Morning Skate 418: Pressure could shift to Habs


Morning Skate 418: Pressure could shift to Habs

By Joe Haggerty
MONTREAL All it could take is one win for things to really, truly turn around for the Bruins.It seems extremely far-fetched given the fact Boston is down 2-0 in the series and entering the Belly of Le Beast at the Bell Centre in Montreal for Games 3 and 4. It seems even more of a Black and Gold pipe dream with the way Boston's offense is struggling to do anything with consistency and all the while really missing the speed and danger factorof a natural born sniper that they hope Tyler Seguin can one day become.But just like the third goal is the most important score in a hockey games momentum and ultimatewinnability, so is Game Three of a seven game series the most important single game to win in the Stanley Cupplayoffs.
If the Habs let up off the Bruins and allow Boston to steal one at the Bell Centre whether its because Tim Thomas stepped up his postseason game or because Milan Lucic and David Krejci finally awakened out of their series-long funk then the momentum begins to shift in the entireseries.Don't think the the members of Les Habitants aren't aware of this.I dont know if its so much pressure, but theres no doubt about the importance of the game tonight, said Habs forward Mike Cammalleri, who has been very good with two points in the two games played thus far. Its almost all for naught if you dont keep going. You might look back and it seems like you put in some work and accomplished some things by winning a couple of games, but things can change really quickly.It is what it is. It can go two ways. You try and build confidence and momentum off it and play even better hockey while making it harder on the other team. Thats our goal. But theres another way it can go too.Cammalleri stopped his words right in their tracks when he mentioned another way it can go as the Habs know full well they havent received Bostons best playoff punch by a long shot. That roundhouse right could be coming at the Bell Centre, or it could be ultimate collapse for everything that's been built over the last four years.With a win the pressure eases off under-fire Claude Julien and instead crests over the entire Montreal Canadiens roster with a lot of hockey to still be played between the two teams. The Bruins have been frustrated by Montreals shot-blocking ability and world class speed along with their opportunistic skill at pouncing on each of Bostons mistakes, but that can change if the Bruins find their mojo and then escape to Lake Placid for a couple of days recovering and recharging.The Bruins know each of the five goals scored in the series have been self-inflicted gunshot wounds through sloppy turnovers, horrendous rebounds and scrambling coverage in front of the net. Its not about anger or strong emotion; its about focus for Patrice Bergeron and the rest of the Bruins. Its something Bergeron has been throughout the series as Bostons best forwardat both ends of the ice, and their de facto Captain with Zdeno Chara battling his own issues.The Bs are 0-26 when dropping the first two games of a playoff series, but theyve proven before that they can make history in spectacular fashion.We obviously need to have starts, but we also have to make sure were loose on the ice while getting results. We cant be squeezing the sticks out on the ice when we need goals, said Bergeron. Its the playoffs. We need results. Things can be fixed. Those goals were because of us. Thats one thing that weve realized.Were all aware we didnt play our best games. Its a long series. Were focused. We believe and were confident. But at the same time we know we can be better, and weve got to be better.Shawn Thornton joked that hes so focused when hes on the ice that hes like Billy Chapel out there when the Bell Centre crowd is razzing his team a reference to the Kevin Costner flick For the Love of the Game and his Clear the Mechanism concentration phrase once the game starts.The Bruins start Clearing the Mechanism tonight at the Bell Centre against the Canadiens, and will know much about their playoff lives once the 60 minutes of intense hockey has concluded.On to the links:Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray believes the Ducks have to start diving in order to match whats happening with the Nashville Predators. I guess it doesnt just happen when Boston plays Montreal. Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau sounds like he wants a stick of dynamite to blow up Madison Square Garden. At least thats his story to, and Im inclined to agree with him.Elliotte Friedman has his 30 thoughts on and has some interesting things to say about Zdeno Chara and Phil Kessel. Friedman is dead on about the Chara stuff concerning Ryan Callahan, and the broken leg he suffered just weeks after the Max Pacioretty incident. Chara felt extremely guilty that his slap shot injured Callahan, and was very concerned about the New York Rangers forward given the respect level he holds for him. Sounds like theres an emotional component to the health issues plaguing Chara at this point in the postseason after hes been harangued by the Montreal fans and media.Globe and Mail writer James Mirtle wonders whether NHL fans are watching the Coyotes final days in Phoenix as Winnipeg gets ready for a team with lawyers, pucks and money.Steven Brundt also has a few thoughts on the Winnipeg area getting back their NHL team, and says its going to take a lot less than perfection for a relocation to take place at this point. I still think it will be Atlanta moving up to Winnipeg, but perhaps thats just me.Mike Milbury talked up the Washington Capitals on NBC, and says that Alex Ovechkins team looks like theyre finally hitting their potential at Stanley Cup playoff time.Sean Avery is caught leaning on his stick, and loves every minute of it.Bruce Boudreau believes that the New York Rangers are targeting Caps defenseman Mike Green with vicious hits. Not sure this is any different than any other playoff season for the Caps.NHL.coms Dave Lozo wonders if Dan Girardi is the most underrated player in the NHL today.Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Morning Skate: Cheers for Boyle as he returns to practice with Devils


Morning Skate: Cheers for Boyle as he returns to practice with Devils

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while determined to go see Foo Fighters at Fenway Park this time around. 
-- In the great news department, Hingham native Brian Boyle hears cheers at practice as he returns to work for the New Jersey Devils after his cancer diagnosis. Boyle might be wearing a Devils uniform, but he knows he has all of Boston in his corner along with many, many other corners of the hockey world. 

-- There is no panic with the Maple Leafs over the slow start for Mitch Marner, who has been dropped to the fourth line in the early going.
-- Wellesley native Chris Wagner is beginning to get recognized for his big hits and physical play with the Anaheim Ducks

-- Senators prospect and Massachusetts native Joey Daccord makes an unbelievable game-saving stop for his college team. 

-- For something completely different: Greg Nicotero talks about the Walking Dead premiere, and a character thought dead that might actually still be alive.

Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation


Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

The entire concept of Tuukka Rask getting pushed by one of his backups is based on the backup consistently performing at a high standard, and that wasn’t the case for Anton Khudobin over the weekend.

Just as it isn’t solely the fault of Rask when the Bruins lose, it wasn’t solely the fault of Khudobin that Boston squandered leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in an overtime loss to Buffalo on Saturday night. But Khudobin couldn’t step up and carry the B's when they clearly started losing their edge in the second half of the game, and that inconsistency will certainly make the Bruins pine for a sooner-rather-than-later return of a concussed Rask.

“Erratic,” said coach Bruce Cassidy when asked to describe Khudobin postgame. “He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. He certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him. But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.”

It was certainly too much to expect Khudobin to be perfect, but they just needed him to be good enough to pull them through while they were getting waylaid in the second half of the game. That proved to be a major challenge, given the players the Bruins are missing and the extremely rough night suffered by Torey Krug (minus-3 on Saturday night, and minus-8 for the season). Khudobin finished with 37 stops as a defense corps without Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller wilted in the third period and the overtime, but he couldn’t make the clean saves for whistles when the team really needed them. Case in point was a Rasmus Ristolainen tester in overtime while the Bruins were in the midst of being outshot by a 6-0 margin in the extra session. Khudobin got a glove on it but couldn’t cleanly catch it for a badly needed stoppage in play at a time when Krug, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand had been caught on the ice for over two minutes.

"The start was great, and the game was great until we scored the fourth goal, and I think after that, we thought it was an easy game,” said Khudobin. “[The high volume of shots] wasn’t that much difficult, I like shots, like probably every other goalie, but they were crashing the net. They were going hard. There were a lot of deflections, a lot of rebounds, a lot of scrums in front of the net, which were . . .that’s the dangerous part, not just the shots.”

Khudobin, 31, has taken five of a possible six points in the games he's played this season and is off to a solid start with a 2-0-1 record, a 2.98 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. He looks like he’s going to be a perfectly fine backup, enabling the Bruins to hold Rask to the 55-60 games they’ve forecasted for his peak performance this season.

But Saturday night was a major blow to any hopes that Rask would be pushed competitively by his backup, and that a Khudobin hot streak could spark a slow-starting, and now injured, Rask when he does return.

Instead the Bruins are left to hope they can survive while missing Rask along with a number of other key players, and that the goalie returns sooner than later to a team that can’t survive too many morale-crushing defeats like the choke job against the lowly Sabres.