|Bruins-Capitals Game 1 Live Blog: Scoreless in OT||04.12.12 at 7:19 pm ET|
|Who needs experience? Braden Holtby is up for the challenge||04.12.12 at 2:57 pm ET|
If all went according to plan, Braden Holtby wouldn’t have had an enormous media scrum surrounding him at TD Garden Thursday morning. If all went according to plan, he wouldn’t have even been there.
But that’s the hand the Capitals were dealt. First, starting goaltender Tomas Vokoun has been dealing with groin issues this season and aggravated the injury on March 29 against the Bruins. Then backup Michal Neuvirth suffered a lower-body injury when Panthers forward Marco Sturm fell on him on April 5.
All of this resulted in 22-year-old Holtby, the starting goaltender for Hershey in the AHL, getting the call to be the No. 1 for the Capitals as Washington opens the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Bruins.
“The whole reason I’m here is injuries, and that’s unfortunate, but that was my job coming into the year as the third guy in Hershey, to be here to step up when there are injuries,” Holtby said Thursday. “Unfortunately, they’re at this time of year, but it’s my job to [make up for] those unfortunate parts. I know both of them want to be on the ice, so I’m trying to take the team with me, to bring them up.”
He’s never been in the postseason before, and the fact that he’s untested in the playoffs is made worse by the circumstances. He’s facing the Bruins, who had an NHL-best 81 goals last postseason and averaged 3.24 goals per game in the playoffs. The Bruins’ 3.2 goals per game in the recently concluded regular season ranked second in the league.
“It’s a great challenge,” Holtby said. “You have to get through everyone to make it to the Stanley Cup. Everyone’s talking about the Bruins and the Rangers. Well, you’re going to have to play either of them or both of them. If it’s Boston right now, we’re up to the challenge.”
In 40 games in the AHL this season, Holtby had a 2.61 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage. Those AHL marks are actually worse than Tim Thomas‘ NHL numbers this season, making it tough to compare the two net minders. That’s fine for Holtby, as he says he doesn’t look at games and feel he’s going against the opposing goaltender. Of course, he wouldn’t mind having Thomas’ success a year after Thomas had four shutouts in the Bruins’ Stanley Cup run and won the Conn Smythe.
“He’s obviously a battler, and that’s the reason he’s been so good,” he said. “It’s great to see a guy like that, that goes off of pure heart and determination and has been successful. It’s great and I respect the guy obviously a lot, but that goes out the window. I just want to win games right not.”
The fact that he’s even playing games right now wasn’t something the Capitals had been planning on entering the season, but Holtby has the opportunity to surprise a lot of people this postseason.
|Bruins look for rare Game 1 victory||04.12.12 at 1:38 pm ET|
Not to rain on 2011’s parade, but one detail that may go forgotten as the story of that Bruins team is told is that the Bruins lost Game 1 of every series except the one they swept against the Flyers.
In hindsight, it’s just a minor detail that showed the makeup of the team. They came back from 1-0 deficits in three times, and from 2-0 deficits twice. They were resilient, and they didn’t give in whenever they fell behind.
That’s all fine and dandy, but the B’s would probably rather change that aspect of this postseason by picking up some Game 1 victories.
Two of those Game 1 losses were shutouts, as the B’s were blanked by Carey Price in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals and Roberto Luongo in the Stanley Cup finals. The Bruins obviously recovered nicely in both series as well as the Eastern Conference finals (they lost Game 1, 5-2, to Tampa Bay), but they’d rather start their series with the Capitals differently.
“This team has a lot of confidence and knows how to play under pressure and just knows how to come back from deficits in a series or in a game, but it doesn’t mean we can just rely on that,” B’s defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said after Thursday’s morning skate. “We have to be focused and bring our A game tonight.”
The numbers are skewed a bit by their 7-3 win over the Flyers in Game 1 of the conference semifinals last year, but the B’s were outscored, 11-9 in Game 1s last postseason (8-2 in their Game 1 losses). In the rest of the postseason, they outscored their opponents by a 72-42 margin.
A series is not won and lost in the first game, and truthfully, losing three of four Game 1s is a good thing because it means a team played in four Game 1s. Still, taking a series lead on home ice couldn’t hurt, could it?
|Claude Julien hopeful Johnny Boychuk (knee) will play in Game 1||04.12.12 at 1:17 pm ET|
Based on this week, it would appear that Boychuk should be ready to return after missing the last two games of the regular season with a sprained knee. He participated in Thursday’s morning skate, marking the fourth straight day he’s been on the ice with the team. In practices and line drills, Boychuk has played on the second pairing with Andrew Ference.
Julien would not reveal the healthy scratch among forwards, but it should be either Jordan Caron or Daniel Paille, as the two have shared the left wing on the fourth line this week in practice.
Here are the Bruins’ lines:
Milan Lucic ‘ David Krejci ‘ Rich Peverley
Brad Marchand ‘ Patrice Bergeron ‘ Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot ‘ Chris Kelly ‘ Brian Rolston
Daniel Paille/Jordan Caron ‘ Gregory Campbell ‘ Shawn Thornton
|Now healthy, Milan Lucic has to step up this postseason with Nathan Horton out||04.11.12 at 2:13 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It became official Wednesday that David Krejci and Milan Lucic will not play with Nathan Horton this postseason, but could the Bruins’ first (depending on who you ask) line be even better than it was a season ago?
It’s a tough act to follow, to be certain. Krejci led all postseason players with 12 goals and 23 points, while Horton’s eight goals tied for third on the team.
The line will obviously be different in that Rich Peverley will be skating in Horton’s place as he did in Games 3-7 of the Cup finals, but the biggest difference should be Lucic.
After leading the team with 30 goals in the regular season last year, Lucic struggled through a sinus infection and, later, a broken toe. He finished the playoffs with 12 points (five goals, seven assists), which tied for eighth on the team. The Bruins won the Cup, and he assisted two of Horton’s overtime goals against the Canadiens (including the series-clinching Game 7 tally), but Lucic didn’t look right. People wondered whether he was playing through pain.
As it turned out, he was. He’d had the sinus infection throughout the postseason, and he had his big toe shattered by a Tyler Seguin slap shot in practice between Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay.
Now, Lucic is healthy, and he’s ready to not only produce more offensively, but help in the other areas where Horton will be missed. When Horton is on that line, it’s a trio that features two big power forwards, making it a very physical and tough group to deal with. Peverley adds speed, but the extra bruising play will have to be provided by Lucic.
“I think I definitely have to play physical no matter what, but [Horton] definitely makes it easier, I’m not going to lie, because he is a big body and he’s got such great speed and we all know about his scoring touch,” Lucic said. “For myself, I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well the last 10 games, and using my body well all season long and I’ve been skating well. Being physical is a big part of my game, and I have to bring that in the playoffs.”
There’s no positive way of spinning of the loss of Horton, but Lucic can recognize that the situation heading into the postseason will be easier than it was the last time the B’s last Horton. Krejci had centered Lucic and Horton for the vast majority of the season, and the trio had built up a pretty strong rapport.
One Aaron Rome hit later, Krejci and Lucic found themselves with a new linemate while still four victories away from the Stanley Cup. There was no time for adjustment then, but they now have experience with Peverley based on the Cup finals and recent weeks.
“Yeah it does, definitely,” Lucic said when asked whether the familiarity with Peverley makes it easier this time around. “You go from playing a whole year with the exact same two guys, and then the last four games, Peverley jumps in the mix. This time, we’ve definitely played a lot more games together, and in these last couple of days of practice have gotten the feel of each other a lot more having practiced with each other. We’re excited for this series to get going, and we’re excited to get back into playoff mode. We want to be a big part of our team moving forward and having success.”
Peverley returned from a knee injury on March 25 and had four points (two goals, two assists), over the final eight games of the regular season. He brings a different skill set with a speedier game, but he showed he was capable of performing in the playoffs last season by matching Lucic’s 12 points despite playing most of the playoffs on the third line.
Ultimately, the Bruins are better with Nathan Horton without him, but the Krejci line should still be poised for success without him. Peverley had four points in five games in place of Horton last June, and Krejci has been known to elevate his game in the playoffs. At the end of the day, though, don’t be surprised if Lucic ends up being the real difference on that line this year. He wasn’t healthy enough to be a consistent force in the playoffs like Horton was a season ago, but there are plenty of reasons to believe he could be this time around.
|Marc Savard: ‘I feel so bad’ for Nathan Horton||04.11.12 at 1:16 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — When the Bruins traded for Nathan Horton in the 2010 offseason, the hope was that he could thrive in the Boston offense thanks to the skills of Marc Savard. Scorers such as Phil Kessel had excelled when skating on Savard’s line, so fans and media alike wondered if Savard could make Horton a 40-goal scorer.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, Savard and Horton haven’t shared many goals, or even games together. What they do have in common is that they’ve seen the bad side of playing in the NHL: concussions and post-concussion syndrome.
On the day that the Bruins announced Horton would miss the postseason with a concussion, Savard took to twitter to express his thoughts on the news, which hit close to him given his history. Savard wrote the following:
“I feel so bad for my boy Horty. Although I believe both parties are making the right decision. He’s too young.”
Savard, who is in the second year of a seven-year deal with the Bruins, missed the entire season with post-concussion syndrome and it is still unknown whether he will ever play again. Horton’s concussion is his second in less than seven months.
|Peter Chiarelli: Post-concussion symptoms accompanied progress with Nathan Horton||04.11.12 at 12:53 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli met with the media towards the end of Wednesday’s practice to discuss the team’s decision to shut Nathan Horton down for the playoffs.
Horton, who suffered his concussion on a Jan. 22 hit from Flyers forward Tom Sestito, was having a rough time in his recovery. He tried skating days after the concussion, but was shut down after suffering a setback. Horton returned to the ice last week, but he continued to feel post-concussion symptoms and the B’s didn’t want him to put pressure on himself to rush back.
“We felt it just wasn’t in the long-term interest of Nathan to be having the specter hanging over him of trying to come back during this playoff season,” Chiarelli said. “He’s made one step forward, and then two steps back and we just made the determination, upon consultation with our doctors, with Nathan, that it would be prudent to shut him down for the playoffs and continue to rehab for next year.”
The one step forward/two steps back is what made the decision clear for the Bruins.
“He’d be improving and then he’d have some symptoms,” Chiarelli said. “They weren’t huge symptoms, but they’d always come up at some point after three, four, five or six days of positive stuff.
“It was a frustrating exercise for Nathan, it was a frustrating exercise for us because we’ve been through this rehab before with players and I’ve seen all kinds of rehab patterns now because usually you can see when the player has color, and when he’s animated, you think he’s turned the corner and then they have a bout of post-concussion symptoms and they manifest themselves in different ways. With Nathan, sometimes it’d be just a fogginess, sometimes he wouldn’t feel right and sometimes there’d be a big headache. But it was always after three, four or five days of positive progress.”
Chiarelli added that Horton, who had 17 goals and 15 assists for 32 points in 46 games this season, was “relieved” when the decision was finally made to shut him down. The GM said Horton will rehab in off-hours and “might take a couple weeks off.”
“I think with Nathan, he gets within the group and he looks back at his contributions this past year and last playoffs and he starts getting anxious and that probably compounds it, too,” Chiarelli said. “I think he felt a sense of relief, and again talking to Nathan over the course of the last couple of weeks, he doesn’t look bad ‘ he looks good actually. But he gets these bouts ‘ the fogginess doesn’t feel right and you have to be very careful.”
Chiarelli was asked whether he is confident that Horton will be ready for next season, but as the B’s have learned in the past, you never know with concussions.
“Yeah, I am but who knows? Who knows?” he said while shrugging. “IGoing into two weeks ago you had asked me [about[ him playing this playoffs, I [would say], ‘You know, there’s a chance.’ And then he had a couple of setbacks and then you have to take a step back and kind of look at the whole thing and that’s what we did.”
One thing that Chiarelli was adamant about was whether this concussion, which was initially termed “mild,” had anything to do with the concussion he suffered less than seven months earlier on a hit from Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals.
“Totally unconnected, totally unconnected and the symptoms were completely different,” Chiarelli said. ‘¦ “It was clear to me it was totally unconnected to the first concussion.”