Bruins looking to make the most of upcoming road trip


Bruins looking to make the most of upcoming road trip

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The Bruins have sailed through the first-quarter mark of the 48-game regular season. Theyve only lost once in regulation through their first 11 games and stand first in the Northeast Division while their closest competitors in Ottawa have been decimated by injuries to Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson over the last few weeks.

So now the Black and Gold get their next test with a five-game road trip that will be broken up into two distinct parts. The Bruins will travel back to Buffalo and Winnipeg this weekend for a pair of cold weather showdowns, and then next week head to Tampa Bay and Florida for their Sunshine State swing before winding up the trip against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

In between the two segments of the road trip, the Bruins will return to Boston to practice for a few days prior to heading off to Florida.

The Bruins are 4-0-1 on the road this season, and now might be as good a time as any to get away from Boston for a couple of weeks on the road. Its the kind of scenario thats always served the Bruins well in the past.

Weve made the most of our road trips in the past. Theres no reason we wont again this time around, said Andrew Ference. Some years the road has even better for us than at home. Its what you make of it. In this quick season its just playing games, and it doesnt even really matter where it is.

Last season the Bruins were tied for the most road wins in the Eastern Conference with a 25-15-1 record away from TD Garden, and two years ago their 24-12-5 mark was better than their record in 41 home games in Boston. Above and beyond that all five teams the Bruins will play on the road are out of the playoff picture, and the Lightning are the only team with a record over .500 at 6-5-1 after a hot start.

The five teams have a combined record of 24-32-6 on the season, so there arent any Eastern Conference world beaters on tap through the next two weeks.

Its fair to say the road trip is ripe for the Bruins to really leap out to a big lead in the division and conference if they play their cards correctly.

If you look at every game there have been points within it when things get a little scrambly, and you would hope that a dozen games into the schedule that will start to straighten out, said Ference. If you look at our penalty kill its been bang on, and thats usually microcosm of your defensive game in general. The creation of offensive chances has been there, but were still looking at completing the finish on those plays.

Things are certainly good with Boston as they have climbed out to an 8-1-2 record in their first three weeks of the regular season. But the Bruins now have five games on the road against middling Eastern Conference competition to truly find the high water mark in their game, and continue amassing the points as they have over the first month of the compacted NHL season.

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

BOSTON, Mass – Malcolm Subban says that he believes that he can still be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

While that’s admirable on some level for the sheer, brazen self-confidence involved in saying this after getting yanked from a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden, pretty much all of the evidence points out the contrary. Nearly two years after getting pulled from his NHL debut in against the St. Louis Blues after giving up three goals on six shots, Subban was pulled from Tuesday night’s appearance after giving up three goals on eight second period shots with the Bruins desperately in need of a quality start in goal.

He maintained a defiantly confident tone after another humbling NHL effort against Minnesota, and that’s a testament to the maturity and mental toughness of the person behind the goalie mask.

“It sucks. Obviously, I’m just trying to finish the game, let alone win one. Obviously it sucks, but what can you do now, right?” said Subban, who has now allowed six goals on 22 career shots faced in two starts. “Obviously I want to be a number one goaltender in the league. I was a high pick for a reason. I have the potential, and I just have to show it. Obviously I haven’t done that so far yet, but I think I’m getting closer to it. Honestly, I think I can do it right now. I just got to show it. Obviously, I didn’t [do it] today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Given the stunningly bad quality of his two NHL starts combined with a thoroughly pedestrian body of work at the AHL level over the last three years, there is literally zero tangible evidence Subban is tracking to be a franchise goaltender. Instead he’s the emergency goaltender called on by the Bruins only after Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have both been shelved by injuries, and he’s now flunked the two pop quizzes when the NHL team needed him to come through.

Meanwhile, a sizeable selection of goaltenders taken after him in the 2012 NHL Draft class have already proven their NHL worth and broken through at the elite level: Matt Murray, Frederik Anderson, Connor Hellebuyck and Joonas Korpisalo.

Subban was hoping all along to break through this season in Boston, but things went south on him quickly with a Bruins team not playing well in front of him. The first goal was a fluttering Charlie Coyle shot that trickled between his glove hand and the top of his leg pad. The third goal was a softie low and to the glove side, power play strike authored by Ryan Suter. It added up to poor goaltending and shoddy defense, but it also added up to a Bruins goaltender that didn’t even give his hockey club a chance to win.

“It could be a combination of both. There are some goals – I’m not going to lie – there are some goals that we thought our goaltenders should have had. But I’m not here to talk about a goaltender who’s in one of his first few games because he let in a couple of bad goals,” said Julien. “We were terrible in front of him and we weren’t any better, and that’s the big picture. That’s more important.

“I don’t care who’s in net. I think when you have some injuries you need to be better in those situations and we weren’t good enough tonight. It doesn’t matter if Tuukka [Rask] is in net and we had injuries up front, or we’re lacking players here or there. You’ve got to let the system take care of the game. If you play it the right way, you have a chance to win. When you don’t, you don’t. That’s what happened [against Minnesota].”

There’s no question the defense in front of Subban wasn’t nearly good enough, and Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug in particular struggled to lock things down in the defensive zone. The wide open shots from the slot - like the Chris Stewart score in the second period that arrived 12 seconds after Minnesota’s opening goal - are indicative of a hockey club that’s not sticking to the game plan once things start to get a little wonky.

But this is about a player in Subban that should be entering the NHL stage of his career after being a first round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and anybody would be hard-pressed to see him as an NHL goalie after failing in each of his first two NHL starts. Combine that with the lack of dominance at the AHL level over the last three years, and there’s a better chance that Subban will be a major first round bust for the Bruins rather than suddenly develop into a late-blooming No. 1 goaltender in Boston.

The scary part is that Subban and fellow young netminder Zane McIntyre are all the Bruins have for Wednesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden, and perhaps longer than that if Rask can’t make rapid progress with his lower body injury.

Maybe Subban can be a bit better than he’s shown thus far, and the four goals allowed to Minnesota were not all his fault. The bottom line, however, is that Subban should be up for doing this job right now. Tuesday was a big chance for the young goalie to make a statement that he was ready for it.

Instead he looked like the same goalie that’s been pulled from two of his first four AHL starts this season, and plays like a goaltender that’s never going to truly be ready for the call in Boston.