Jeff Hackett, sidelined since March 15 with a broken right index finger, might replace Steve Shields on Sunday after the Devils took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series with a 4-2 win Friday night.
“There is a good chance I might play,” Hackett, the first-string goalie when he’s healthy, said Saturday.
Coach Mike O’Connell wouldn’t reveal his plans for his first home playoff game, but switching goalies in the middle of the series may not be as risky as it seems.
“We’ve played different goalies all year,” Bruins wing Mike Knuble said. “Carolina changed goalies in the playoffs last year and it worked for them.”
The Hurricanes beat the Devils in the opening round last year and made it to the Stanley Cup finals. But it’s unlikely the Bruins will even get out of the first round. Boston is 0-30 in series in which it lost the first two games.
Shields played well in the opening 2-1 loss but stopped only 26 of 30 shots in Game 2. But he allowed 12 goals in the last six regular-season games and his goals-against average of 2.76 in the regular season was better than Hackett’s 3.21.
“I think going into Boston we can expect even more physical play,” said Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who had a 2.02 GAA this season. “It’s going to be interesting to see how we respond. We’ve been good all year on the road.”
Physical play got Boston in trouble Friday when defenseman Nick Boynton was called for slashing at the end of the second period. The penalty wasn’t called until after the horn sounded, and Jamie Langenbrunner scored 15 seconds into the third period, giving New Jersey a 3-2 lead.
“It was an iffy call,” Boynton said.
The Bruins still seemed troubled by it after practice Saturday.
The referees “have picked some funny times to pick guys out of the pileups,” Knuble said. “I heard (Boynton) didn’t even hit (John Madden).”
The Devils are one of the NHL’s best defensive teams and now their weak power play is producing. They had two power-play goals Friday after finishing last in the league with the extra man.
“I guess there had to be some doubts. You don’t end up dead last for no reason,” said Langenbrunner, who has three goals and two assists in the series. “For us, it’s just getting that confidence. I think (Friday) night was a big step.”
For the Bruins, scoring against Brodeur even with a man advantage is tough. They were 1-for-5 on power plays Friday night when he stopped 24 of 26 shots.
“He’s one of the greatest goalies in the game,” Boston’s Joe Thornton said. “We need to put more bodies in front of him and screen him more on the shots.”
They also need to stop Langenbrunner, who had both New Jersey goals in the opener.
“There’s definitely an edge to this series,” Langenbrunner said. “I’m sure Sunday afternoon it will be even more so. They’re going to be very desperate and we have to match that.”
O’Connell thought his team has played well.
“There are a lot of good signs. We’ve got to stay with what we’re doing and catch a break and get some calls to go our way,” he said.
And get better goaltending.
Hackett went from Montreal to San Jose to Boston in a three-team trade on Jan. 23. He didn’t play in the playoffs the last five years, although he was with the Canadiens last year when they eliminated the Bruins in the first round.
Now he may have to keep the Bruins from another early exit.
“I wouldn’t put myself in a situation if I didn’t feel confident I could go out and do most of the things I need to do,” Hackett said. “This is just pressure to compete, pressure to have fun and pressure to see how good we can be as a group.”
They may not have many more chances.