NHL Playoffs 2012: How Much Rough Stuff Is Too Much for the Boston Bruins?

Al DanielCorrespondent IIApril 17, 2012

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 29:  Milan Lucic #17 of the Boston Bruins is hit by Cody Eakin #50 of the Washington Capitals on March 29, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Monday night, the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals combined for 40 penalty minutes, eclipsing the cumulative count between Games 1 and 2.

After logging 16 minutes in the series opener and 10 on Saturday, the contesting clubs already had 10 at Monday’s first intermission and 18 by the conclusion of the second period. All three stanzas featured one instance of at least one Bruin and one Capital going to the sin bin simultaneously.

Does that satisfy your bloodthirst, Michael Felger?

Even after the ice chips settled on Boston’s 4-3 triumph at the Verizon Center, the series continued to catch up with the apparent trendsetters in the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, New York-Ottawa, Nashville-Detroit and St. Louis-San Jose matchups.

Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom, who led all participating skaters with 16 penalty minutes, was subject to possible suspension as of Tuesday morning for his match penalty at the final horn.

With the first round of the playoffs still not even a week old, that makes this the seventh series this spring to feature at least one play worthy of disciplinary review. And Monday’s game brings the Bruins and Caps into the company of the Blues and Sharks, who had a heated brouhaha at the conclusion of Game 2 Saturday night and again late in their own Game 3.

Strictly concerning its own affairs, though, Boston now has the upper hand with a 2-1 series lead. And the question worth posing is did they attain this win with partial help from the extracurricular activity, despite it or was there no noteworthy effect?

We know this much. All but four of the Bruins’ 14 penalty minutes Monday night were for the generally preventable offense of roughing, the others being for hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct.

We know that Washington tallied the game’s first goal with a boost from team captain and primal penalty killer Zdeno Chara’s two-minute roughing sentence.

And we know that the Capitals restored their lead to 2-1 in the first minute of the middle frame during a four-on-four that resulted from coincidental minors to Backstrom and Milan Lucic.

Lucic eclipsed all of his teammates with eight hits and eight penalty minutes on the night. His total in the latter category constituted more than that of all other Bruins combined.

His three infractions, including a double minor for roughing with 2:36 remaining in regulation and a 3-3 deadlock still intact, are the power forward’s only scoresheet entries in the series to date. And they each constitute Monday night’s three aforementioned coincidental penalties.

The first of those came at the first buzzer in the form of a cross-checking minor to Backstrom coupled with Lucic’s roughing infraction. The two skilled forwards subsequently watched from the box as their teams traded four-on-four goals on the fresh sheet.

At 13:19 of the middle frame, Jason Chimera subtly pestered Lucic while waiting for a faceoff outside the Washington blue line. When Chimera was ordered to change positions, successor Brooks Laich picked up the torch and drew coincidental calls for unsportsmanlike conduct. Lucic did himself in by blatantly thrusting Laich to the ice after the Capital infringed on his territory.

That ultimately did not put a dent on either party as a 2-2 tie stood for the balance of the period. But by the same token, it didn’t help anybody, especially not the Bruins.

It did not help to have Lucic burning up two more minutes and potentially forfeiting a chance for his team to finally find its postseason power-play icebreaker.

Similarly, late in the third period, Lucic went out of his way to mix it up with multiple Washington penalty killers on the porch of Braden Holtby’s net. The resultant flags had the brawny Bruin serving a double-minor while opponent Matt Hendricks served a regular two minutes for roughing.

And this was while Backstrom still had 72 seconds to serve on his own sentence for cross-checking, which occurred a mere 2:46 after Laich had drawn a 3-3 knot for the home team. That goal, by the way, came only 43 seconds after Bruins’ blueliner Dennis Seidenberg got through serving an unaccompanied roughing minor.

Translation: Backstrom may have killed some critical momentum late in regulation, and Lucic effectively reimbursed his antagonists.

Granted, within another 33 seconds, Chara bailed Lucic out with a four-on-four conversion that finalized the 4-3 victory. But the top-six power forward still needs to relearn the appropriate times for, places for and quantities of physicality.

If he is to positively influence Boston’s endeavor to finish off the Capitals over the next two to four games, Lucic needs to cut back on the frustration he vents on opposing skaters. In lieu of that, he must tune up the frustration he inflicts on the entire Washington faithful with his stick and the puck.