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Mike Milbury on D&H: ‘Pleasant dilemma’ for B’s with goalies

10.20.10 at 12:46 pm ET
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NESN and NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

The first topic of conversation was the Bruins’ goaltending situation. Tim Thomas has started the last three games, after Tuukka Rask appeared in the season opener.

“I’m a little surprised they went with [Thomas] three in a row given the fact that they had so much time off,” Milbury said. “Apparently they’re going to use Rask either Thursday or Saturday, but that’s a long layoff beteween starts. However, as you guys both know, it’s a pleasant dilemma to have when your goaltending is too deep. You can’t knock what Thomas has done in his three starts. He’s been terrific. Rask is going to have to wait his chance again.”

Asked if the Bruins might be showcasing Thomas for a possible trade, Milbury said, “No, I don’t think so, not at this stage. It may be a byproduct of him playing well, but I don’t think it’s intentional. I think Claude [Julien] is just going with a guy he thinks can win him a hockey game.”

Milbury said he didn’t understand the negative reaction to his comments from last week that Tyler Seguin will not be an impact player in his first season. “I was surprised, because it had nothing to do with an evaluation of Tyler Seguin as time goes on. It had to do with what is this guy going to being now,” Milbury said. “If you ask Peter Chiarelli or Cam Neely or Claude Julien, I don’t think any one of them thinks he’s going to be “an impact player” this season. I don’t think that’s the expectation. A contributor, yes, he can be. But I think it’s going to take him a couple of years [to be an impact player].”

Added Milbury: “Time will tell how good he is. But for anybody to think he should be an impact player in his first season hasn’t followed the game a lot.”

As for the Bruins’ 3-1 start, Milbury said: “I think they’ve had a pretty nice blend over the last three games of opening it up [offensively] when they’ve had to, and being able to shut it down at the same down when they’re responsible, as they usually are.”

Canucks center Rick Rypien aggressively pushed a fan on his way to the dressing room Tuesday night in Minnesota. Milbury, famous for his role in the Bruins’ brawl in the stands at Madison Square Garden in 1979, said Rypien’s actions were inexcusable, but there are things teams can do to make it a safer situation.

“Why they allow such immediate access to players is beyond me,” Milbury said, adding: “You really don’t want fans close enough so that if a guy is ticked off about something that he can react in the spur of the moment because he’s lost his cool. … Getting them away from the players as they exit and enter the arena to me seems like a pretty simple and sane idea.”

Added Milbury: I don’t know how severe the penalty will be, but they’ve got to do it. They have to keep that sanctity [where] player and fan has to be protected at all times. There’s no excuses, no matter what.”

Read More: Mike Milbury, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask, Tyler Seguin

Zdeno Chara not on the ice as Bruins work on power play

10.20.10 at 12:45 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins took the ice at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday morning after picking up their third straight win, a 3-1 victory over Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals at the Verizon Center on Tuesday.

Zdeno Chara was not on the ice with teammates as they opened practice, though everyone else was accounted for. It was simply a day of rest for Chara, who played a game-high 29:05 on Tuesday. The Bruins were not donning their white, gold, grey, and merlot sweaters to signify lines, instead sticking to white, grey, and black as the Bruins worked on special teams.

The power play units in the practice consisted of Dennis Seidenberg, Mark Recchi, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton on one, with Johnny Boychuk, Patrice Bergeron, Michael Ryder, Tyler Seguin, and Blake Wheeler making up the other. The team is 1-for-15 on the power play through four games this season.

Marc Savard was at Ristuccia in the morning and took the ice for another skating session, according to a Bruins official. The rehabbing center skated for what was believed to be about 20-25 minutes.

Bruins beat the Capitals in DC

10.19.10 at 10:02 pm ET
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Zdeno Chara logged a game-high 29:05 of ice time and Tim Thomas continued his impressive stretch as the Bruins picked up their third straight win on Tuesday night, defeating the Capitals, 3-1, in Washington, D.C.

David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Matt Hunwick contributed the goals for the Bruins, the first two of which came in the first period, with Hunwick’s coming at 2:08 of the third. Both Krecji and Hunwick’s tallies were their first of the season, and Lucic picked up his third goal in the last three games.

Thomas was stellar once again, stopping 35 of 36 shots he faced and picking up his third straight win. He has now allowed just two goals in his three games.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

- A nice Gordie Howe hat trick for Milan Lucic. The 22-year-old left wing picked up a goal and an assist on David Krejci’s tally in the first period before dropping the gloves with Washington defenseman John Erskine in the third.

Lucic is now tied with Nathan Horton for the team lead in goals with three. All in all it’s hard not to be very impressed with the Lucic – Krejci – Horton line. The toughness is undoubtedly there, and the scoring touch the Bruins needed desperately entering the season is there.

- As bad as the power play has been for the Bruins, the penalty kill once again came up big, killing off an abbreviated 5-on-3 in the second period of a night in which the Bruins only found themselves shorthanded three times. Zdeno Chara was called for a very questionable tripping call late in the second period, so the penalties to Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Stuart that had the B’s down two men for a little more than half a minute very easily could have been the only two calls against the Bruins on the night.

- It’s hard to imagine Tuukka Rask sitting four games in a row, so while one should expect Rask to start the home opener on Thursday, Thomas once again proved capable of gettung more starts than many expected prior to the season.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

- These should really start being called “What went wrong besides the power play for the Bruins.” Add another 0-for-4 for the Bruins to make it an even 1-15 on the season. The highlight of the team’s disappointing power play came when the B’s played hot potato with the puck for 53 seconds of a 5-on-3 in the second period. Let’s not even do the math on what the power play percentage would be until we’re confident it the number will be somewhat respectable.

- Not sure that third period goal can save Matt Hunwick from the “What went wrong” space. Some lackadaisical passing between he and Tyler Seguin behind Thomas’ net in the second period led to the Capital’s lone goal. Hunwick has seemed to play at extreme ends of the spectrum this season, following a horrid season-opener with an impressive two games between the Coyotes and Devils, respectively.

- That’s a lot of penalty minutes for Gregory Campbell, who took a high-sticking double-minor in the game’s final minutes. He had 11 penalty minutes on the night, including a five minute major for fighting in the first.

Bruins lead Capitals, 2-1, after two

10.19.10 at 9:07 pm ET
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The Capitals are on the board after the second period, but it may be more the doing of some bad bounces behind the net for Matt Hunwick and Tyler Seguin than it was a product of Capitals rookie Marcus Johansson. It was Johansson’s first career goal, and he potted it after gathering a puck that shot out to him as a result of the botched pass.

The Bruins’ power play woes continued, with the team being able to add 53 seconds of passing on a 5-on-3 to their man advantage resume. On the other hand, the B’s were able to kill off a 5-on-3 of their own, so an effective penalty kill can serve as the special teams’ saving grace.

Milan Lucic, Mark Recchi, and Johnny Boychuk each have a team-high three shots on goal for the Bruins, while Alexander Ovechkin has just one shot on Tim Thomas. The Bruins’ netminder has made 17 saves, with the Capitals outshooting the B’s, 18-16, through two periods.

Bruins leading Capitals, 2-0, after one

10.19.10 at 8:18 pm ET
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For the first time this season, a first period update has some Bruins goals to discuss — and a goalie change! Less than 13 minutes into the first period, the Bruins were looking at a cool 2-0 lead on goals from David Krejci and Milan Lucic, while the Capitals were suddenly looking at Semyon Varlamov in net due to a touch of the flu for Michal Neuvirth.

Nathan Horton had a nice pass to Krejci on a 2-on-1 to set up the first line center’s first goal of the season at 9:12, and with Lucic scoring minutes later all three first-liners now have at least one point in each of the team’s first four games.

The Bruins went 0-for-1 on the power play and are now 1-for-12 on the season. Tim Thomas saved all nine shots he faced, stopping a couple of large bids by the Capitals’ high-powered offense. Michal Neuvirth stopped just five of the seven shots the Bruins had on him before he left the game.

Report: Marc Savard skates, says issues are not limited to PCS

10.19.10 at 6:24 pm ET
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While the rest of his teammates were in the nation’s capital getting ready for Tuesday’s tilt with the Capitals, Bruins center Marc Savard took the ice at Ristuccia Area as he continued his rehab from post-concussion syndrome related symptoms and depression.

Savard, who suffered a Grade 2 concussion from a Matt Cooke hit last March 7, spoke with ESPN’s Joe McDonald following the 25-minute skate, saying that he has gone from 15 minute sessions to 20 minute sessions on the ice, to Tuesday’s 25.

“I’m obviously feeling better because I’m out skating,” Savard told McDonald. “That’s good news, but I’m still definitely not 100 percent. I still have some issues, but a lot of them aren’t from the injury. My head isn’t screwed up after I work out right now. Obviously, there are other ongoing issues.”

The other ongoing issues to which Savard refers presumably includes depression, which is among the non-physical symptoms of PCS. Savard told McDonald that he would rather not comment on whatever depression he may be experiencing, calling it “the toughest thing to talk about.”

“I’m obviously still having some issues with that, but being around the guys, and getting the doctor’s help that I’m getting, things are going up,” Savard said. “I still have my down days, that’s for sure, but I’m getting by.”

Savard also told McDonald that he appreciated the kind words from Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, who called him “one of the best playmakers” in the game and said that he couldn’t play because of Cooke’s “stupid, smartass hit.”

Given that Savard is on long-term injured reserve, he cannot play in the first 10 games of the season, and a timetable for his return remains unknown.

Read More: Marc Savard,

History lesson has similarities to Tim Thomas/Tuukka Rask debate

10.19.10 at 12:40 pm ET
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The season is still young — the Bruins have played one 27th of their regular season schedule — but if somebody suggested during the thick of the “lose Tim Thomas‘ $5 million cap hit at any cost” days this summer that Thomas, and not Tuukka Rask, would be the starting goaltender in three of the Bruins’ first four games, they would have been run out of town, much like many hoped Thomas would be.

Yet through no injuries and no reason other than riding the hot hand, Thomas will indeed be between the pipes as the B’s take on Alexander Ovechkin and the offensively potent Washington Capitals on Tuesday night. When it became clearer and clearer that Thomas would not be moved in the offseason, the natural line of thinking is that the two netminders would split time, with Rask seeing a clear majority of the time for the Bruins.

Rask has done nothing wrong to this point. In fact, given how poorly the Bruins played in front of him in the season-opener, he can really only be held responsible for just one of the four goals he allowed in the 5-2 loss to the Coyotes. The plan was to split time, but when Thomas took his turn and posted a shutout in the team’s 3-0 victory the next day, it was to be expected that he’d be rewarded with the start against the Devils. He once again parlayed his reward into another start, and here we are. Four games, and three starts for Tim Thomas.

It’s always fun to dig up old stories and columns and see how they pertain to the present moment (people all over the world are likely still deleting their “Don’t settle for Seguin” columns as this is being written). Here’s one written by colleague Graig Woodburn about the goaltending situation, written days after the Flyers eliminated the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Woodburn warned that though the season ended with Rask seemingly the man, the Bruins would be wise to hold onto Thomas — even given his high price tag — to see if an Ilya Bryzgalov/ Jean-Sebastian Giguere situation could unfold. For those who don’t remember there, here’s the story: team has award-winning veteran goaltender, rookie comes in and dethrones him, team loses in playoffs, and veteran proves his worth a season later in leading the team to a Stanley Cup.

Bryzgalov didn’t struggle in his time with the Ducks that 2007-08 season (2.55 GAA, .909 save percentage), but Giguere beat him out nonetheless as the team went on to beat the Senators in the Cup finals. The enormously big difference between the two stories is that Bryzgalov ended up being waived in November, something that quite frankly would never happen with Rask, so though the story of the Ducks’ goaltending situation serves as a history lesson, it serves as quite the drastic one.

For all intents and purposes, there’s no reason to believe Rask and Thomas don’t split time in net this season, with the 23-year-old Rask perhaps still likely seeing more time. Simply put, Rask is too good. He was the best statistical goalie last season in leading the NHL in both GAA and save percentage, yet with Thomas off to a hot start, the 36-year-old has made it very difficult for the people of Boston to set their clocks to Tuukka Time just yet. Did anybody expect this? Even to those who didn’t write Thomas off, who saw the entire city of Boston nodding in approval upon hearing that Thomas would start a third straight game in October?

Neither goalie seems to be getting too high or low based on how the starts have been divvied up, and Claude Julien said on Monday that trying to pick between the two accomplished goalies “continues to be a problem for everybody but us.”

History has proven it unwise to give up on the veteran, but who needs history? Thomas is proving it now.

Read More: Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask,
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