The Hat Trick: Should B’s stick with Tim?
|03.06.10 at 6:31 pm ET|
The Bruins came out flying against the Islanders Saturday at Nassau Coliseum, and though they ended up beating the East’s third-worst team by just one goal, Claude Julien will take it. Considering the team has won six of their last seven, yet at 69 points could be two losses (and two Rangers/Canadiens wins) away from going from seventh to out of the playoffs, he’ll take anything he can get.
The 3-2 win wasn’t necessarily pretty, and, as evidenced by Marc Savard‘s disgustingly lucky second-period goal and Michael Ryder‘s game misconduct, neither was the scoring sheet. Still, on a day where the Islanders swarmed Tim Thomas for the final two periods but still couldn’t break the Bruins’ impressive penalty kill, there was enough good to go around in the Bruins win.
There was plenty to take away from a win that the team will need to build upon if they want any chance at defeating Sidney Crosby and the Penguins on Sunday. For starters, the dynamic between Miroslav Satan and David Krejci truly is a beautiful thing to watch. After his second period goal Krejci told NESN that the two Europeans complement each other so well because the similarities in their style of play lead to a predictability as to what the other will do. They certainly kept if from Dwaye Roloson well.
Also, the Bruins continued to show their nack for scoring the first goal. Milan Lucic‘s goal at 18:26 of the first, his sixth of the season, marked the ninth time in the Bruins’ last 10 games that they scored the game’s first goal.
Here are the other intriguing storylines that stemmed from the victory:
WHO’S IN NET?
Two days after leading the Bruins to a shootout victory against the Maple Leafs, Tim Thomas made 37 saves to secure the victory in Saturday’s matinee. All of this, of course, has taken place while Tuukka Rask has been nursing a knee injury.
So how quick should Claude Julien be to dust off the Vezina and give most of the remaining starts to Thomas? After all, with the Bruins having won six of their last seven, Rask was between the pipes for the first four (and perhaps the only real difficult opponent in Buffalo).
The statistical edge would go to the 22-year old Rask, who has just eight losses on the season and has the lower GAA (a league-best 2.14) and save percentage (.926). He’s also lost just eight games to Thomas’ 15, though that will happen when you play around 400 minutes less than the other guy.
Still, even with the numbers leaning in the Rask’s favor, the last time the Bruins went into the playoffs riding the regular-season success of a young goaltender, they failed to escape the first round behind Calder Trophy-winning Andrew Raycroft.
Whoever the Bruins, who with 162 goals against have given up the third-least amount of goals in the East, elect to go with as their No. 1 goaltender, time is running out to settle on who the man will potentially be come the playoffs. In order for the Bruins to avoid the fate of the Flyers with Hextall/Snow, Wild with Fernandez/Roloson, and other teams whose goaltending carousel failed their playoff expectations, Julien needs to make up his mind.
SAVARD’S SCORING TOUCH IS BACK, KIND OF
It had been 18 games since Marc Savard had scored for the Bruins, and he used an oddity of Nassau Coliseum to his advantage to finally do so on Saturday. A goal’s a goal any way you slice it, and nobody said they have to be pretty. And if what happened Saturday will help him make up for missed time with a little more scoring, that’s just fine.
A missed slapshot from Patrice Bergeron while the Bruins were on the power play in the second period seemed harmless enough to Islanders goaltender and Rick-Depietro-replacement-of-the-year Dwane Roloson, but the funny bounce it took off of the glass to the right of the Islanders net helped it squirt back in front to Savard, who seemed to be the only one on the ice still following the puck. He used his skate to kick it over to his stick and effortlessly backhanded it into the empty net for his tenth goal of the season.
Again: pretty? Certainly not. Game-winning goal and maybe a momentum-shifter? Sure, why not? The Bruins have had a need for more scoring all season, so who is anyone to turn their nose at any added (albeit ugly) offensive output from their high-profile playmaker?
PENALTY KILL BENDS BUT WON’T BREAK
While the Bruins await word from the NHL regarding whether they will have Michael Ryder in their lineup in future games, the five minutes following his frightening hit from behind on Islanders winger Blake Comeau is what kept the Bruins from losing their grip on against the Islanders on Saturday.
The five-minute major came in a second period during which the Islanders fired 22 shots on Tim Thomas, so the idea of being shorthanded when the Islanders had found more life than they had perhaps in the entire game was certainly not an appetizing thought for the Bruins. Especially with the added bonus that they would open the third period down a man.
Though the Bruins allowed a rare power-play goal to Josh Bailey at 2:18 earlier in the period, it was what they did on the five-minute major that sent the message. With a 2-1 lead Tim Thomas and the Bruins stopped the Islanders and their six shots, reminding Scott Gordon and the rest of the league that though they certainly have their flaws, the Bruins are perhaps at their best when down a man.
The Bruins remain the league’s best penalty-killing team and it clearly gave them an edge in which they were unexpectedly peppered for the second and third periods. With the goaltending starting to take better shape with the improved play of Thomas and the eventual return of Rask, it will be a huge asset should the Bruins secure a playoff spot.