Billington calm in
eye of storm: Boston Herald (1/14/96)
Sunday, January 14, 1996
Calm in the eye of the storm
Craig Billington was merely keeping the crease warm. He played
in goal yesterday knowing it would probably be his last as a starter.
He played knowing Bill Ranford was on his way from Edmonton, knowing
that as soon as Ranford's plane touched down at Logan last night,
he would go back to keeping the bench warm.
He knew his fate was sealed. It didn't matter if he played like
Ken Dryden, or Ken Burns, against the New Jersey Devils yesterday
afternoon. It didn't matter if he pitched a shutout or served
up a stinker in front of the sellout crowd at the Fleet.
Say this about Billington. He may have lost his job, but he certainly
didn't lose any of his legion of admirers. While the caliber of
his goaltending has at times come into question, there should
be no doubt about his character.
Billington opted for the high road. He pulled out a Dryden. He
played superbly yesterday, making 34 saves in the B's 3-2 victory
over the defending Stanley Cup champions. In fact, it may have
been the best game he's played all year, and perhaps, his best
as a Bruin.
He did what everyone is expecting Ranford to do - make all the
routine stops, and throw in a few of the spectacular variety along
Was the trade at all on his mind yesterday?
"There was a trade?" Billington responded facetiously.
A voice from the crowd of reporters around him piped in: "Yeah,
Wayne Gretzky to St. Louis."
As of the moment, the Gretzky deal is only a rumor. The Ranford
to Boston, deal, however, was made a reality on Thursday.
"The trade is part of hockey," Billington finally went
on. "My job is to play, stop pucks. Until I'm the general
manager, I won't comment on trades."
Was Billington then, making a statement to his bosses with his
play? Was this his way of saying, "Hey, don't forget about
me. I'm not so bad. I can still play this game."
"I basically don't look for any individual game to make any
statement," he replied. "Every day I try to make a statement
at practice, when I play, when I don't play. I don't think it's
a one-game or one-day thing. It's what you bring to the rink every
day, and that's what I try to do, and hopefully it doesn't go
Well, plenty of people noticed yesterday. It was also plenty noticeable
after the game that Billington was not a happy man. He had just
turned in a tremendousperformance, helped win an important game,
and yet, there was no sense of joy in him. He still firmly believes
the in-house goaltenders could have done the job without the front
office having to make a move.
Many of us disagree, but Billington shouldn't be faulted for having
that opinion. He has performed admirably of late, it just wasn't
good enough. Essentially, he was holding the top spot until something
better came along. Now, that something better is here. Ranford
is the man. Billington, meanwhile, is the back-up.
"Look, I've seen so many strange things happen in my day,"
Billington said, "I don't worry about the stuff that goes
on. I just go play."
And play, he did.
In the first two periods, he kept the Bruins in the game. The
Devils clearly dominated in the early going. Through no fault
of his, New Jersey sprung to a 2-0 lead. It could have gone to
three numerous times, but Billington kept coming up with the big
saves. None were bigger than his second-period stop on Stephane
Richer, who was making a short-handed bid. With six minutes left
to play, Richer broke in alone, streaking in from the left side.
He cut right, and attempted to stick the puck back between Billington's
pads. The B's netminder, however, calmly stifled the bid with
a left pad save.
Billington, who is now 7-2-2 in his last 11 games, was asked if
it was hard to maintain his focus in light of the recent transaction?
"Don't they say that in the eye of the hurricane is the calmest
spot?" he answered.
Well, Billington was indeed the picture of calm, both in goal,
as well as the interview room.
"I've learned one thing," he said, "and that is
the belief in yourself overrides anything all. And that's not
He may just be the back-up, he may not be good enough to be a
full-time starter, but believe this much. The Bruins would be
lucky to have a roomful of Craig Billingtons.
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