Notes: Krejci continues his stellar play


Notes: Krejci continues his stellar play

By Joe Haggerty

TAMPA, Fla. Dont look now, but David Krejci is blossoming into something special during Bostons run through the playoffs.

Its true that things got a little scary in the first period when Krejci got a bit of a buddy pass from Dennis Seidenberg and was knocked for a loop by a hard-charging Marc-Andre Bergeron fresh off the Tampa Bay bench. That came after Krejci had already scored Bostons first goal of the game directly in front of the Lightning net, and perhaps he was paying the physicalprice for his offensive diligence.

The big hockeyhit got Krejci directly in the chest before the Tampa Bay defenseman finished off the check by extending the elbow toward the center's head, andthe impactdropped the creative center to one knee for extended seconds. But he was simply trying to catch his breath and perhaps stifle his laughter as he watched Lightning coach Guy Boucher lose his mind once an elbowing penalty was assessed to Bergeron on the play.

Krejci stayed on the bench for the rest of the period,collected himself in the dressing room between the first and second, and thendidnt miss a shift the rest of the way after putting a good scare into everybody.

I looked and I saw one defenseman on the second blue line, like they always have, said Krejci. I started thinking about what I was going to do when I get over the line and getting ready, and then I heard guys on the bench yelling Heads up!'

Seids said he was sorry for making the pass because then he saw the guy jump off the bench. Maybe the league will look at the video, but Im fine so it doesnt really matter. I stayed on the ice. I told assistant coach Geoff Ward that I just needed to catch my breath for a few minutes and Id be okay.

Its a good thing Krejci is fine because hes been an unstoppable offensive force since the end of the seven-game series against Montreal. The Czech Republic playmaker has 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists) in his last seven games, and has the confidence flowing at high levels as evidenced by the patience to pull off double moves on his first goal.

Add in winning 13 out of 18 faceoffs, and that finished offa pretty complete two-wayeffort.

The pivotal play in the game arrived just 69 seconds in, as Milan Lucic controlled the puck in the corner and watched in a mixture of amusement and aweas both Brett Clark and Victor Hedman converged on him away from the net.

With two players already on Nathan Horton and the fifth Lightning skater guarding a seam against one of Bostons defenseman, Lucic simply spotted Krejcis stick all alone in front of the net and flipped a pass into the area. Krejci collected the puck and faked forehand to get Dwayne Roloson sprawling forward, and then patientlyswitched to his backhand to score his seventh goal of the playoffs.

I was looking for Horton in the slot and he had two guys on him, said Lucic. I had two guys running at me and I saw a stick in front of the net. So I said All right, Ive got Krejci in front of the net.' I just made the play, and he did an even better job of making the play and finishing things off. It felt like 5-10 seconds before Krejci shot but he obviously did what he needed to do.

That first goal is huge in any game.

It was the fourth game-winning goal for Krejci during his current playoff run, tying Cam Neelys 1991 franchise record for game-winning goals in a playoff series.

Tim Thomas recorded his second career postseason shutout with a 31-save effort in a solid bounceback less-than-stellar performances in Games 1 and 2.

His one-two combination of stops on a spinning Vinny Lecavalier and Teddy Purcellin the first period set the tone for the entire game.

It was kind of a product of the way the game goes in front of me, said Thomas. I was able to play more under control tonight. A lot of that has to do with the way we played the way Im used to. I felt comfortable in a game like that.

Zdeno Chara seemed to be battling a cold or illness of some kind postgame, but gritted his way to 28:27 of ice time, good for second-most on the Bruins. It was behind only Dennis Seidenberg, who clocked in at 28:30.

Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup and played 19-plus minutes, logged time on the penalty kill and power play, and was his usual versatile, valuable self when it came to helping in every area of Bostons game plan. The 25-year-old finally spoke after the game and said that hes been feeling better for more than a week, a sign of how his body now reacts to a mild concussion.

There were no complications, no scary symptoms and really no evidence of the past head injuries for Bergeron, and he jumped right into the physical fray for Boston without worrying about possible consequences.

I felt pretty good out there, said Bergeron. I was pretty glad to be back to help the team. I didnt know which game Id return. It was a matter of taking it one day at a time after it felt good for the past week.

I decided I was ready to go and I had some practices this week. I didnt want to put pressure on myself. When I do that Im just making things worse.

Tomas Kaberle had three blocked shots for the Bruins a number that led the Bs team and none were bigger than his smothering of a Simon Gagne shot late in the third period when Thomas had vacated the net briefly dealing with the action around the cage. While the power play continued to struggle for the Bruins in Game Three, the Bruins coaching staff might be onto something with Kaberle and Tyler Seguin working together on one of the units. Some of the best puck movement in the playoffs arrived when the two offensive minded players were working between the half-wall and the point.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins


Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while waiting for the next wave of announcements that the Bruins have signed college players out of the NCAA tournament.
-- Former Wild goaltender Josh Harding is finding his way after his MS diagnosis forced him out of the NHL prematurely.

-- Young D-man Seth Jones is becoming the “hoss” defenseman that the Blue Jackets will need come playoff time.

-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has Wild coach Bruce Boudreau calling a loss to the Canucks “embarrassing” as the hard times continue for Minnesota.  

-- Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney is ready to step up for the Leafs after they lost Frederik Andersen to injury.
-- Old friend David Warsofsky has been recalled from the AHL and will be with the Penguins as crunch time hits ahead of the playoffs.

-- USA Hockey is now reportedly reaching out to rec league and former Division III women’s hockey players to find a replacement roster for the world championships as the USA women continues their boycott.
-- For something completely different: We have an honest-to-goodness think piece about pulling the “Irish Exit.” Well, okay then.

Haggerty: Time for Bruins to make a change in goal


Haggerty: Time for Bruins to make a change in goal

BROOKLYN -- For the second year in a row, Boston's franchise goaltender and $7 million man Tuukka Rask couldn’t physically answer the bell for one of the biggest games of the year.

Rask was unable to go Saturday night when the Bruins faced the Islanders at the Barclays Center because of a lower body injury. Anton Khudobin stepped in and helped the B's to a 2-1 victory that snapped their four-game losing streak, moved them past the Isles back in the second wild-card spot, and enabled them to close to two points behind Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division.

It wasn't quite the same as last year, when Rask was too sick to play the win-or-go-home regular-season finale against Ottawa. The Bruins got shellacked in that one and missed the playoffs. There are still two weeks left in the regular season, so Saturday didn't have the same do-or-die consequences.

But Khudobin, who made 18 saves, gave Boston some energy and enthusiasm in the crease with the same kind of battling, chaotic style that Tim Thomas exhibited. Watching Khudobin throw a double-pad stack at John Tavares on a late third-period Islanders power play in a one-goal game was a clear sign that Rask wasn’t in net, and his unconventional technique perhaps distracted Tavares enough that he ripped his open shot off the crossbar and away from harm.

Afterward interim coach Bruce Cassidy fervently sang Khudobin’s praises, and almost seemed to be shedding some light on what they aren’t always getting from their top goaltender in these crunch-time games.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots," he said. "And you kill that many penalties. (The Islanders failed to score on six power plays.) It was a nice building-block win for us.

"I loved [Khudobin’s] performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

So now the Bruins have a choice about what to do Tuesday against the Predators. And the hope here is that Khudobin gets a second straight start, whether or not Rask is healthy enough to go.

Khudobin has won five games in a row and has a 1.98 goals-against average and a  .920 save percentage since the All-Star break. Rask, in contrast, has an inflated 2.91 GAA and .892 save percentage in that span.

More than that, however, there’s a real issue developing with Rask and how much trust the Bruins can have in him when the games matter most. He gave up a couple of bad goals in the loss to the Lightning on Thursday night, and afterwards looked like the boy who lost his dog when answering questions with a soft, unsure voice that began to trail off when it came time to accept responsibility for his part in the ugly defeat.

The downcast expression was a concern, and it certainly seemed like Rask was rattled mentally as much as he was beaten physically after that defeat.

So the overriding question now is: What good is a No. 1 goaltender if he doesn’t play like one when it matters most?

Maybe Rask is seriously injured and we’ll find out after the season that he needs hip surgery, and was far less than 100 percent all year. Or maybe playing three games in four nights was too much of a strain, and he needed the weekend away from the ice after the unavoidable bump in workload.

The fact that the Bruins expect Rask to practice on Monday, however, really takes some of the oomph out of the serious-injury argument, and makes one wonder how he can practice Monday after not playing in the biggest game of the season on Saturday.

Maybe Rask was angered by Cassidy calling him out by saying the team “needs more from him” after the goalie's lackadaisical performance in the loss to Tampa Bay, and that played into the goalie’s sudden case of “lower body discomfort” on Friday after saying Thursday he felt fine physically.

Maybe Rask is frazzled emotionally after the burden of carrying the team at times this season, and he needed a few days away from the ice to recollect himself and get ready for the crucial seven remaining games on the schedule.

Still, the Bruins can’t look at Rask as someone they can rely on when the chips are down for the rest of this season. That cost them last year, and shame on the Bruins if they again make the mistake of putting all of their playoff eggs in the Rask basket.

Perhaps it’s time to even start thinking about other goaltending options this summer. Rask will no longer have full no-trade protection once the season is over. He's been inconsistent at best in the biggest moments over the years, and the B’s shouldn’t pay a goaltender like he’s one the best if he isn’t when the late-season heat is on.

But that’s a question to ponder in a month or two.

For now, the Bruins should ride the hot goalie -- Khudobin, who showed Saturday he's willing to battle his butt off -- and let Cool Hand Tuukka cool his heels on the bench while recuperating from whatever it is that kept him out of a gigantically important game in Brooklyn this weekend.