ECF Game 5 preview: Tampa Bay Lightning (5) at Boston Bruins (3)

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WHERE: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
WHEN: 8 PM EDT | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Versus, CBC, RDS (television), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Stanley Cup of Chowder, Something's Bruin, Days of Y'Orr

Well, you've already figured this out for yourself, but the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins are back at even in their Eastern Conference Finals match-up. It's no longer a best-of-7 series, it's turned into a best-of-3 series.

By the end of the week, the 2010-11 Eastern Conference Champion will be crowned, and Lord Stanley's Cup will be their next target. For the loser: a lament; reflection on what went wrong, and for certain, the long off-season without hockey.

Promises and guarantees be damned, the only thing for certain after tonight's game 5 is that there will be a game 6 at Times Palace on Wednesday night. One team will have the opportunity to clinch the series at that point. Which one, the Bolts or the Bruins, will be determined tonight at TD Garden.

Guy Boucher was able to make lemonade out of the lemon that was the horrid display of officiating Saturday. No, not everything was truly lackluster in officiating:

 

Boucher said he had never seen a call like that but praised the referees for how they've done in Tampa.

"If it's a mistake and the (referees) make only one during the entire game, they're like coaches and players if they limit their mistakes," Boucher said. "The referees have been great the past two games. They let the players play."

 

But if what Steve Downie does here was diving...


...Then water is no longer considered wet, the sun rises in the west every night, and the Edmonton Oilers won the 2011 President's Trophy.

The justifications I've seen from people regarding the call is that Downie is a dirty player, dirty rotten player, scumbag, whiner, deserves worse, etc, etc. It's reputation.

But could you see Matt Cooke being called for diving if it was he who was boarded and concussed by Nathan Horton? With Horton hovering around and taunting? Speaking of reputations, do you actually expect the league to give second look at this incident and hold Horton accountable? Nope, I didn't think so.

And why? Because Club Two-Minutes, the good old boy network of NHL officials and Colin Campbell, will not second guess themselves, nor be held accountable. Their judgement rules all, and their personal opinions sway those on-ice decisions more often than not. Yes, things happen in a split second on ice and referees and linesmen have to react.

But everyone deserves a fair shake, even the disliked players. Referees in any sport are supposed to be impartial -- not biased and vindictive.

With Downie likely out for tonight, expect either Blair Jones inserted into the lineup in Downie's place, or a resumption of the 11-forward, defenseman roster split, with Randy Jones playing as the 7th defenseman.

Anyway...

Another oddity that's come to pass since Saturday's victory over Boston, is the debate about who starts in net for the Lightning tonight. Dwayne Roloson? Mike Smith? In my own biased opinion (and yes, I know, hypocrite -- but I am not a referee, now am I?), I can't put this up for debate. It's Roloson's job. Mike Smith, for all his solid play in relief for Rollie, has the baggage of his recent past: Play soundly for a spell, then collapse in spectacular fashion just when fans think he has turned a corner.

We're at that juncture again where we believe he's turned a corner.

I'm not trying to wish ill on Mike Smith. I truly hope he has turned a corner. I thought, for sure, he should start game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Washington Capitals. I also can't deny the team playing soundly in front of Smith.

But it's Roloson's show. He was brought to the Lightning for the sake of righting the ship in-the-crease.

...

Here's a reminder that the Lightning will be holding another watch party outside the St. Pete Times Forum tonight.

Fans are advised to arrive an hour and a half prior to the puck drop (6:30 PM) to enjoy a number of amenities outside on the west plaza before the game, such as live music and entertainment, games, various fan activities and more. Individuals are also permitted to bring blankets, lawn chairs and coolers packed with food and non-alcoholic drinks, although various food items and alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase at the arena.


Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

Full game coverage on SB Nation

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