NESN and NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury joined Dale & Holley Friday afternoon to discuss the Bruins-Flyers Eastern Conference semifinal series and the rest of the matchups in the NHL playoffs.
With the likely return of Marc Savard for Game 1 tomorrow at TD Garden, it will have to come at the expense of another player on the roster. That looks like it might be Shawn Thornton, and Milbury said that that move would be a mistake. “I would shed a real tear if I were a Bruins fan, if that happens,” he said. “I don’t think his presence in the lineup is given enough importance by the people in management, frankly. I’ve seen him sort of get jerked around this year and I thought it was a mistake. If he doesn’t play tomorrow I think it is a mistake, and if he doesn’t play every game the rest of the way I think it’s a crime.”
Milbury agreed with the hosts that sitting Blake Wheeler would be a better option for the Bruins. “Why would they not sit Blake Wheeler? … I know there isn’t a lot of choices there, but when it comes to a guy you want to count on every game or you want to count on somebody in the last minute to get the puck out from along the wall, I sure as heck would count on Shawn Thornton. And if you are looking for a goal right now, picking Thornton over Wheeler is a 50-50 bet.”
Though he is not so high on the performance of Wheeler, Milbury said that he has been impressed by Tuukka Rask. When asked which goaltender remaining in the playoffs he would prefer, Milbury didn’t hesitate. “I don’t think for the age or the money, but just based on performance I don’t think you’d want to go with anybody but Tuukka Rask right now.
“I don’t know how much better he is going to get, but some of these games he has been absolutely terrific,” he said.
As for the B’s opponent, Milbury said the Flyers are in the second round thanks to the play of Boucher. “Philadelphia’s surprise for me is that they found a goaltender when they needed it the most, and it is a recycled goaltender at that,” he said. “Without him to lean on I don’t know how they get any further. There were moments when was shaky, but in the end I thought he played real well.”
To listen, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page. A full transcript is below.
Give me three reasons why the Bruins lose or win this series.
I hate making predictions because usually it is the kiss of death for my favorite time. But I’m going to pick the Bruins. “I’ll pick Tuukka Rask, because he’s a better goaltender than Brian Boucher. He’s got the composure to play at this level, at this stage without missing a beat. I have that much confidence in him. Second would be the return of Marc Savard. I know there is a little bit of Vegas gambling going on with him, but I think his presence in the lineup, on the power play, is going to be a major factor, maybe the tipping point in the series. And the third one is that the Bruins have somehow found a way to bounce back after a turbulent year. I think they really put themselves in a position where they have the mental toughness to win this series. I don’t think anybody expected Philadelphia to be there. People probably didn’t expect the Bruins to be there. They match up pretty evenly. But I think what the Bruins have gone through gives them a little bit of an edge.
The third one I had was that the Flyers are so beat up, I think that will be for them to overcome.
If I put my other shoe on here I would be picking Philadelphia because Boucher has figured it out, their defense is probably deeper with the absence of [Mark] Stuart and [Dennis] Seidenberg and up front despite the fact that [Jeff] Carter is not there and they lost [Ian] Laperriere and [Simon] Gagne, they’ve still got some pretty good weapons in Mike Richards and Danny Briere. It is a pretty good matchup and this could go the distance I think.
There is a great piece from John Powers in the Globe today about young goaltenders and you are quoted talking about Mike Moffat. He was thrown in there and it might have killed his career.
He was not equipped to handle it. I mean he said, ‘I can’t do it. I can’t go out there.’ And Gerry [Cheevers] said, ‘Put your mask on and go out there. And he wound up throwing up in his mask. He went out there and he was absolutely brilliant in that entire series. We lost in seven games to Quebec that year on a lousy floater goal from the point. It was a heck of a run and Moffat was a huge part of it, but he couldn’t summon that kind of energy for every game in his career and eventually he decided it wasn’t for him.
Why is the list so small of rookie goaltenders who have been a part of championship teams?
Well, it is the most challenging emotionally in terms of a position. I don’t get the mentality of who wants to be a goalie. It is OK when you are stopping tennis balls in the street instead of a hard rubber disk going about 100 mph. Your mind has got to be of a different sort. It usually takes a goaltender awhile, and by awhile I mean if you go back and look at it usually they are about 25 or 26. That is the time frame for most goaltenders. However, you are seeing all these guys come into the league at 18, 19 or 20 and they are making an impact and I would suspect that goaltenders are not far behind. The training is so much better, the preparation is so much better. They are playing on big stages at 14 and 15 and I would suspect that goaltenders sooner or later will be in that ballpark. (more…)