Bruins wary of goaltending 'advantage' over Capitals


Bruins wary of goaltending 'advantage' over Capitals

WILMINGTON, MA If theres one weakness the Bruins can exploit when they take the ice against the Washington Capitals, it could be between the pipes.

Tomas Vokoun has been out with a groin injury since getting removed from the Caps victory over the Bruins on Mach 29 after aggravating the problem, and it appears he wont be ready to start the postseason. Michael Neuvirth skated on his own prior to Mondays Capitals practice while working his way back from a left legankle injury, but he isnt expected to be ready for Thursday nights Game One either.

So that leaves Washington with goaltending rookie Braden Holtby to start the playoff series.

The 22-year-old Holtby has no playoff experience, but has been excellent with the Capitals posting a 14-4-3 record with 2.02 goals against average and .929 save percentage while mixing in with Neuvirth and Vokoun. Those numbers are nice, but on paper it appears to be a mismatch next to Tim Thomas and the Bruins goaltending situation.

That tends to happen when you place a fresh-faced goaltender side-by-side with four-time All-Star goaltender with reams of experience, and both Vezina Trophies and Conn Smythe Trophies on his award shelf.

The Bs goaltender might feel that and think that in his heart of hearts, but he cautioned against getting too overconfident facing a group of Washington goaltenders clearly in flux due to injuries. Thomas referenced the Capitals goaltending situation while breaking down their team as an opponent.

Obviously they have a potent offense. They had our number this year, but that doesnt really mean anything going into the playoffs as weve seen in the past, said Tim Thomas. They have some physicality. I dont know how physical theyre going to play us in the series. That really remains to be seen. Thats their offense and thats their biggest danger.

We have to be willing to put in the work that needs to be done on our offensive side. I know that it looks like at this point theyre going to have a young goalie playing, but that doesnt mean anything. You cant take for granted. Sometimes those kids can stand on their heads in those situations for a number of reasons but one of them is that they never expected to be there so they dont have that mental pressure.

Playoff series are never won with paper matchups and lopsided strengths and weakness in postseason previews, but the Bruins have to feel good about their goaltending situation headed into a series expected to go deep into April.

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

As expected, Marcus Smart will get the start for the Boston Celtics tonight against the Orlando Magic in place of the injured Isaiah Thomas. 

Thomas, who leads the Celtics (12-9) in scoring (26.0) and assists (6.2) this season, suffered a right groin injury in Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston on Monday.

Head coach Brad Stevens explained his decision a few minutes ago.

“He’s started a lot of games here in the past as a point guard,” Stevens told reporters. “He’s basically our sixth starter. It wasn’t one that I had to think a ton about.”

Starting Smart also allows second-year guard Terry Rozier to continue in his role coming off the bench. 

Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, Smart’s production has been consistent. 

In the five games he has started this season, he has averaged 10.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. 

His numbers off the bench are almost identical with Smart averaging 9.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists as a reserve. 

Stevens also mentioned that Amir Johnson would be back in the starting lineup in place of Jonas Jerebko. Earlier in the day, Stevens told reporters the decision to start Jerebko on Monday was strictly because of the matchup with Houston. 

“We have to be able to be flexible in doing that,” Stevens said. “Houston plays four guards. We didn’t feel like we could defend them unless we switch one through four. I thought he (Jerebko) did a pretty good job. This (Orlando) team is different than Houston other than both are super-hot.”

Orlando (10-12) has won four of its last five games in part because of its size, strength and versatility along the frontline which includes Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic who now comes off the bench. 

And while the Celtics have benefited heavily from the play of their guards, obviously that plan will be amended tonight with Thomas out. 

“He (Thomas) generates a lot in the open offense what we call flow, spread offense,” Stevens said. “So some of those type of things you may not generate at the same rate. But certainly there are other ways that we’ll look to play when he’s not in the game normally, or when we’re trying to play through bigs in the post. You have different ways to play within all your schemes. Hopefully we can play to each other’s strengths and go from there.”