By Joseph R Beare, Student Correspondent
After a quick trip to New Jersey, the Boston Bruins are back on the TD Banknorth Garden ice preparing to face the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. The B's are playing, perhaps, their best hockey of the season thanks in part to a terrific performance against the New Jersey Devils from an unfamiliar face in an unfamiliar red and white mask.
You see, upon their return from a season-high six game road swing, in which they strung together four big wins sandwiched between a pair of losses to the red-hot New York Islanders and perennial spoiler Florida Panthers, the Bruins welcomed a new teammate in goaltender Joey MacDonald.
MacDonald was picked up through the waiver wire from Detroit on February 25th and on top of the win in his Bruins debut, the 27 year-old native of Pictou, Nova Scotia had appeared in 8 contests this season for the Red Wings.
Joey spent the majority of his last four seasons in the Detroit organization, playing for their American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids after signing with the parent club as a free agent in 2001.
As a member of the Grand Rapids squad, MacDonald put together 87 wins through four seasons and in 2003, along with fellow Grand Rapids goaltender Marc Lamothe, won the Holmes Memorial Award for fewest goals against.
Seeing spot duty for the majority of the 2006-07 campaign as the third goaltender on a veteran Detroit roster, MacDonald’s first action of the season came in relief of Chris Osgood during a losing effort at San Jose. His next three performances, all starts, each came a week apart and really showcased MacDonald’s potential to see more time in the big leagues.
Joey put together a strong effort through 65 regulation minutes and eight rounds of shootout action against the feisty Edmonton Oilers only to be disappointed. In three of his next four games, McDonald would see at least 30 shots per night and never allowed more than 3 goals.
With both Dominic Hasek and Chris Osgood on the shelf with injuries, MacDonald finally got the opportunity to string together a few successive starts. He made the most of his opportunity with a 29 save effort in a bitter 1-0 loss to the upstart St. Louis Blues on February 8th, and finally hit pay dirt with his first NHL win three nights later home in Detroit.
Ironically, MacDonald’s first win would come against Calgary in the first game for former Bruins Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau as members of their new squad. MacDonald was able to hold off a late rally by the new-look Flames and get the all-important first victory under his belt.
“It felt good to get that opportunity to get that first one under my belt,” he said, smiling. “When the guys score four goals in the first period, that always helps.”
The return of Hasek and Osgood once again left MacDonald the odd man out, and he was placed on waivers to clear a roster spot and some cap room for the financially pressed Red Wings.
Recognizing an opportunity to solidify his goaltending, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli smartly snapped up the 6’0, 197-pound goaltender, who was still sporting red and white pads during his first morning skate and in his first game versus the Devils.
Stylistically, MacDonald likes to employ a variety of techniques while manning the crease. “I’m a little bit of everything,” says MacDonald. “A little butterfly. I just try to do whatever I have to do to stop the puck.
“Being with Hasek there for most of the year, just watching how hard he works, it grows on you.”
Though he isn’t yet familiar with his new surroundings, MacDonald recognizes a few faces around the Bruins locker room. Mark Mowers, who spent parts of three seasons in the Red Wings organization, was a teammate of MacDonald both in Detroit and Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League.
In addition, Joey is fairly familiar with his new bench boss. Dave Lewis spent time as both the assistant and head coach in Detroit before making his way to Boston, and his new goaltender knows what to expect.
“I’ve been in the Red Wings organization almost six years, so I got to know â€˜Louie’ there for a few years when I was in camp there,” said MacDonald of the Bruins coach. “He’s a great guy, and a real player's coach. Everybody likes him a lot, and he’s the reason why the team’s doing really well here down the stretch.”
Lewis also knows what the newest addition to the B's will bring to the table.
“Joey MacDonald is a young guy, hasn’t played a lot this year, but I saw him in the Red Wings organization quite a bit,” said Lewis. “He’s excited about being here.”
Though his first few days with Boston have been a bit of a whirlwind, MacDonald looks to get settled and comfortable as quickly as possible. He’s looking forward to the arrival of his wife and two-year old son, who will be making their way East within the next few weeks.
“This is really my first time (in Boston). But everything I’ve heard about this city is great,” said McDonald.
He’s also brainstorming ideas for a new, more appropriately colored facemask.
“I gotta work on something,” laughed MacDonald about his current helmet situation. “Hopefully in the next couple days here we’ll get something worked out.”
It’s also a treat for MacDonald, who has spent his entire NHL career thus far with Detroit, to be claimed by another storied franchise like the Bruins.
“To get a chance to come here, to another Original Six team, the tradition here is just like the Red Wings,” said MacDonald of the Bruins organization.
Joey is eager to add an extra spark to his new club as they push for a playoff spot down the stretch. “I think it’s exciting. We’re here, we’re right in the thick of things. We’ve got a lot of hockey left.”
The addition of MacDonald is a positive for both parties.
MacDonald, who was part of a three-goalie system in Detroit, is excited for the opportunity to see more regular playing time in the National Hockey League. He now has a clearly defined roll as an NHL backup, rather than as a floating third party thrown into action at the drop of a hat.
“When I heard that I was coming here, I was really excited. Just to get the chance to be the number 2 guy here, to work hard every day. When I get the opportunity, I’ll take full advantage of it."
That first opportunity came on Sunday night when he spelled Tim Thomas
for the first time.
"To get that first win, in that first game as a Boston Bruin, it's something that I will always remember," said MacDonald. "And it came against a pretty good hockey club.
"You look down the other end and you see a goaltender like Marty Brodeur...whenever you can pick up a win against a guy like that, it's a special day."
With a solid work ethic, positive attitude and a desire to prove his worth, MacDonald should give the Bruins a boost at arguably the most important position in hockey.
---Joe Beare is a student at Northeastern University and works at the Sports Museum here at the TD Banknorth Garden.