BOSTON (CBS) – Right about now the Bruins are probably offering Washington the best doctors in all of Boston in an attempt to get Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth healthy.
Of course, it wouldn’t matter if both of the Capitals’ top goaltenders on their in-season depth chart suddenly became available for the rest of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, which continues Saturday. The Caps, who tied the series with the Bruins at 2-2 after beating Boston 2-1 Thursday night, have found their goaltender for the long haul of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In fact, the Caps might have found their Ken Dryden, their Jaroslav Halak, their Cam Ward. All those goaltenders won series (two won the Stanley Cup), and the Caps are still two wins away from upsetting the Bruins. But Washington has to feel somewhat fortunate that injuries to Vokoun and Neuvirth forced Braden Holtby into action.
The rookie turned away 44 of 45 shots the Bruins sent his way in Game 4. Holtby now has a 1.60 goals-against average and .953 save percentage in this series.
Watching Game 4, however, it’s difficult to tell the tale without diminishing Holtby’s efforts a little bit. The Bruins were credited with an astounding 83 shot attempts, with 26 Washington blocked shots and 12 missed shots added to their 45 on net. And to say that Holtby had to make the type of dazzling saves Halak had to make during his 2010 run to the conference finals with Montreal would be a lie. There were a lot of easy shots from the perimeter, a lot of clear lanes for him to see the puck and a lot of shots that looked like they were ticketed for his chest or his pads even before they left the Bruins’ sticks.
“Until we are ready to pay a real price in front of the net and win those battles and stay there …” Bruins head coach Claude Julien noted to NESN after game before explaining that there are a lot of pucks going to the net but not a lot of guys carving out their territory there.
Tyler Seguin was credited with six shots on net, but only one came from close enough for Holtby to look in the Boston cutie’s eyes. Somehow center David Krejci failed to record a shot on net in 17:31 of ice time. Other than Rich Peverley, who scored Boston’s goal, the Bruins’ top six forwards continue to compete for a leading role in a remake of “The Invisible Man.”
Julien and his staff have done their part. Building on the swap of Patrice Bergeron and Krejci from Game 3, Boston swapped Seguin and Peverley on the top two lines in the third period. The Bruins also reworked their power-play units with Benoit Pouliot added to one group for net-front presence, Bergeron united with Krejci and Milan Lucic on one group and the point men juggled. The Bruins’ one man-advantage didn’t score, and didn’t register a shot on net. Boston is now 0-for-12 in the series.
While this has been a hard-fought series with the teams even in goals scored as well as in games won. But I’m willing to bet that the count of stitches, black-and-blue marks and aching feet is in Washington’s favor. As the underdogs in this series, the Caps are playing like they have nothing to lose. Their goaltender is playing great, they’re feeding off that, and in turn he’s probably raising his game with every gritty play that’s made in front of him or by his teammates in the Boston end.
If the Bruins want to keep Holtby from becoming synonymous with Dryden, Halak, Ward and the handful of other young goaltenders that carried a team deep in the postseason, they’re going to have to play more like they’re the ones with something to prove.