Celtics

Bruins may have something in Providence with goalie Svedberg

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Bruins may have something in Providence with goalie Svedberg

PROVIDENCE, RI There were plenty of nervous Bruins executives when word first filtered out of the Czech Republic that Tuukka Rask had suffered some kind of groin injury while playing overseas. It ended up being a minor tweak and Rask has been no worse for the wear since the incident, but the specter of injury has forced the Bruins to closely inspect their organizational depth when it comes to goaltending.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli indicated a catastrophic injury to either Rask or Anton Khudobin while overseas could potentially push the Bruins to recall 18-year-old Malcolm Subban from the OHL for any shortened NHL training camp over the next two months.

That obviously wouldnt be an ideal situation. Its pretty clear that Subban isnt ready for the NHL even if the 2.32 goals against average and .925 save percentage in 13 games with the Belleville Bulls this season. But perhaps there are other alternatives for the Bruins should something happen in the next few weeks while the NHL and NHLPA try to hash out a new CBA.

Swedish import Niklas Svedberg was signed to little fanfare in the weeks leading up to the news that Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was thinking of sitting out the 2012-13 NHL season. After all he was an undrafted 23-year-old Swedish goalie with a few decent seasons in the Swedish Elite League before he helped lead his Brynas IF Galve team to a league championship last season.

But Svedberg impressed during that playoff run and hes been very good in a handful of games for the Providence Bruins in his first taste of North American pro hockey. Svedberg made 18 saves in his first AHL shutout in a 3-0 win over the St. Johns IceCaps on Sunday afternoon at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

It was a great feeling. It was nice to get our first home win, said Svedberg. It was tough to keep up in the game because I didnt see many shots. We had the puck so much in their end.

It hasnt been that big an adjustment for me going from Europe to the AHL. Im just playing the game the same way I did back home. But I also know Ive got plenty of things I need to develop in my game. I just need to keep on working.

There wasnt a ton required of Svedberg through the 60 minutes of dominant hockey for the P-Bruins, but he did make the clichd big save at the big point in the game that is so key for any good goalie. With the P-Bruins holding on to a 1-0 lead when they probably should have been up by at least a couple of goals, Maxime Macenaeur cut loose for a shorthanded breakaway all alone in the Providence end.

Instead of freezing in panic Svedberg kicked away the Macenauer shot with a right pad save, and minutes later the P-Bruins had their second insurance goal. Its those kinds of momentum-building plays that can separate AHL goaltenders from NHL puck-stoppers, and Svedberg at least showed a glint of it on Sunday.

On the season hes 3-1 with a 2.01 goals against average and a .927 save percentage, and Svedberg has shown the athletic ability to make game-changing saves. Hes also made the Bruins coaching staff take notice after thoroughly outplaying Michael Hutchinson during the early going of the season.

Theres clearly a goaltending competition taking place in Providence.

Svedberg didnt have a lot of work, but he made that one save that you needed when it still a 1-0 game in the second period. That one got the bench up and gave us a lift, said P-Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. Hutchinson hasnt won a game yet, and thats a problem when youre a third year guy that we need to get going. We need him to be a good goalie.

But at the same time Svedberg has just been a better goalie, plain and simple. This is where you get into the AHL being a development vs. winning line that you need to balance. Right now its Svedbergs ball to run with, but were going to need both of them. I dont think Hutchinson is that far off. Hes getting hit with one easy one in each game.

There are also some things that Svedberg still needs to refine. Hes shown major difficulties handling the puck around his own net, and his mishandling of dumped pucks has led directly to goals-against for Providence. The smaller arenas in North America also make for a much more congested area around the net, and Svedberg is still getting accustomed to the piles of body traffic in and around his cage.

But those are the kinds of kinks that are typically worked out by players when theyre plying their trade at the minor league level.

Svedberg is a winner. He won a championship in Sweden and hes a battler. Other players notice that kind of stuff, said Cassidy. He got exposed a little on his short side in Manchester and hes still working on picking up shots in front of the net with traffic. Hes not used to that.

But hes very good post-to-post because that what he grew up doing. He also needs to get used to playing the puck when hes got guys bearing down on him. Some of this stuff we knew going in and he just needs to keep working on it.

While it may not be tomorrow or next week as Svedberg refines his game, the Swedish goalie is starting to flash glimpses that he might just have a future in the Bruins organization. Thats music to the ears of all those Bruins front office types that were suddenly feeling the pinch of their goaltending depth with Rask and Khudobin at risk for an injury while playing a half world away.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics back in win column

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics back in win column

0:41 - The Celtics returned to their winning ways with a 118-103 victory over the Orlando Magic. Tom Giles, Phil Perry and Rob “Hardy” Poole break down the win.

6:58 - Tom Giles and Hardy discuss the Bruins’ four-game winning streak and how the success of Anton Khudobin has helped keep the team afloat.

11:39 - Is the Patriots' Week 12 matchup with the Dolphins a trap game? Tom Giles, Phil Perry and Hardy discuss where Miami ranks among NFL teams and how the Patriots should approach the game.

17:07 - With Black Friday upon us, the Boston Sports Tonight crew discusses what big-ticket item they would choose to buy for any Boston sports team. 

 

Morris out, Brown questionable for Pacers game Saturday

Morris out, Brown questionable for Pacers game Saturday

BOSTON – Boston made strengthening their depth at the wing position a priority during the offseason.

Well, that depth will be put to the test with the possibility of at least one and maybe two of their top wing players being out for Saturday’s game at Indiana.

Shortly after Boston’s 118-103 win over Orlando on Friday night, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens announced that Marcus Morris (left knee) would not travel with the team for Saturday’s game against the Pacers.

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Also, Jaylen Brown will be attending the funeral of his best friend (Trevin Steede) in Georgia on Saturday and isn’t sure if he’ll be back with the team in time for Saturday’s game.

“My intention is to make it back. If I can, I’ll definitely be playing,” Brown said. “But we’ll see.”

The absence of Brown would be a huge blow for the Celtics.

Boston only returned four players from last season’s team, none of whom have improved their overall game as much as Brown did during the offseason.

He came into the season focused on being a lock-down defender.

But Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury was a game-changer for all the Celtics, including Brown.

Not only would Brown be charged with being an elite defender, but Boston now needed the second-year wing player to become more of a scoring threat.

And to Brown’s credit, he has risen to the challenge.

In 20 games (all starts) this season, Brown has averaged 15.9 points per game which is second on the team to Kyrie Irving (22.9). In addition, Brown’s defense has been among the keys to Boston’s 17-3 start which is the best record in the NBA thus far this season.

His defensive rating of 95.0 is fifth among players to appear in at least 10 games this season, and tops among all second-year players. And of the four players ahead of him, two – Aron Baynes and Marcus Smart – are teammates.

But just like the Celtics gave Isaiah Thomas all the time he needed in dealing with the death of his sister right before the playoffs last season, a similar approach has been taken with Brown which he is admittedly appreciative of the organization for doing.

“Brad (Stevens) has been great in this process,” Brown said. “Just somebody to talk to, allowing me to deal with it in the best way our family and their family feels we can deal with it. He’s been great; we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully I can make it to Indiana; if not, I just have to re-group with my family and I’ll see you guys next game (against Detroit on Monday).”

While there's a chance that Brown will play against Indiana, the same can not be said for Morris who is definitely out.

Morris, who missed the first eight games of the season with left knee soreness, has been on a minutes restriction all season in addition to not being allowed to play in back-to-back games.

Following Friday’s game, Morris said the knee feels good but he understands the need to be cautious.

“It’s frustrating,” said Morris who acknowledged the decision was made by the coaching and medical staff. “I’m a competitor, so I want to be out there.”

He added, “Like I said, at this point I pretty much don’t have control over it when I’m playing. It’s a long season. I just want to be ready for June.”

With Morris out and Brown potentially out as well, the Celtics will be extremely thin and inexperienced at the wing position. Look for Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes to be in the starting lineup if Brown is out along with Morris.

Also, Stevens will likely use Terry Rozier and first-year forward Semi Ojeleye more in addition to increased spot-duty for another rookie, Abdel Nader. On Friday, Rozier had a career-high 23 points while Ojeleye and Nader had seven and three points, respectively.

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