Bruins look to pressure Luongo in Game 2


Bruins look to pressure Luongo in Game 2

By JoeHaggerty

VANCOUVER There has been a similar refrain from the Bruins in both playoff series in which theyve fallen behind this spring. Not surprisingly, it came out again after dropping the B's dropped Game 1 to the Vancouver Canucks.

Just as the Bruins were hell-bent on getting more pressure and net-front presence to Montreal's Carey Price in the first round and to Tampa Bay's Dwayne Roloson in the conference finals, the task is now the same against Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo.

It won't be easy. Luongo is the first Vezina Trophy finalist the Bruins have faced during this years postseason run, and his numbers compare favorably to those of their own ace, Tim Thomas.

Luongo finished with 36 saves and was at his best early in the game as the Bruins managed to get a lot of traffic in front of the net during their four-minute power play. They nearly scored while Zdeno Chara was engaging in hand-to-hand combat with Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis directly in front of the net, but they couldn't crack Luongo.

For the rest of the game, however, there were little more than a handful of instances where the Bruins truly brought the heat to Luongo. Thats not nearly enough for coach Claude Julien and his Bruins if theyre hoping to coax a few pucks past the Vancouver goalie, and improve on the one goal theyve scored in their last two playoff games.

I don't think we made it as difficult as we should have or could have, said Julien. So it's something that has to be a little bit better in regards to that area. We might have outshot them, but they had the better quality scoring chances than we did. That's the reality.

I think we can improve that part of our game. We had some good shots, but not necessarily all from the dangerous area. We've got to improve that and make sure we fight our way close to the front of the net. They're doing a good job of boxing us out, but we have to do a better job.

The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Luongo is the prototypical goaltender and the anti-Tim Thomas in so many ways, but his weaknesses are just as clear as his many strengths.

As a big, calm, butterfly-style goaltender, Luongo wants everything in front of him while keeping his shoulders square to the shooter. He doesnt want to be forced to move around too much within the painted area.

Hes much less of a scrambler and improviser than Thomas but Luongo also can fall prey to the occasional bad-angle shot, as hes done several times already in the playoffs. Bad angles come from shooting the puck whenever possible and from getting the goaltender out of sorts within his crease and thats the first order of business on tap for the Bruins in Game 2 Saturday night.

Aside from one very good Michael Ryder rush down the left wing in the third period that managed to push through the Vancouver defense, there were very few challenges for Luongo. The Bruins know they must be better, and the Bs top line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton must find a way to get more bang out of the 15 shots they squeezed off.

Bostons big guns are getting room to operate around Vancouver's average-sized defense corps, and they know they need to exploit their physical advantage.

You always think you can be harder on a team. Youve got to make it tougher on every goalie . . . whether you think you played a perfect game or not, said Mark Recchi, who is chief among the players expected to start fighting with more ferocity in front of the blue paint. Hes a great goalie and youve got to make him work."

Recchi continued: "Obviously you always need to have traffic. Theyre going to try to get in front of Timmy, and thats what all of our jobs are as players is to get in front there to try and make it as hard as you can.

That's the Bruins' top priority going into Game 2.

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

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, Mass – Malcolm Subban says that he believes that he can still be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

While that’s admirable on some level for the sheer, brazen self-confidence involved in saying this after getting yanked from a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden, pretty much all of the evidence points out the contrary. Nearly two years after getting pulled from his NHL debut in against the St. Louis Blues after giving up three goals on six shots, Subban was pulled from Tuesday night’s appearance after giving up three goals on eight second period shots with the Bruins desperately in need of a quality start in goal.

He maintained a defiantly confident tone after another humbling NHL effort against Minnesota, and that’s a testament to the maturity and mental toughness of the person behind the goalie mask.

“It sucks. Obviously, I’m just trying to finish the game, let alone win one. Obviously it sucks, but what can you do now, right?” said Subban, who has now allowed six goals on 22 career shots faced in two starts. “Obviously I want to be a number one goaltender in the league. I was a high pick 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. Obviously, 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 tangible evidence Subban is tracking to be a franchise goaltender. Instead he’s the emergency goaltender called on by the Bruins only after Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have both been shelved by injuries, and he’s now flunked the two pop quizzes when the NHL team needed him to come through.

Meanwhile, a sizeable selection of goaltenders taken after him in the 2012 NHL Draft class have already proven their NHL worth and broken through at the elite level: Matt Murray, Frederik Anderson, Connor Hellebuyck and Joonas Korpisalo.

Subban was hoping all along to break through this season in Boston, but things went south on him quickly with a Bruins team not playing well in front of him. The first goal was a fluttering Charlie Coyle shot that trickled between his glove hand and the top of his leg pad. The third goal was a softie low and to the glove side, power play strike authored by Ryan Suter. It added up to poor goaltending and shoddy defense, but it also added up to a Bruins goaltender that didn’t even give his hockey club a chance to win.

“It could be a combination of both. There are some goals – I’m not going to lie – there are some goals that we thought our goaltenders should have had. But 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 we weren’t any better, 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 [Rask] 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, and 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 that arrived 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 in Subban that should be entering the NHL stage of his career after being a first round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and anybody would be hard-pressed to see him as an NHL goalie after failing in each of his first 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 for the Bruins rather than suddenly develop into a late-blooming No. 1 goaltender in Boston.

The scary part is that Subban and fellow young netminder Zane McIntyre are all the Bruins have for Wednesday night’s game 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 the four goals allowed to Minnesota were not all his fault. The bottom line, however, is that Subban 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 that’s been pulled from two of his first four AHL starts this season, and plays like a goaltender that’s never going to truly be ready for the call in Boston.