Bruins gamble, win with goalie swap

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Bruins gamble, win with goalie swap

COLUMBUS It was far from a textbook victory for the Bruins over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night. All one needs to do is look at the rare goaltending switch that took place in the Bs 5-3 victory over the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.

Claude Julien made the bold decision to pull Tim Thomas after two periods and go with Tuukka Rask for the final 20 minutes. The game was tied 3-3 at the time of the swap.

Weve played five games in eight nights, were a pretty tired group, said Julien. We just had to fight through it and we did just that.

It worked like a charm for the Bruins, who were now battling without their two best players (Thomas yanked from the game and Chara out with a leg injury) and putting together one of the grittiest wins theyll have all season.

It was originally thought that Rask might be the goaltender of choice when the schedule for the week was put together, but Julien opted for Thomas with the Bs in the middle of a two-game losing streak.

Thomas made 22 saves in the first 40 minutes and kept the Bruins in a 3-3 tie, but it was also readily apparent that the 37-year-old goaltender was fighting the puck more than usual.

Almost none of Thomas stops were clean glove saves, and the third goal surrendered to the Blue Jackets was a soft-serve special. R.J. Umberger was freed into the offensive zone with some speed after a long outlet pass from Sami Pahlsson, but defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was with Umberger every step of the way.

The Bs defenseman forced Umberger toward an outside lane and the Blue Jackets forward could only managed a backhander attempt toward the Bruins net. The shot somehow trickled through Thomas pads and allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the game late in the second period after an early Zdeno Chara bomb handed the Bruins a one-goal lead.

The Bs goaltender let out a stick-waving show of exasperation after the Umberger goal as if he knew he should have stopped that one.

Combine the Umberger score with a power play goal allowed when Thomas had taken himself out the play with his penalty kill unit scrambling in front of him and Julien had seen enough of the roaming Thomas between the pipes.

Timmy didnt look as comfortable tonight as weve seen him before and a couple of goals went through, said Julien. It was a gut feeling from the coachs perspective. Timmy is as consistent as Ive ever seen a goalie. In my five years Ive maybe pulled him two or three times in all of those years at the most. Thats how consistent hes been.

Thomas didnt stop to address the performance with the media following the feel-good victory.

Rask must have been shocked to get the call headed into the third period, but he didnt act it out on the ice. It was particularly surprising given that a Milan Lucic tripping call left the Bs and Rask in penalty kill mode right off the bat. But the Finnish goaltender came in out of the cold and made all 13 of his save chances while improving to 5-4-1 on the season and 2-0-0 against the Blue Jackets.

I was a little surprised, but youve got to be ready. That just proves it again. Youve just got to try and stay focused for 60 minutes, Rask. If you get shots and get your sweat going and start to feel good about yourself it helps. Today it turned out to be a good period for me for and we squeezed out the win. That was great.

Thomas got pulled from a tie game, and you just want to go out there and not lose the game.

Its pretty clear the Bruins arent engaging in any goaltender controversy as its the first time Thomas has been pulled since last season on March 3 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was very rarely pulled before that memorable defeat prior to last years Cup run.

Everybody is entitled to one of those games, said Julien. I didnt think he was bad, but it just didnt look like he was comfortable in the net. So we went with Tuukka in the third.

Julien rolled the dice in a big way going with Rask, and it was one of several flawless calls that allowed the Bs to eke out a much-needed victory.

Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

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Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

The improvement plan has become as clear as it’s going to be for the Bruins this offseason.

With Bruins general manager Don Sweeney locking up Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million deal this week and vowing to sign Torey Krug as well, the Bruins defensemen corps is going to look awfully similar to last season’s misbegotten group.

Almost identical, it would seem.

Sure, Sweeney said on Wednesday that the Bruins are actively seeking out “a transitional defenseman” that’s presumably a little better than 35-year-old journeyman John-Michael Liles, and can be paired with Zdeno Chara as a top duo for next season. It’s the No. 1 priority on the Bruins offseason shopping list just as it was last season once they shipped Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for draft picks and were instead saddled with a fearsome, crippling black hole at the top of their organizational D-man charts.

The trade market has been set to a degree by the Erik Gudbranson trade from the Florida Panthers to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night with Jim Benning giving up a Grade-A center prospect in Jared McCann, a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick in exchange for the 24-year-old top-four defenseman. Per a hockey source with knowledge of the situation, the Bruins were not involved in any talks for the towering Gudbranso. It sounded like the Panthers and Canucks were pretty locked in with each other on making a deal.

That’s an unfortunate product of Boston not being able to match up with the available center prospect that might have interested Florida and having dealt some of those 2016 draft picks on fruitless deadline rental deals for Lee Stempniak and Liles.

So, how difficult will it be to land Kevin Shattenkirk, or Jacob Trouba, or Sami Vatanen, or Tyson Barrie, or any other mobile blueliner able to play big minutes, move pucks and survive against the other team’s best offensive players while being sheltered defensively by Zdeno Chara?

“Time will tell on that one, you know? Either through free agency or through acquisition, it’s a matter of finding a trading partner or finding a match in the marketplace. We’re going to be aggressive,” said Sweeney. “We certainly have identified, we had our pro meetings … I’m not going to give my whole plan out to you today. But we have areas that we want to address in the depth of our organization more likely in the forward position, either on the right wing or the center, or again on the backend. We’re exploring a bunch of different things trade-wise. It’s difficult in this league, but I think that we’re in the position with two first-round picks to be either selecting really good players or to be in the marketplace.”

The Bruins had better hope it’s a miracle-working puck-mover that they bring to Boston because otherwise they are on course for bringing back the same old sorry usual suspects from last season. Miller and Adam McQuaid will be taking up a combined $5.25 million on the salary cap, Krug will have a salary in the range of $5 million per season after watching the B’s largesse in the Miller deal and both Chara and Seidenberg will trudge on as proud, aging warriors well on the back end of their careers after outstanding service in Boston.

That means many defenders, including Joe Morrow and Colin Miller, return. Defense was the clear weakness on the team, which finished 19th in the NHL after being in the bottom third of the league pretty much all season. It was inarguably the worst defensive group of Claude Julien’s 10-year tenure with the Bruins and had major difficulties in all areas ranging from tape-to-tape passes, to coverage breakdowns and good, old-fashioned lost battles in all of the danger areas.

So, with the plan to add one high-caliber “transitional defenseman” already laid out, it’s clear the B’s belief is that will be enough to substantially improve things on the ice.

At least that’s the theory before the bullets start flying next season and Sweeney gave a few perfunctory lines about the team improving in every area.  

“This is a results-oriented business, so we have to get better in areas. We have to improve our roster. I’ve said all along that we need to continue to improve our roster. We’ll be in the marketplace in every different way, shape, or form to try and acquire players that will continue to help us do so,” said Sweeney. “Talking with Claude and going over the time he spent with Butch [Cassidy], through my dealings with Butch, and realizing the development of a lot of the players that have been a part of our roster and success is the transition game and stuff that Butch has brought to the table.

“[It’s] how he saw the game, how he expects players to play and move pucks and work on it every day, is an area that I think he’s going to be an addition to our [coaching] staff and how he sees the game. I think I identified that if Butch was playing in this day and age now, he’d be a very welcome addition to our roster.”

So that’s the plan, folks. The big move of the summer is getting a defenseman they badly need, filling in a few roster spots, signing a good deal of their own players and then hoping for a better result next time around.

Isn’t there some kind of line about insanity and expecting different results with the same cast of characters year in and year out? 

 

Thursday, May 26: Will going with Fleury haunt Penguins?

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Thursday, May 26: Will going with Fleury haunt Penguins?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while still laughing at the #TeamFrich movement.

*Dave Lozo says that the decision by Mike Sullivan to play Marc-Andre Fleury could still come back to haunt the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Miracle on Ice goaltender Jim Craig marvels at the evolution of USA Hockey from the Miracle days to the current system that just keeps on producing top talent.

*Mike from Woburn hates the Kevan Miller contract almost as much as I do.

*Speaking of the Kevin Miller deal, here’s a scenario where the big overpay for Miller might help them land another talented young player.

*In other hockey news, the Vancouver Canucks landed legitimate top-4 defenseman Erik Gudbranson while the ink was drying on the Kevan Miller contract.

*Chris Phillips is expected to announce his retirement from the Ottawa Senators after a long career in Ottawa as a defensive warrior.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough says some tough decisions await the St. Louis Blues after dropping the conference finals to the San Jose Sharks.

*The San Jose media has decreed that it was worth spending a first-round pick for Martin Jones after he helped carry them to the Cup Final. For the Bruins it means that their first round pick will be No. 29 or No. 30 in the first round, so whoop-de-do for that.

*For something completely different: 21 scientists say that Tom Brady is right and the NFL is wrong about Deflategate.