower up front.

"I think you have to know when guys of that caliber are on the ice, but it's nothing different as opposed to facing guys like (Tomas) Plekanec, (Scott) Gomez, (Mike) Richards, (Danny) Briere or (Claude) Giroux," said Kelly. "They're all great players. There's tons of great players in these playoffs, so you've just got to go out and play hard."

Doing so right off the bat will be big for the Bruins, especially against a team like the Lightning that could grab a quick lead and promptly go into shutdown mode.

"Well it just seems like in the playoffs, the first goal scored changes the game-plan," Campbell said. "For that particular team, you kind of tighten up a bit and play more defensively. Most games are one-goal games or low-scoring games. The first goal is usually big because the other team shuts it down and it's tough to create chances. It's not the end of the world, but it's tough to play from behind in playoff hockey."

If the Bolts' big forwards aren't sufficently contained, the Bruins might find themselves playing from way behind in this series.