Ference contributes on offensive end vs. Leafs


Ference contributes on offensive end vs. Leafs

By DannyPicard

BOSTON -- They don't come in bunches for Andrew Ference, that's for sure. But they don't have to.

The Bruins defenseman scored just his third goal of the season on Thursday night -- his first since Jan. 1 -- in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the TD Garden. He did his part in giving the B's a 3-2 lead midway through the second period, on a slap shot from the top of the left circle that found its way past the Maple Leafs' player in front of him, and through the five hole of Toronto goaltender James Reimer.

The Leafs tied the game at 3-3 in the third period, so his goal no longer stood as the game-winner. It would have been nice, had it remained the difference-maker, because not only would it have given the Bruins a win on Thursday night, but it also would have officially crowned them the Northeast Division champs.

Still, it felt good for Ference to put the puck in the net. After all, he doesn't do it very often. But as he, and others pointed out after Thursday night's game, scoring goals isn't Ference's top priority. In fact, it's not even close to a concern.

"It's always fun when one goes in, but I don't know, it's not my main focus," said Ference after the loss. "Obviously, keeping it out of our net is why I have a job.

"We'd be in trouble if it was the other way around, but it's nice to contribute once in a while."

Ference finished Thursday's loss with a game-high plus-2 rating. The only other defenseman to finish with a plus-2 was Adam McQuaid.

Ference is a plus-24 on the season, which ranks 19th overall in the entire NHL. It's a stat that he takes pride in, but also admits that sometimes it's a stat that's not worth worrying about.

"There's absolutely nothing that you can change on certain goals and certain situations," said Ference.

That is true. And Ference wasn't on the ice for any of Toronto's three goals on Thursday night, which means, when he was on the ice, his defense was good enough to help keep the puck out of his own net.

That defensive quality, in itself, is the main reason why Ference is a valuable piece to Boston's championship run.

It doesn't always look pretty when the puck's on his stick, but certainly, he wouldn't be qualified as a "bad" puck-mover. He's a defenseman. He's physical. When he's healthy, he can be a plus player.

His offense has dry spells, no doubt. But again, he's a defenseman. Like he said, he gets paid to play defense, not offense. And while his offense on Thursday night was good enough to help the Bruins earn a point, it's his blue-collar defensive abilities that that team's asking him to utilize in its postseason run.

"He's been good," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after Thursday's loss. "Again, tonight he had a different partner, but for the most part, him and Adam McQuaid have been a really good pair for us.

"I like his competitiveness, I like his mobility, and he moves the puck well."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

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.