Consistent Boychuk makes most out of first goal


Consistent Boychuk makes most out of first goal

BOSTON -- Throughout the Bruins' recent three-game losing skid in the midst of their underachieving 3-7 start, coach Claude Julien preached defense.

He preached it, because that is Boston's identity.

Quite simply, the defending-champion Bruins are a defensive team. From there, everything else falls into place.

As it did Tuesday in a slump-busting 5-3 win over Ottawa.

"Well, I thought we were better defensively," said Julien. "And I think it just kind of re-enforces what we've talked about the last few days. Our team's offense feeds off our team's defense."

Just not the way you would think, on Tuesday night.

The Bruins' defense improved, no doubt. But the offense got a lift from defenseman Johnny Boychuk.

Boychuk blasted a slap shot past Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson at 6:41 of the third period, giving Boston a 4-3 lead. It came just 1:37 after the Senators' Jared Cowen beat Tim Thomas with a shot from the point, which had tied the game at 3-3.

"We've been coming from behind a lot," said Thomas after the game. "This time was a lead where they tied it up, so it didn't seem to affect us that much. We just needed to respond. And we did fairly quickly."

Boychuk let go a blistering slap shot from the right point, with enough bodies out front to lead the puck past a screened Anderson and into the low-left corner of the net.

"There were a couple there where I just barely missed the net and then finally I got one through, and it hit the net and went in," said Boychuk after the win.

"I was just thinking, 'Hit the net.' Because I kept missing the net before that."

Boychuk was one of three Bruins players to finish the game as a plus-two. The others were fellow defensemen Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference.

As a defensive partner with Chara, Boychuk's play can sometimes be overlooked. But Julien praised him after Tuesday's win, mainly because of his consistency . . . something most of the team has lacked all season.

"I think Johnny's been one of our best defensemen so far, since the beginning of the year," said Julien. "He's consistent. He hasn't had the highs and lows that maybe some others have had, but he's been pretty good for us.

"I know he's a player that, in my eyes anyways, is still growing every year," added Julien. "Although he's only in his third year with us, he's a guy that just keeps going and going. I like his discipline and his way of playing guys hard. But at the same time, he has enough confidence to move the puck well.

"The goal he scored was a typical Johnny Boychuk shot, that you'd like to see even more."

It was Boychuk's first goal of the season, and as he pointed out after the win, it came a whole lot earlier than his first goal came last year.

"Obviously it feels a lot better, getting that first one by you," said Boychuk with a sense of relief. "Now you don't have to worry about it. I think last year it took me until January. So, a little bit better."

And for the Bruins, a team that almost desperately needed to find a way to re-capture a lead in the third period on Tuesday night, Boychuk's first goal of the year couldn't have come at a better time.

"We needed to win," said Thomas. "I don't know if it was a must-win game, because there's time left in the season. But we needed to win. We needed to start somewhere. And we did that tonight."

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 -- Malcolm Subban still believes he can be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

While that sort of sheer, brazen self-confidence is admirable -- especially after getting yanked from a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden Tuesday -- pretty much all the evidence points to the contrary. Given a shot because of injuries to Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin, nearly two years after getting pulled from his only other NHL appearance when he gave up three goals on six shots in St. Louis, Subban was taken out Tuesday night after allowing three goals on eight second-period shots.

He maintained a defiantly confident tone afterwards, a testament to his maturity and mental toughness.

“It sucks," said Subban, who has now allowed six goals on 22 career shots faced in two starts. “Obviously, I’m just trying to finish the game, let alone win one . . . but what can you do now, right?

"Obviously I want to be a No. 1 goaltender in the league. I was a [first-round draft choice] 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 . . . 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 evidence Subban is tracking to be a franchise goaltender. Meanwhile, a sizeable selection of goaltenders taken after him in the 2012 NHL Draft have proven their worth and advanced to the elite level: Matt Murray. Frederik Anderson. Connor Hellebuyck. Joonas Korpisalo.

Subban was hoping all along to break through this season in Boston, but things went south on him quickly Tuesday in his first chance to do so.

Hampered by a Bruins team not playing well in front of him, the first goal he allowed was a fluttering Charlie Coyle shot that trickled between his glove hand and the top of his leg pad. The third was a softie low and to the glove side, a power-play strike authored by Ryan Suter. Instead of hanging in and giving his team a chance to win, Subban helped put the Bruins in a hole they couldn't escape.

While Claude Julien felt the poor performance "could be a combination" of goaltending and overall defensive lapses, he didn't let Subban off the hook.

“There are some goals -- I’m not going to lie -- there are some goals that we thought our goaltenders should have had," said the coach.

But he also wasn't going to place the blame solely at Subban's feet.

"[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 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 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. 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 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 (Subban) who should be entering the NHL stage of his career after being a first-round pick in 2012. Anybody would be hard-pressed to see him as an NHL goalie after his two Bruins appearances. 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 rather than a late-blooming No. 1 goaltender.

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

Maybe Subban can be a bit better than he’s shown thus far, and, to be fair, the three goals allowed to Minnesota weren't all his fault. The bottom line, however, is that he 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 who'd been pulled from two of his first four AHL starts this season, one who's never going to truly be ready for the call in Boston.