He’s correct, beyond a shadow of doubt
TAMPA — Game 3 was by the Book of Claude.
Above all, successful. It was Boston 2, Tampa Bay 0, accomplished by following the basic Julien Code of Hockey Conduct.
But Game 2 . . . Mon Dieu! Un cauchemar (nightmare)!
Now, you loved Game 2, and so did I. Watching on television, I thought Versus color man Ed Olczyk, a man who scored 19 career playoff goals (six as an 18-year-old), was going to abandon the great Doc Emrick, run down there, put on skates, and join in the fun in a happy search for No. 20.
Talk about action. Talk about a complete abandonment of sound hockey principles. And the best part was that the Lightning wouldn’t quit. Down, 6-3, entering the final period, having weathered a five-goal Bruins barrage in Period 2, and having pulled goalie Dwayne Roloson in favor of Mike Smith, they cut the lead to 6-5 and I was 100 percent certain with two minutes left they would tie it up and force overtime. Please don’t lie to me. You did, too.
To paraphrase Dave Cowens on the subject of winning his first NBA championship in 1974, this was not a game either Julien or Lightning mentor Guy Boucher wished to slip into his portfolio of hockey experiences. A disgusted Boucher derided the affair as “Pond Hockey.’’ No, they would much rather hit the mental delete button, erasing that memory forever.
But how does something like Game 2 happen? Each coach has a preferred way of playing, and it was far more along the lines of what we all saw in Game 3 than what was on display in Game 2. In fact, take away a defensive gaffe by the Lightning that allowed David Krejci unimpeded access to Roloson after receiving a crisp pass from Milan Lucic, and it would have been a scoreless game well into the third period.
Once again, how do the players on both sides become a team of runaway horses? You’d think the coaches could simply open their mouths and stop it with a couple of well-chosen words.
“We couldn’t,’’ said Julien with a shrug. “Sometimes you get into these situations where the game just opens up. The game takes on a momentum of its own. Both teams seemed to be stuck in that mode during Game 2.’’
I’m sorry. I still don’t understand. The coach is standing behind the players. He can address them as loudly, or as profanely, as he sees fit. And then there are the two intermissions. So what was said in any of those moments? And why didn’t anyone on either side listen?
“I’m thinking the same thing as you,’’ Lucic said with a laugh. “I wish I had an answer for it. It opened up and stayed that way. A lot of the goals were scored off rushes. I know both coaches were frustrated and were losing their minds. That’s not the style they prefer. That’s not what anyone expected.’’
I’ll try again. What exactly was said?
“I do remember hearing something about ‘run and gun,’ ’’ recalled defenseman Andrew Ference, who may have had the lengthiest wait in history to discover whether or not he had scored the second goal of Game 3 with 8:12 remaining. “I know the whole thing was driving the coach crazy.’’
“I did get after them following the second period,’’ said Julien. “I said, ‘Guys, this game is stretched out. We can’t keep playing like this.’ But it was really frustrating because we just couldn’t reel them back in. Boucher, same thing. It doesn’t happen that often for us, maybe two or three times a year. And we usually lose those games.’’
There’s the key point. Unlike his coaching counterpart, Claude will be able to look back on this at some future date with a bit of fondness. His team did get the all-important W, however unkempt the game was from a coaching standpoint.
Reflecting once again on this alternately exhilarating and harrowing experience, Lucic had this to say: “No matter who you play, if you’re trading chance for chance, opening up like that, anything can happen. That’s not the game we play, not since I’ve been here. But sometimes you just can’t control it. it’s just gonna happen. Luckily and thankfully, we won the game.’’
They also won the following game, adhering to more traditional hockey principles and relying on the ongoing goaltending excellence of Tim Thomas, who had a far more enjoyable night in the nets, what with defensemen and backchecking forwards actually doing their best to protect him, as opposed to dedicating themselves to exposing him in Game 2.
“We took away time and space,’’ explained Chris Kelly. “In Game 2, there were too many two-on-ones and three-on-twos. I thought we did a good job of not allowing them to generate opportunities.’’
“I’m sure we all felt bad about what we did to the coach in Game 2,’’ pointed out Ference. “That’s why we came out the way we did in Game 3. It was ‘Guilt Game.’ ’’
“Guilt Game.’’ I like that. Six more of those “Guilt Games’’ and they can summon the Duck Boats.