Last chance: Bruins must expose Braden Holtby in Game 7
|04.24.12 at 6:37 pm ET|
The Bruins have one more chance to get to Braden Holtby. If they do it, they should be able to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals against either Ottawa, Florida or Philadelphia. If they don’t, they’ll be bounced in the first round for the first time in four years.
For the B’s, two of their three losses to Washington have been products of the team not being able to get clean looks against the Washington rookie. They’ve struggled to get legitimate shots by the shot-blocking Capitals and through to the net, so their bids either haven’t made it to Holtby, or he’s been able to see them perfectly.
In recent games, the Bruins have fared better. Though they dropped Game 5 at home, they got a goal on a rush (Dennis Seidenberg from Milan Lucic), a hard drive to the net (Brad Marchand) and missile from the point (Johnny Boychuk). In Game 6, the B’s put four pucks past Holtby, the last of which came on a rush in the form of Tyler Seguin’s game-winner.
“It definitely took us a while, but you’ve got to give it to him,” Marchand said of Holtby. “He’s been playing great hockey and making a lot of big saves, but we’re doing a pretty good job of getting bodies in front now and finding different ways to score on him. We’re going to have to try and do the same thing tomorrow.”
Holtby has had an impressive .935 save percentage in the series, but his numbers have been helped by the fact that he’s had performances such as Game 2 (43 saves) and Game 4 (44 saves) in which he faced a large total of shots but faced few legitimate scoring chances. Many of the shots Holtby stopped in those games came from outside the perimeter due to Washington’s excellent shot-blocking and overall defensive play.
Now, having seen enough of Holtby, the B’s hope they break through and have a high-scoring affair for once (no team has scored more than four goals in a game this series, and each game has been decided by one goal). One thing to watch is whether the B’s, if given the opportunity, take advantage of Holtby’s agressive style. In two overtime plays Sunday — Zdeno Chara‘s early bid and Seguin’s game-winner — the Bruins were careful to hold onto the puck until the last possible second in an attempt to get the goaltender to challenge them. It didn’t work for Chara, but Seguin kept Boston’s playoff chances alive by doing it.
David Krejci, who scored on the power play in Sunday’s Game 6 victory, agrees that the B’s have gotten progressively better looks against Holtby. Krejci was notably frustrated after Game 4 at his inability to produce, but he feels that he and the offense as a whole have worked harder to make the 22-year-old goalie’s job difficult.
“I think we had a tougher start, but the last couple of games, it was getting along,” Krejci said. “We’ve just got to keep it going. It’s a Game 7. We’ve all been there before, so we’ve just got to go out there, do our best and try to get a win.”