Celtics

McCourty move to safety? 'You've got to be ready'

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McCourty move to safety? 'You've got to be ready'

FOXBORO -- Last year Devin McCourty, whether because of a lack of depth at the position or because he was struggling at cornerback, was moved to safety. He played about 20-percent of his snaps in the back of the secondary.
After 2011 came to a close, New England moved to bolster the safety position behind starter Patrick Chung by bringing in free agent veteran Steve Gregory. The team also drafted surprise second-round pick Tavon Wilson. Defensive back Nate Ebner was selected in the sixth round, though his best chance to make the roster was thought to be as a special teamer.
McCourty was left to rebound at left corner.
But The Plan saw some setbacks. Gregory suffered a hip injury in Week 4. Chung hurt his shoulder last weekend against the Seahawks and left the game.
Who did that leave to defend Seattle's game-winning drive Sunday? A pair of rookies.
The Seahawks needed just four plays. Just under the two-minute warning, Russell fired a 46-yard missile downfield to Sidney Rice for the go-ahead touchdown.
It was not the first time this season the deep ball has wounded, even killed New England. McCourty was asked if, as critics have noted, the issue is as basic as the defensive backs failing to locate the ball in the air.
"In some cases, it is that simple," he admitted. "In other cases it's different; I wouldn't lie and say no. In some cases it's going and just making a play."
So here we are again: McCourty is getting beat on routes and New England needs help guarding the back door. Could the hard-hitting corner be moved back to safety? The idea seems to be gaining traction among fans and analysts alike.
"That's not my call," McCourty said Friday. "I'll do whatever Coach Belichick decides. We've got some young guys that I think are doing a great job of picking up the defense since they've been here. I think they've done a great job just responding and give them opportunities to show what they know and how they can play."
But would he be ready to play, if asked?
"On this team, you've got to be ready to go anywhere."

Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

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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.

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