Bruins may have something in Providence with goalie Svedberg

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Bruins may have something in Providence with goalie Svedberg

PROVIDENCE, RI There were plenty of nervous Bruins executives when word first filtered out of the Czech Republic that Tuukka Rask had suffered some kind of groin injury while playing overseas. It ended up being a minor tweak and Rask has been no worse for the wear since the incident, but the specter of injury has forced the Bruins to closely inspect their organizational depth when it comes to goaltending.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli indicated a catastrophic injury to either Rask or Anton Khudobin while overseas could potentially push the Bruins to recall 18-year-old Malcolm Subban from the OHL for any shortened NHL training camp over the next two months.

That obviously wouldnt be an ideal situation. Its pretty clear that Subban isnt ready for the NHL even if the 2.32 goals against average and .925 save percentage in 13 games with the Belleville Bulls this season. But perhaps there are other alternatives for the Bruins should something happen in the next few weeks while the NHL and NHLPA try to hash out a new CBA.

Swedish import Niklas Svedberg was signed to little fanfare in the weeks leading up to the news that Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was thinking of sitting out the 2012-13 NHL season. After all he was an undrafted 23-year-old Swedish goalie with a few decent seasons in the Swedish Elite League before he helped lead his Brynas IF Galve team to a league championship last season.

But Svedberg impressed during that playoff run and hes been very good in a handful of games for the Providence Bruins in his first taste of North American pro hockey. Svedberg made 18 saves in his first AHL shutout in a 3-0 win over the St. Johns IceCaps on Sunday afternoon at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

It was a great feeling. It was nice to get our first home win, said Svedberg. It was tough to keep up in the game because I didnt see many shots. We had the puck so much in their end.

It hasnt been that big an adjustment for me going from Europe to the AHL. Im just playing the game the same way I did back home. But I also know Ive got plenty of things I need to develop in my game. I just need to keep on working.

There wasnt a ton required of Svedberg through the 60 minutes of dominant hockey for the P-Bruins, but he did make the clichd big save at the big point in the game that is so key for any good goalie. With the P-Bruins holding on to a 1-0 lead when they probably should have been up by at least a couple of goals, Maxime Macenaeur cut loose for a shorthanded breakaway all alone in the Providence end.

Instead of freezing in panic Svedberg kicked away the Macenauer shot with a right pad save, and minutes later the P-Bruins had their second insurance goal. Its those kinds of momentum-building plays that can separate AHL goaltenders from NHL puck-stoppers, and Svedberg at least showed a glint of it on Sunday.

On the season hes 3-1 with a 2.01 goals against average and a .927 save percentage, and Svedberg has shown the athletic ability to make game-changing saves. Hes also made the Bruins coaching staff take notice after thoroughly outplaying Michael Hutchinson during the early going of the season.

Theres clearly a goaltending competition taking place in Providence.

Svedberg didnt have a lot of work, but he made that one save that you needed when it still a 1-0 game in the second period. That one got the bench up and gave us a lift, said P-Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. Hutchinson hasnt won a game yet, and thats a problem when youre a third year guy that we need to get going. We need him to be a good goalie.

But at the same time Svedberg has just been a better goalie, plain and simple. This is where you get into the AHL being a development vs. winning line that you need to balance. Right now its Svedbergs ball to run with, but were going to need both of them. I dont think Hutchinson is that far off. Hes getting hit with one easy one in each game.

There are also some things that Svedberg still needs to refine. Hes shown major difficulties handling the puck around his own net, and his mishandling of dumped pucks has led directly to goals-against for Providence. The smaller arenas in North America also make for a much more congested area around the net, and Svedberg is still getting accustomed to the piles of body traffic in and around his cage.

But those are the kinds of kinks that are typically worked out by players when theyre plying their trade at the minor league level.

Svedberg is a winner. He won a championship in Sweden and hes a battler. Other players notice that kind of stuff, said Cassidy. He got exposed a little on his short side in Manchester and hes still working on picking up shots in front of the net with traffic. Hes not used to that.

But hes very good post-to-post because that what he grew up doing. He also needs to get used to playing the puck when hes got guys bearing down on him. Some of this stuff we knew going in and he just needs to keep working on it.

While it may not be tomorrow or next week as Svedberg refines his game, the Swedish goalie is starting to flash glimpses that he might just have a future in the Bruins organization. Thats music to the ears of all those Bruins front office types that were suddenly feeling the pinch of their goaltending depth with Rask and Khudobin at risk for an injury while playing a half world away.

5 reasons the Celtics will get the No. 1 seed

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5 reasons the Celtics will get the No. 1 seed

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Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

BOSTON -- For the third straight season, the Bruins are showing all the ugly, telltale signs of a hockey club poised to take a nosedive out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The short-attention span Bruins returned in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at TD Garden, and proceeded to blow three one-goal leads in the second period before totally collapsing in the final 20 minutes of the game. Three unanswered third goals later, the Bruins were understandably downtrodden and accountable for a performance that kicked up so many bad memories from the last couple of seasons.

“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we can’t point fingers. Everyone has to step up and if every guy is going to do their job, including myself, then the rest will follow, you know?” said David Krejci. “But we hadn’t done that [against Tampa Bay] at all. The last two games against Toronto and Ottawa, I thought we worked hard. But for whatever reason [against Tampa] – maybe we thought it was going to come easy – we just shot ourselves in the foot.

“Like I said, each player has to be better, including myself, and if we don’t look at ourselves in the mirror that’s what’s going to happen. We’ll be losing and we need to win games. We have a team, we all believe, we know we can play well. We know we can win hockey games. We have a great game plan, but [against Tampa] I guess we just thought it was going to come easy.”

Even worse there were clear signs of panic in Boston’s game as things unfolded in an unsightly manner on the Garden ice.

Clearly it wasn’t about talent on Thursday night, and instead it was about focus, concentration and paying attention to the fine details that can come back to haunt you late in the season. The Bruins scored three goals in the second period with David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Riley Nash each lighting the lamp, but it took 44 seconds, 24 seconds and 1 minute, 35 seconds respectively in the second period for the Bolts to things up.

That’s the kind of instant buckling and crumbling under pressure we’ve seen in the past from the Bruins late in seasons, and we’re seeing it again despite a different coach and some new, hard-nosed players like David Backes. That lack of composure combined with a pinch of panic is a potentially disastrous mix for the Black and Gold, just as it has been for the last three years.

“Those follow up shifts need to be our best shifts of the game. They’re when you can either bury a team, or when you get scored on to have a great response, and to show that you’re not going away [if you’re the team trailing]. I don’t think they were our best shifts. They were probably some of our least [effective] in the form of execution, least form of desperation and fortitude to just impose what we’re going to do on the other team.

[Tampa] certainly made good on their chances, there’s no question about that. But I think we led into them way too much and the result is the result that we don’t get points again. We’re four [losses] in a row here, but this needs to stop Saturday [against the Islanders] or the bleeding starts to get profuse after that. The guys are in this room. We know it. We’ve seen it. We need to look in the mirror.”

It goes beyond a thoroughly gross second period, however.

The Bruins last line of defense, No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask, crumbled in the second and third period as things were falling apart around him. Anton Stralman beat him high to the short-side, glove side for the game-tying goal on a transition play, and Jonathan Drouin snapped one past him from the face-off circle that dipped under his glove hand for the game-winner.

It was a soft, inexcusable goal allowed in a hugely important game, and was part of five goals allowed on 28 shots for the former Vezina Trophy winner. After the game Rask seemed frazzled, his voice getting soft and trailing off when it was his turn to accept responsibility for a giant stink bomb tossed down on the Garden ice.

“You have to [pick up the team]. A lot of the time that’s the case, the goalie has to make a couple extra stops there and today I didn’t,” said Tuukka Rask. “That’s part of my job to accept the fact that sometimes it’s your fault. There were a couple of times I should’ve made the save, but it happens sometimes…”

The high pressure situation with things spiraling out of control even seemed to be getting to their best, most established players with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand forcing things down a goal in the third period. Bergeron and Marchand were put back together with David Pastrnak in the second and third periods with Bruce Cassidy looking for answers, and they attempted to execute a D-zone face-off play that’s worked a few times for them in the last few years.

It involves Bergeron winning the draw, and then either Marchand or Pastrnak immediately releasing for a home run pass that can turn into a breakaway opportunity if the opponent is caught napping. Tampa Bay wasn’t caught unaware when the B’s tried it in the middle of the third period, but then Bergeron and Co. kept trying to make it happen.

They ended up icing the puck multiple times trying to make the goal happen in one quick play rather than working for the tying goal, and it killed any momentum they could have possibly started building up for a third period comeback. It also showed a fundamental lack of confidence that they could scratch and claw their way back in on Thursday night, and that’s a definite cause for concern at this time of year.

“At the end of the day, it is a focus, and it’s urgency, and it’s understanding time and score. We did not have a good comprehension of that tonight, I don’t think, and of late,” said Cassidy. “We’ve let games get away, and you can look back, even this year, we’ve had some goals scored against us late throughout the course of the year. It’s been built in this year, and we’re still fighting through it, to be perfectly honest.

“It’s a mindset that we’ve just got to get harder and understand the stakes, and what’s required after you score a goal. I think winning teams get through that, and we’re fighting through it this year. Some nights, we’ve been good at it. We’ve had resiliency, I think. It’s just, lately, it’s creeping in, and we’ve got to nip it in the bud now.”

It hasn’t been just the young players at the heart of this four-game losing streak, and the Tampa loss should have been a wakeup call that the Bruins veterans need to find a way to step up their focus, their effort level and their composure at this time of year. After their fourth loss in a row, the Bruins have frittered away whatever margin for error they once had with just eight games remaining in the regular season.

Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.