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Mike Milbury on D&C: ‘Don’t throw Tuukka in the 2-hole now’

10.27.10 at 2:31 pm ET
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NESN hockey analyst Mike Milbury joined the Dale & Holley show Wednesday for his weekly hockey update and discussion of other hot topics regarding the Bruins. Milbury also talked about the latest debate, which has been the goaltender situation thus far in the season.

“It’s how to handle both of them, not just Tuukka [Rask],” Milbury said. “I don’t throw Tuukka in the 2-hole now just because [Tim] Thomas has had a good start. It looks like they’re going to battle for the top spot, and I think one of the things … is the schedule. I mean, they go overseas, they play two games, they get basically a full week off, they played three more and then they get four days off. There’s no rhythm for any of their players, not just the goaltenders.”

Following are highlights from the conversation. To hear the entire interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Can we assume the hype we saw last night in Boston won’t be matched, but will at least be evident as Phil Kessel returns to the Garden with the Maple Leafs tomorrow night?

Yeah, it’ll be fun, and the Maple Leafs are winning their share of games, so it should be competitive. They’re not trading on the back end. I mean, they’re supposed to be strong on the blue line, but they’ll, they cough it up regularly, so there’ll be plenty of opportunities to score. [Jean-Sebastien] Giguere‘s been backstopping the goals against, so it’s been OK, but they’re a vulnerable team, but at least they’re playing with some vinegar, and so it should be a pretty good matchup.

If each goaltender starts roughly 40 games, what’s the best way to handle two goaltenders, and Tuukka, who’s been shaky lately?

That’s a great question. I mean, it’s how to handle both of them, not just Tuukka. I don’t throw Tuukka in the 2-hole now just because Thomas has had a good start. It looks like they’re going to battle for the top spot, and I think one of the things, before I try to answer that question, that has conspired against Rask and Thomas is the schedule. I mean, they go overseas, they play two games, they get basically a full week off, they played three more and then they get four days off. There’s no rhythm for any of their players, not just the goaltenders.

But once they get into the need of their schedule, you know, I think there’s plenty of room to let a guy run two, three or even four games in a row. But if you really want to keep the party going in terms of competition, once you get into five and six games in a row for one guy, you’re asking much from the other guy to just bounce back and be excellent in his first start.

Can you, at this point in the season, say that the Bruins are past their problems from last season where they had trouble putting the puck in the net and scoring?

I think Nathan Horton adds to the mix. It looks like [Jordan] Caron and [Tyler] Seguin are going to be contributors. I’m not going to say, “Yeah, I’m listing this as an offensive powerhouse.” They’re better in that department, there’s no question.

Where do you stand on Johnny Boychuck as a player, and how will his absence hurt the team?

Clearly been ticketed for the top four, and that’s based on very little track record. It looks like he’s going to be a top-four defenseman, but honestly, I need a little time with this guy. And this is, you know, the end of the season last year was a bit of a taste of it, and, you now, and now he gets whacked, so you’re not going to see him for a month. Things were tracking pretty well for him, and they were seriously counting on this guy to be in their top four. It looks like he can be. Is he going to be long-term? I need some more time.

There’s been some talk about the Bruins going out and getting a puck-moving defenseman such as Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes. Does he fill that kind of need for them?

Well it’s certainly in the category of puck-handling defenseman. I mean, I think there’s disappointment at [Matt] Hunwick‘s start. He’s been error-prone and turnover-prone. Can he shake that out? I don’t know. He’s basically going to be on the third pairing and get some power play time, but it looks like he, right now, you’d have to be concerned looking at him, so they have to be looking around. But again, heck I don’t know where the bruins are going to go with all this. You see that [Marc] Savard is skating; I don’t know how close that means he is. You see that [Marco] Sturm is beginning to skate. Eventually those guys come back in the lineup, and eventually Peter Chiarelli is going to have to pay the piper for these contracts.

In light of the recent series against the Washington Capitals, why do you think Alex Ovechkin has had so many problems going up against Zdeno Chara?

They’re dedicated to shutting him down. They’re dedicated to shutting down all teams, but when, I think, a great player like Chara and a good defensive coach like Claude Julien takes it as a personal challenge to get ready to go when they see Ovechkin come in.

On the flip side, I thought Ovechkin was as dumb as a bag of hammers when he played against the Bruins last week. One against four on the power play, spending two minutes and 30 seconds on the ice during the power play, and then after the power play, can’t get off, have to ice it.

There’s a team that came into this year after having them spanked last year unexpectedly in the playoffs, and the mantra was, I thought, not to become a shutdown defensive team, but at least to pay some attention to it, and have some more balance to their game. They looked like they were lacking in discipline and structure, and if I were George McPhee I’d be worried. I mean, they’re going to go, they don’t win their games, because they’ve got, you know, they’re the Miami Heat of the NHL right now, if you will. But if they play like the, you know, the Capitals of last season, then it’s a one-on-one play, and it’s not a team concept, and they don’t have the chemistry that they’re supposed to have, then they’re not going to win the championship that they hope to win.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Mike Milbury, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask
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