Holtby getting into Bruins' heads during series


Holtby getting into Bruins' heads during series

WASHINGTON, DC The Bruins thought they might have found something with Braden Holtby in Game 3.

They were getting traffic to the front of the net, and cashing in on rebounds that have seemingly been there since the very beginning of the series.

The Caps lost the blocked shot battle for the first time in the series, and it seemed the tide was turning.

But it turned out to be more of the same in Game 4 as Holtby and the Capitals defense was once again on display in a Game 4 win thats evened the series at 2-2.

David Krejci felt like the Bruins could have scored five or six goals against the Washington defense given their chances, but you wouldnt have known it by the centers zero shots on net. He was going to the danger areas at points, but Krejci didnt look poised to score at any point during the game.

In fact he hasnt looked that way in four games now with no points, no goals and a minus-1 after leading the Bruins with 12 goals during last years playoffs. Holtby has been a giant factor in all of that despite the Bs perceived scoring chances.

We had so many chances that my line could have scored five goals easily, said Krejci, a refrain that many utter in the playoffs when a goaltender has taken it away from them. But we didnt so its frustrating. I had a couple of great ones. Its frustrating when you get some chances and you want to score so badly. Maybe we need to relax and take a couple of deep breaths.

Give Holtby credit because hes a good goalie, but 45 shots on net you need more than one goal. We had six guys who scored 20 plus goals in the season and we have one goal on 45 shots? Its frustrating, but I still believe its coming.

The Caps goaltender once again stood on his head with 44 saves in Washingtons 2-1 victory over the Bruins, and gave the nip-and-tuck series a fourth one-goal game in four tries thus far.

Its pretty clear the Capitals mean business when Alex Ovechkin plays less than three minutes in the final period with Washington singularly focused on goal protection at all costs. But for Holtby hes in the middle of everything he always dreamed about while on his way to the NHL as a 22-year-old.

Every time I've watched the playoffs, there's kind of a burning in me, I think with every player, that they want to be there, said Holtby, who has joined Semyon Varlamov and Michael Neuvirth in the playoff tradition of rookie Caps goaltenders. That they think they can get to that level. It's just the start of the playoffs right now. I'm just trying to learn, try to improve and see how long we can go.

The Bruins were focused on getting traffic in front of the net and generating better offensive chances for their top-end forwards, but they couldnt consistently do that in Game 4. Some of that was Bostons inability to bully their way to the front of the net, but there was another factor thats beginning to loom large.

Holtby is starting to take on the face of a rookie goaltender poised to upset a heavy favorite in a playoff series something Ken Dryden did to the Bruins many years ago, but something Cam Ward did in recent years with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The bottom line is that the 22-year-old rookie goaltender standing on his head, and a Washington defense that blocked 12 shots in the third period, deserved a hard-nosed playoff win.

The story of the Capitals if they can advance beyond the first round will be the play of their rookie netminder, who made textbook saves of all manners against Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand throughout the game. Its pretty clear hes starting to get into the Bs heads as theyre rushing almost every good scoring chance they get around the net.

Holtbys .953 save percentage is second behind only Cory Schneider among the playoff goaltenders, and his GAA of 1.60 has equaled Tim Thomas in a playoff series featuring sparkling puck-stopping. The difference is that Holtbys save percentage is nearly 20 points higher than Thomas, and hes outplayed his decorated counterpart at times.

Holtby was chastising himself a bit for allowing a goal to Rich Peverley that tied the game in the first period on a shot he felt like he should have stopped. But from that point on he was a brick wall stopping 31 shots in the final two periods, and stoning Patrice Bergeron during a last second flurry with the goaltender pulled.

The Washington goalie made one unorthodox stop on Lucic during a rush to the front of the net in the second period, and that was the save of the game in Holtbys mind.

I guess I was in a zone to a certain extent in the second period I felt pretty good. I don't know. There's still improvement. There are still times Milan Lucic when he cut across the middle in the second period; that could've easily been a goal, said Holtby. There's still some improvement. I felt good, but far from perfect.

Holtby is far from perfect, but dominating the Bruins. That is not something a struggling group of Bs forwards wanted to hear.

Haggerty: Carlo has been big answer to B's defensive questions


Haggerty: Carlo has been big answer to B's defensive questions

Things couldn’t have worked out any better for the Bruins to this point in the season when it comes to 19-year-old rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo.

While most of the other fellow rookies that debuted with Carlo a few weeks ago have been relegated to healthy scratch status or sent down to the AHL, the big, right shot defenseman continues to survive, and sometimes thrive, in a featured shutdown, top pair role with B’s captain Zdeno Chara.

Carlo’s ability to play both ends of the ice with strength, poise and intelligence for 21:59 of ice time per game is exactly what the Bruins needed headed into this season, and exactly what they didn’t get last season whether it was Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, Adam McQuaid or somebody else attempting to shut down top lines with Chara. The Bruins knew they had the need for a defenseman like Carlo, but really had no idea where that player was going to come from if they didn’t have a young player “pop” in training camp like Carlo did.

The teenaged D-man has clearly had a few rookie moments here or there through five games, so it hasn’t been 100 percent perfect by any means. But the 6-foot-5, 203-pound Carlo leads all rookies with a plus-7 rating in his five games while ranking top-10 in the NHL in the plus/minus category, he’s got a goal and two points in five games for perfectly acceptable production from a non-power play guy and he’s teamed with Chara to give the Bruins a D-men pairing they can rely on in all situations.

Those players are worth their weight in Black and Gold, and the rookie Carlo has been just that through the season’s first two weeks.  

“He’s a good man, and obviously is making a lot of good impressions,” said Chara. “My job is to do whatever I’m used to doing, and to make sure I can help him as much as I can. [The goal] is for us to compensate for each other and to work well together.”

Mission accomplished after five games with both Carlo and Chara among the most effective players on the Bruins roster thus far. With fewer than 20 games of pro hockey experience under his belt between last season and this year, Carlo has already earned the trust from Claude Julien to be on the ice protecting one goal leads in the final minute of regulation.

“He’s given me no reason to not want to put him out there. He’s got a great stick, great composure and he blocks shots. He does the right things. To me right now he’s not playing like a first year player, he’s playing like a player that’s been in the league for quite a while,” said Carlo. “He’s very comfortable and confident, and he makes the plays out there that he needs to make.

“Like I said, he’s impressed the heck out of us with the way he’s so calm. A young player like that you would expect to be more nervous, but he’s shown us he’s the total opposite.”

That’s a rarity for any rookie player with the Bruins, and almost unheard of for a player as young and inexperienced as Carlo. But it’s always based on merit with Julien and his B’s coaching staff, and Carlo has earned all the trust and responsibility in the early going by rarely making a negative play on the ice that ends up hurting the team.

The win over the New Jersey Devils is a great example of Carlo’s resilience and confidence. He was on the ice for a goal against earlier in the game when a Kyle Palmieri point blast got through him, bounced off his skate and beat Tuukka Rask on a deflected puck that initially looked like it was going wide of the net. In the final minutes of the game with the Bruins guarding a slim one-goal lead, Carlo was on the ice protecting that slim lead with the Devils making a push. It was the same exact play facing Carlo, and this time he found a way to block Palmieri’s point blast and make certain the Bruins banked the two points with a regulation win.

Carlo certainly appreciated the second chance to make the good shutdown defensive play, and strives to show consistency as a rookie where peaks and valleys to his play will be expected.

“I feel like I kind of revived myself there with that big block,” said Carlo, who got immediate attaboys from Tuukka Rask one the puck was frozen after making the play. “It felt really good to contribute in that way at the end of the game. I feel like me being out there has a lot to do with being Zdeno’s partner and the coaching staff wanting him out there, but I love the adrenaline rush and the competition with the game on the line. It’s a great feeling.”

Quite simply the Bruins really can’t afford those peaks and valleys, fair or unfair, and the 19-year-old former second round pick seems to understand that. Instead they need Carlo to perfectly compliment 39-year-old Zdeno Chara as he’s done through five games and vice-versa with the B’s captain off to his best start in the last few years while not having to worry so much about what’s happening on his right side.

“I think I can definitely stand up and hold my own out there, but I’ve also got Zee [Chara] standing next to me and that makes me feel very protected,” said Carlo. “It’s been fantastic. Each game I think we build a little more chemistry and move the puck better, and we talk every single shift and on the ice so much.

“We’re getting really comfortable with each other’s playing styles, and I think we’re getting really comfortable out there. I’ve enjoyed the experience, and learning a great deal from his experience as well. I’m just starting to figure out that I can do this well, and now I’m just trying to stay consistent playing the way that I have been. Part of being a pro is being able to do it night in and night out. Going through the WHL I feel like I have a bit of a hand up on that because we played a 72-game schedule, so I’m used to playing three times a week. It’s a nice thing to have under my belt, but it’s just about trying to stay consistent here. I’m just going to work my hardest every night, and I’ve got plenty of time each day to get my body prepared to play.”

Carlo makes the second, game-securing play because there’s a mental and physical toughness to his game, and there is a very high learning curve for the youngster after tossed into a difficult position as a shutdown NHL D-man out of necessity. The Bruins probably should have been in big, big trouble along their back end again this season after failing to close a deal for Kevin Shattenkirk over the summer, and going into this season without upgrading whether it’s Jacob Trouba, Cam Fowler or some other young, puck-moving top-4 defenseman-type potentially available on the market.

They probably still need one of those established veteran players to truly upgrade their blue line into an area of strength rather than an area of question, but Carlo has minimized some of that dire need with his impressive first couple of weeks. The Bruins hope Carlo continues to become their version of similarly-sized St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko, a third round pick that rapidly emerged on the Blues scene a couple of years ago with an impressive rookie season at 22 years old.

Carlo is three years younger than Parayko, so a virtuoso rookie season from the Bruins D-man would perhaps be even more impressive if he can maintain his current level of play all season.

The only way Carlo can do that is by going out and continuing to perform with his simple, strong and effective defenseman play as the opponents get better, and more offensively dangerous. The challenges will be steeper for Carlo as the Bruins step into a more challenging portion of the schedule. The B’s clearly believe Carlo is up to the task given his early play, and Boston’s potential to be an improved hockey club this season may ride heavily on whether the 19-year-old can keep it going. 

Giardi's stopwatch: Brady quick vs. Steelers


Giardi's stopwatch: Brady quick vs. Steelers

How quick was Tom Brady's release in the New England Patriots win over the The Pittsburgh Steelers? Glad you asked. 

On average, Brady took 2.11 seconds to release the ball. That’s not as quick as he was against Cleveland, when averaged 1.86 seconds, but still pretty flippin' quick.

2.05 - Gun. Edelman crosser 9 yards
0.80 - WR screen to Edelman - 2 yards
5.34 - Gun. Flushed. 13 yards to White
2.04 - Gun. Edelman crosser. 6 yards
1.59 - Gun. Screen to White. 19 yards. TD
1.65 - Gun. Edelman at the hash. 9 yards
1.72 - Gun. Edelman crosser. 11 yards
3.17 - Gun. Hogan outside the numbers. 13 yards
2.25 - Play action. Incomplete short left to White
1.24 - Edelman right flat. 6 yards
2.37 - Gun. Deep in to Gronkowski. 13 yards
2.20 - play action. Happy feet, Incomplete to Bennett
2.90 - Gun. Bolden drop
1.53 - Gun. Incomplete to White at the numbers
1.79 — Gun. Edelman crosser. 7 yards
1.36 - Gun. Short right to Blount. 7 yards
1.66 - Gun. Edelman drop 
3rd Quarter
3.44 - Gun. Awful backhanded flip throw. Incomplete to White
2.25 - Gun. Crosser to Bennett. 5 yards
1.39 - Gun. Short right to Edelman. 3 yards
2.18 - Gun. Ground seam. 36 yards. TD
1.59 - Gun. Short middle to Edelman. 11 yards
1.33 - Gronkowski. short right. 7 yards
3.16 - Play action. 37 yards to Gronkowski
3.89 - Gun. Pressure. Incomplete deep left to Mitchell