As well as Braden Holtby has played through five periods so far in this series, I have to say that the Bruins have made it fairly easy for him to gain confidence, and to obtain a higher comfort level as a rookie in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

When a goaltender makes the jump from the AHL to the NHL, especially so suddenly, and especially with the transition from the regular season to post-season, routine shots STILL stay routine. A goalie of Holtby's caliber, one playing in the biggest game of his life, will stop routine shots all day long.

In fact, goalies (especially rookies) crave routine shouts, because they allow for mechanics to become well-oiled, it eliminates nerves, it gets blood flowing, it allows for movement to smooth out and improve.

I have noticed that many of the shots on Holtby in the first two periods today have been routine. He has been able to easily front, square up to, and control these shots with ease. Credit goes to Washington's play in front for this. But with all of these routine shots, ones that Holtby is seeing very cleanly, the Bruins are making it harder on themselves to score, because Holtby is clearly getting stronger and more comfortable as the game rolls along.

As such, if the Bruins want to get him out of this comfort zone in the third period, they have to make a conscientious effort to put shots on goal from terrible angles, and in surprising fashion.

Holtby is too engaged, too athletic, too focused, and his hands are too active for the Bruins to beat him with a clean shot from anywhere beyond the hash marks. Either the Bruins haven't done a good enough job pre-scouting him to recognize just how good he is, or they are giving him far too much respect, and Bruins shooters are over-thinking things.

KISS, baby. Just fire pucks to the far-side pad and force him to kick, rotate, recover and make another stop. Force him into situations that will cause him to potentially lose an angle, or over-amplify a push or a kick.

But most importantly, situations that will cause Holtby to struggle will stem from severe-angled shots that force rebounds into the slot, or to the far side.

Also, more traffic must be applied to the front of his crease, and the Bruins must try to eliminate his vision. They have to get Holtby moving, they have to force him to make tough decisions with those active hands, they have to try and get him to over-commit with the stick hand, or to try and poke check.

As the second period stretched on, Holtby was generating more and more confidence, making him appear even more controlled and consistent with his movements. Part of this is obviously due to the fact he's a phenomenal prospect, but at the same time, he's still a rookie, and he's still going to struggle with rebound control on surprising shots from severe angles.

But not if the Bruins don't test him in that area.

I would love to see a Bruins player bring the puck in the zone, carry it instead of just firing a slapshot from the top or just outside the circles, swing wide, and then fire an unsuspecting wrist shot from a bad angle. This will force him to have to make second or third opportunity saves, and that's how you can get him out of a comfort zone, or catch him being too aggressive, or trying to do too much.

Maybe we'll see that in the third period. Otherwise, Holtby is going to cruise, and the Bruins are only going to make things tougher on themselves heading into Game 3.

Reply · Report Post