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BOSTON -- We're not sure which was more puzzling, Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher's decision to start Mike Smith in goal or his rationale for doing so.
Smith, making his first playoff start in place of veteran Dwayne Roloson, was not a factor in the Lightning's 3-1 loss in Game 5 on Monday, a loss that gave the Bruins a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 of the East finals set for Wednesday in Tampa.
He stopped 17 of 19 shots and could not be faulted on the two goals he allowed (the Bruins had an empty-netter to complete the scoring).
Roloson had been pulled in two of his previous three games, including Saturday, when he allowed three goals on nine shots. Smith had been solid in relief, stopping all 29 shots he faced in slightly more than three periods of action prior to Monday.
Despite a lot of pregame mumbo jumbo about Roloson preparing for Game 5, it is clear Boucher's confidence in Roloson was waning, or he wouldn't have made the switch.
Why else would you make the switch at such a critical juncture of the series?
And while it would be out of character for Boucher to publicly acknowledge any lack of confidence in any of his players, it was puzzling to hear him explain that Smith got the start in part because he likes to give everyone a chance.
"When people deserve things, whether they're a fourth-line or a third-line or seventh or eighth D, when they deserve [it] -- I'm one of those guys that I'll give people a chance," the coach said. "And I felt that Smitty had been terrific for us for a long, long time and he deserved to get a game."
Fair enough. But this is not recess dodgeball where everyone gets a turn because, well, it's dodgeball. This is the Stanley Cup playoffs with a Stanley Cup finals berth on the line. You start the players you think can get you to the finish line. This isn't about being fair; it's about trying to gain a competitive advantage.
Boucher, at least, did acknowledge the rest might be good for the 41-year-old Roloson.
"At the same time, I felt that giving a little breather to Roli -- a bit like Vancouver did with [Roberto] Luongo, and Luongo came back and they have been winning since -- it's a decision I don't regret at all," Boucher said. "I've done it in the past and it worked. I've had it done against me and it worked. And I think it's the same for Vancouver and it worked."
We'll find out Wednesday whether the same blueprint works for the Lightning.
The Lightning coach did not tell Smith he was starting until around lunchtime Monday, saying he didn't want him fretting about the start overnight.
Tampa Bay playoff scoring hero Sean Bergenheim, who leads all NHL players with nine postseason goals, played just 4:19 in Game 5 and was last seen hunched over in pain as he headed to the bench in the first period. It led to speculation he had suffered a charley horse or a groin pull.
Boucher said the Lightning didn't want to risk using him again in Game 5 and his status for Game 6 on Wednesday in Tampa is unknown.
"Obviously, that hurt us. He's one of those guys that's been terrific for us," Boucher said. "He's got a good chemistry with his line. I was trying to find chemistry after that for [Dominic] Moore and [Steve] Downie, and obviously missed him for two periods, more than two periods. So we'll have to see. Right now, we couldn't put him back on the ice, and we didn't want to take a chance it would get worse. We'll see tomorrow, and we'll see the next game if we're able to put him back on the ice."
The Lightning's power play has fallen on hard times in recent days, going 0-for-9 in the past three games and just 2-for-18 in the conference finals.
"We're definitely going to look at tapes. That's something we take a lot of pride in. We had a lot of success on that since the start of the playoffs," Tampa Bay forward Simon Gagne said. "We know that special teams could be the difference, especially in [this] series, and, for us now, we had a couple of chances to go out there and try to tie the game and we definitely were not able to create a lot. It's something we're definitely going to look at tapes and try to play better next game."
The Boston Bruins have been outshot in 11 of 16 postseason games this spring but still are 9-2 in those games. The Lightning have outshot their opponents in six straight playoff games; they are 3-3 in that span.