How coy was Lightning coach Guy Boucher about the identity of his starting goalie before Game 5? He sounded positively Belichickian.
When asked before Game 5 if veteran Dwayne Roloson, who was pulled in favor Mike Smith in Game 4 after allowing the Bruins to build a 3-0 lead, would start, Boucher replied: "We're preparing like usual. He's preparing like he prepared for all the other games. So we're prepared."
That's four prepareds or preparings in 17 words, for those keeping score at home.
As it turned out, what Boucher was preparing for was to make a change. Smith got the start and acquitted himself well, stopping 17 of 19 shots in the 3-1 loss. [The third goal came on a Rich Peverley empty netter.]
"Yeah, I was a little surprised I got the start," said Smith, whose effort came in front of a TD Garden crowd that actually included Belichick. "I figured that [Roloson] would be back in. But I was ready to go if called upon. Rollie's been great, he's been here and done this and any advice that he gives me is stuff that I just suck in like a sponge. Obviously he's a great mentor."
Roloson, the 41-year-old former UMass-Lowell star, had started Tampa Bay's previous 15 games this postseason. But Smith excelled in relief in Game 4, stopping all 21 shots he saw as the Lightning rallied for a 5-3 win.
Boucher said he had no second thoughts about the decision.
"I don't regret it at all," he said. "I've changed goalies in the past and it's worked. I've had it done against my teams and it's worked. Smitty has bee terrific for us for a long, long time, and he deserved to get a game. At the same time, I felt that giving a little breather to Rollie, a bit like Vancouver did with Roberto Luongo [in the first round against the Blackhawks], and he came back and they have been winning since."
The Bruins' Brad Marchand, who scored the winning goal in the second period on a beautiful feed from Patrice Bergeron, said it didn't matter who was in the Tampa Bay net.
"They were playing a little bit of mind games there on who they were going to start, but we knew either way we had to get shots in front of their goalie," Marchand said. "Smith was seeing the puck pretty clearly. We knew it didn't matter who were playing. We had to focus on what we had to do to score and getting bodies in front of the net and and pucks in the net, and we did that well tonight."
Boucher didn't tip his hand as to who would start Game 6. But he knows that the Lightning have other goalie-related requirements if they are going to bring the series back to Boston.
"We're still trying to figure out the Tim Thomas enigma," he said.