Pietrus' injury overshadows C's loss


Pietrus' injury overshadows C's loss

PHILADELPHIA There's adversity, tough breaks, bad luck and then there's the Boston Celtics of 2011-2012.

For all of the injury-related setbacks this team has suffered in this lockout-shortened season, the list continues to inexplicably grow.

Boston stumbled out of the gates in the third quarter, and dropped a critical Atlantic Division matchup to Philadelphia, 99-86.

But after this one, no one really cared about the score or who won.

All thoughts and prayers were directed toward Boston's Mickael Pietrus, who suffered what team officials described as a "closed head injury."

In the second quarter with the Celtics ahead 39-38, Pietrus was fouled on a driving lay-up attempt by Lou Williams, with 5:08 to play in the half.

As players began to move away from the play, Pietrus remained on the floor, motionless.

Teammates slowly began to form a circle around him, pulling out long white towels to help prop his head off the hard floor.

It was a scene eerily reminiscent of Marquis Daniels' neck injury on Feb. 6, 2011, which kept Daniels out for the remainder of the season.

After Pietrus was eventually carted off, both teams were clearly impacted by the injury.

But the energy drain his absence caused both teams in the second quarter, lingered around his teammates for the rest of the game.

Boston managed to take a 49-43 lead into the half, but the momentum they had in the first half could not be sustained in what turned out to be a game-changing third quarter.

And the C's were already short-handed with Ray Allen (left ankle) being a late-game scratch.

The C's lost the lead in the third early, only to regain it back, 64-63.

From there, it was all Philly as the Sixers closed out the third with a 17-2 run and led, 80-66 going into the fourth.

Boston made a mini-spurt here and there, but they could never quite regain the strong play and focus they had in the first half.

And the end result was yet another loss in which the C's lost more than just a game - but another key member of their team.

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 after giving up three goals on six shots in St. Louis, Subban was taken out Tuesday night after allowing three goals on eight second-period shots on a night when the Bruins desperately needed a quality start in goal.

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 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 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 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, 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.