Commentary

Bruins can't solve Braden Holtby

Caps goalie saved 44 of 45 shots to even series at 2-2 heading back to Boston

Updated: April 20, 2012, 8:27 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

WASHINGTON -- Boston Bruins forward David Krejci sat at his locker stall in the visitor's dressing room at Verizon Center late Thursday night, completely dejected.

The Washington Capitals had just evened the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at two games apiece with a 2-1 win in Game 4, and all Krejci could do was shake his head in disbelief.

[+] EnlargeRich Peverley
AP Photo/Evan VucciThis Rich Peverley strike was the only Bruins shot to elude Caps goalie Braden Holtby in Game 4.

Boston bombarded Capitals rookie goaltender Braden Holtby with 45 shots, but only one went in. In fact, it's the third time in four games the Bruins have been held to just one goal.

"It's frustrating. It sucks. We had so many chances," Krejci said. "I felt before the game, I thought finally it's going to come tonight for our line and we're going to produce. It sucks. It's disappointing. You get that many shots and you come up short. It's frustrating."

The Bruins were ranked third in the NHL during the regular season with 3.17 goals per game. Boston's top six forwards have generally been offensive monsters. But in this series, four of the top six -- Krejci, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin have yet to register a point. Only Rich Peverley (2 goals) and Patrice Bergeron (1 assist) have made their way onto the score sheet.

Peverley, who scored the Bruins' only goal in Game 4, also had a goal in Game 3.

Krejci sat at his locker after Thursday's game for a long time, trying to get a handle on the team's situation.

It was the most shots taken by the Bruins in a non-overtime playoff game since they also registered 45 against the Florida Panthers on April 17, 1996. On Thursday, it wasn't necessarily the quantity but the quality of chances -- the Bruins simply weren't putting enough pressure on Holtby.

Yes, the 22-year-old netminder played extremely well, but there were still plenty of rebounds that the Bruins weren't jumping on.

"Well, that's a reason we didn't win tonight," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I mean it's, when you shoot 45 shots on net and you only come out of there with a goal, obviously there is a lot of loose pucks around the net that they cleared and we didn't get to. The net-front presence has to be better, not just screening but also finding those loose pucks and they're finding them better than we are. So, there's probably not a good enough commitment in that area right now until we get that we are going to be struggling to score goals."

For the third time in this series, Julien tweaked his top two lines in a desperate attempt to find some much-needed chemistry. But once again, it wasn't the answer the Bruins needed.

The coach flip-flopped Krejci and Bergeron prior to Game 3 and he stayed with those line combination for the first two periods of Game 4. But in the third, Marchand and Lucic switched lines and it still didn't work.

"I felt great today," Krejci said. "I felt comfortable with Siggy and Marchy on my line and I think we created so many chances but we just didn't score. It's frustrating. We need to put the puck in the net and we didn't do it."

Krejci was a beast during the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. He led the league in playoff scoring with 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points in 25 games, and became the first Bruins player since Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito tied for the playoff scoring lead in 1972 with 25 points in 15 games.

If Krejci and his fellow teammates can't motivate themselves to pick up the offensive slack, it could be one-and-done this postseason. Holtby is no doubt gaining a ton of confidence between the pipes for the Capitals.

"Their goalie played well and you have to give him credit, but 45 shots and one goal, that's just not our team," Krejci said. "We have so many great guys, six guys who scored 20 or more goals in the regular season and we get one goal on 45 shots. It's frustration. We've got to be better individually."

Seguin (29), Bergeron (22), Krejci (23), Lucic (26), Marchand (28) and Kelly (20) all reached the 20-goal plateau during the regular season.

"I would give [Holtby] credit but I wouldn't talk too much about him," added Krejci. "We've got to relax and do what we did during the season. When you have a chance, just bury it and don't think about it. We're panicking too much, I guess."

The Bruins had plenty of chances but they're not creating enough havoc around the net and they're allowing the Capitals' defensemen and forwards the ability to clear out the loose rubber.

[+] EnlargeDavid Krejci
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesBruins coach Claude Julien has tried pairing David Krejci with different combinations, but so far it hasn't produced goals.

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas played extremely well and finished with 19 saves, as most of the quality chances belonged to the Capitals.

Washington took an early lead when Marcus Johansson finished off a 2-on-1 for a 1-0 advantage at 1:22 of the opening period. As the play developed in the neutral zone, Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference was clearly interfered with by the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin, but there was no call and Washington capitalized.

"It's not really the way you want to start out the game in that kind of circumstance with an odd-man rush," explained Thomas. "They made a good play and Johansson was able to bury it top corner."

Boston responded later in the period to knot the game at 1-1 when Peverley notched his second of the playoffs at 13:12. The Bruins outshot the Capitals 14-3 in the first period.

"Well, it was just a quick 2-on-1 and I kind of snuck it through the five-hole but we lost the game," Peverley said.

The pace picked up drastically in the second period and both goaltenders made highlight-reel saves.

The game remained in a stalemate until the Bergeron was called for hooking with 2:07 remaining in the period.

During that power play, Washington gained a 2-1 lead when Alexander Semin unleashed a wicked shot from the left faceoff circle that beat Thomas to the high glove side at 18:43.

"I think there's been a lot of plays like that during the game, but he called that one and there's nothing I can do about it," Bergeron said of the penalty. "I'm obviously not going to complain because it's part of the game. We've got to move on and I've got to move on."

When pressed further, Bergeron said he did not think it was a penalty.

"Obviously I'm going to say no because I'm on the bad side of it," he said. "I thought there were some plays during the game was kind of the same and it's playoff hockey, but we've got to move on and there's nothing we can do about it. He made that call and it happened fast for me, for him, so I'm obviously not going to complain about it."

Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara thought the puck may have been redirected off his stick, but Thomas said he couldn't tell.

"I was reading that shot was going to go blocker and that's obviously why I kind of moved that way," Thomas said.

After two periods, Boston was still outshooting Washington, 32-18, and Holtby continued to stand on his head.

"We've got to find a way to put it past him because he's doing a good job," said Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk. "There were a lot of loose pucks around the net that we have to find a way to get to those zones and put it home."

Now that the series is tied at 2-2, the teams will play back-to-back games this weekend. The series shifts back to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday afternoon, before the teams come back to Washington for Game 6 on Sunday.

"It's tough when you get to those back-to-back situations, but you want to do whatever you can do give yourself a good chance to win," Lucic said.

That only happens if you can score. And if that doesn't improve, there will be a lot more dejected players in the Bruins' locker room.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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