Bruins gamble, win with goalie swap


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.

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

It’s hard to believe that it’s already come to this, but it might just be Malcolm Subban between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and perhaps again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The 22-year-old Subban has been pulled from two ineffective starts for the P-Bruins in four AHL starts this season (.846 save percentage and a 4.50 goals against average in four games) while coming back from last year’s fractured larynx injury. He's also a player the organization was uncertain enough about that they signed veteran backup Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on the July 1 open of NHL free agency.

Subban attributed his start to a slow opening few weeks with a new P-Bruins roster of players, but that hasn’t stopped fellow P-Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre from putting up excellent numbers between the pipes in the early going.

But Khudobin went down with an injury mere minutes into Monday morning’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and Tuukka Rask been battling a nagging leg injury since the season opening win against the Blue Jackets.

So Subban was the last goalie standing on Monday as an emergency recall from Providence, and could be in line to play Tuesday night against the Wild if the Bruins medical staff can’t perform some Mr. Miyagi-style healing techniques on Rask or Khudobin.

“Khudobin got injured and couldn’t practice with us, but I haven’t heard anything yet [on an update],” said Julien following practice. “This is hockey. We deal with it on daily basis with the injuries. We wait for the news and then it’s about doing your job as it’s required. If we have to make some adjustments and have to have some different personnel, then we’ll deal with it when we have more of an update. Tuukka is still day-to-day, so nothing is changed there.

“We’re in a situation here where we’ll see what happens, and if [Subban] needs to go in goal then he’ll go in goal. It’s as simple as that. As a coach, there’s one thing that worries me and that’s ‘stop the puck.’ I’m not a goalie coach, so I’m just demanding on making the saves.”

Subban, of course, hasn’t been making the saves down in Providence early in the going there this season, and is entering the stage of his career where he needs to begin showing signs of being a potential No. 1 guy at the NHL level.

Fellow goalies from the 2012 NHL draft class like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Joonas Korpisalo, Matt Murray, Connor Hellebuyck and Frederik Andersen have all begun making their mark in the league, and Subban was selected higher than all of them except for Tampa’s Vasilevskiy. So in the final year of his entry level deal it’s high time for the 22-year-old to begin showing signs he can play in the league, whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere.

He admitted on Monday he might have been putting too much pressure on himself down in Providence while watching the injury issues play out with Tuukka Rask in Boston.

Subban was worried about the big picture of stringing together saves so he was the guy called up if the Bruins needed a goalie, and instead should have been focusing more on the present opponents at the AHL level.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think anybody that knows me well knows that. I don’t like to let in goals no matter what happens, whether it’s breakdowns or not it’s my job [to stop the puck]. If there were no breakdowns then you wouldn’t need a goaltender,” said Subban. “I want to make every save and get a shutout every game. I think the biggest thing is just relaxing and playing, and knowing that it’s okay to let a goal in every once in a while.

“So I think in my position right now I’m supposed to be playing really well down there, and I think that go in my head a little bit. I was trying to get a shutout every game rather than going game-by-game and shot-by-shot. I was overthinking it too much. But collectively as a team we’re a new team and we were trying to get the chemistry together, and once we do that the D-zone will be better and the offensive zone game will come.”

If Subban does indeed get the emergency start on Tuesday night against the Wild, the Bruins just have to hope that it’s a better outing than getting pulled in his NHL debut against the Blues two seasons ago after allowing three goals on three straight shots to start the second period. They also have to hope that Rask or Khudobin get well quick given Boston’s shaky situation on defense in front of the goaltender, and the stretch they’re in of playing six straight opponents that qualified for last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

If not then watch out below because every hockey person knows there’s no quicker way for a hockey club to really begin imploding than if the goaltending starts to become a major problem whether it’s because of injury, inconsistent performance or simply because of being a straight-up sieve.

McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup


McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It was a bitter pill for Adam McQuaid to sit out the first five games of this season, but it looks like the veteran Bruins stay-at-home defenseman is nearing a return to the lineup. McQuaid was cleared to potentially play in Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens after an upper body injury kept him shelved for the team’s first four games, and could be approaching a return in the next few days as Claude Julien mulls a number of possible lineup changes.

“It was obviously frustrating, but I’m where I’m at now and trying to move on from it. Looking forward to getting back into the lineup hopefully as soon as possible here,” said the 30-year-old McQuaid, who had a goal and nine points in 64 games for the Black and Gold last season. “The excitement level is high for me, and it is for everybody after a loss when you’re looking forward to getting back out there.

“It would have been nice to have started the season with the guys, but you can’t change that now. I’ve had some good practices, and I’m just trying to my game as simple as possible, and take it as it comes. Obviously guys have played some games and it’s been a couple of weeks for me, so I’ll just have to keep my game simple.”

The B’s bench boss indicated it was only a matter of time before McQuaid makes his 2016-17 regular season debut, but that he’s got plenty of things to decide prior to dropping the puck against the Wild.

“[McQuaid] was cleared last game. I haven’t made any decisions based for [Tuesday night vs. Minnesota]. There’s a lot of things that are up in the air, and I’ve just go to juggle those things,” said Julien. “Who knows? Hopefully tomorrow morning I’ve got a better picture [of injury situation], and if not then it will be game-time decisions. I wish I could have a better answer [on if McQuaid will play], but I’ve got no answers right now.”

With Colin Miller (minus-4), Joe Morrow, Torey Krug (a rough minus-3 against Montreal) and John-Michael Liles all minus players after the first five games of the season, there are ample options for Julien on which potential blueliner to bump up to the press box. McQuaid is just happy he’s getting closer to a return while skating with 23-year-old Rob O’Gara at practice, and he can get back to helping a B’s team that’s smack dab in the middle (ranked 15th allowing 3.0 goals per game) of the NHL for team defense this season.