A Tough Homecoming

It was a tough homecoming for Rick DiPietro on Thursday night, as his Islanders ended up on the wrong end of a 4-1 score as the Bruins bounced back from a devastating loss in Montreal earlier in the week.

The savvy puck-handling DiPietro was brought to attention during a pregame interview with Bruins coach Claude Julien. “I don’t this it’s a big secret that if you keep giving DiPietro the puck he’s going to serve it on your defenseman” Julien explained, “It can also be very dangerous if you want to give him the puck and make a bad line change.”

From the moment the puck dropped the Winthrop, Massachusetts native was endlessly tested. The able-bodied DiPietro found himself facing his first few shots through the bodies of buzzing Bruin’s forwards, clearly exerting himself in his attempts to keep the puck out of the net. After a sequence of panicked saves through traffic, Dennis Wideman showed his patience with the puck as the faked a shot and eluded an Islanders player, then took a shot that beat DiPietro short side just below his glove. This may be seen as a routine save that DiPietro should have set up on, but the chaotic disposition in his defensive end may have led to the breakdown.

It took less than a minute after the first goal for a Boston two-on-one to develop. Zdeno Chara’s pass to Milan Lucic broke up the ice, and the 19-year-old rookie opted for a shot, beating a half-committed DiPietro. As the music blasted and the TD Banknorth Garden roared with approval, DiPietro was visibly upset.

The second stanza wasn’t any better than the first for DiPietro, as a Marc Savard slap shot a foot out from the goal line made its way through the goaltender’s legs as he crouched down. With another tough goal to stomach, it was 3-0 Bruins, and they weren’t done taking out their frustrations on the Islanders.

Usually bold with his ability the play the puck, DiPietro was unable to make any substantial plays with his long-range passes, and even seemed off his game when he slipped up behind the net, causing a chaotic scurry in front. This part of DiPietro’s game may have been hindered by the Bruins game plan against it.

“It’s about making sure if you’re going to dump the puck your going to try and keep it away from him” said Julien on how they were approaching the dangerous DiPietro.

With just over three minutes left in the second, the traffic continued in front of DiPietro’s crease, as Phil Kessel sent a wrist shot through the frame of Milan Lucic, eluding the helpless Islander and hitting the back of the net.

A good goalie is usually judged not just by the saves he makes, but the saves that he shouldn’t be making. A goaltender looks to stop all the shots that are considered routine, and then a few that he shouldn’t stop in order to give his team a chance of winning.

It seemed that DiPietro had it backwards as he made many great saves that showed his athletic style of goaltending, but let in two backbreaking goals on eminently stoppable shots.

Milan Lucic was all alone on his two on one and a bad angle by DiPietro gave him room to shoot. Savard’s goal from just above the goal line snuck underneath DiPietro’s legs as he slouched over to contain the shot. These two goals, if stopped, could have cut the Bruins lead to only 2-1 as the Isles scored almost midway through the third.

Even if he was given a second more to set up on Dennis Wideman’s slap shot that gave the Bruins the opening goal, the game still might have been scoreless until the screened shot by Phil Kessel.

DiPietro’s next stop is Atlanta for the NHL All-Star game where he hopes to rebound from the Isles’ last game before the break. Posting a 3-4-4 record in his last eleven games, DiPietro surely needs to rest and refocus in order to pull his team over the cusp of the playoff line in the Eastern conference.

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