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Billington expert at deflecting controversy (12/18/95)



Billington expert at deflecting controversy: He's stayed steady amid recent chaos
Nancy L. Marrapese, Globe Staff


Craig Billington said he has a perfect plan to avoid hearing all the speculation and controversy surrounding the Bruins' goalie situation.

"When I leave home, I wear earplugs and a blindfold," said Billington with a sly smile. "I have this guy who drives me to the rink and escorts me to the dressing room. Then, after the game, I put the earplugs back in and the blindfold on and he drives me home."

He's kidding, of course, but his point is well taken. This hasn't been a great season to be a Boston goaltender; every day they've either been a sitting duck, ducking verbal jabs or considered a lame duck.

President/general manager Harry Sinden praised Billington's play in Saturday's 6-3 victory over the Calgary Flames but in the next breath was up front in saying he still is looking for a goaltender.

After so many trees have died in the debate over whether Curtis Joseph will end up here, will he? Will the Bruins give current hot Providence goalie Rob Tallas a shot? Will the brass stay with Billington and Blaine Lacher? There have been more plot twists and turns in this situation than a soap opera.

While all that swirls about him, the 29-year-old Billington sits in the calmest spot -- the eye of the hurricane. In his last four starts, he has a misleading 1-3-0 record, a 3.01 goals-against average and an .882 save percentage. He has played better than the numbers indicate.

"As a team, you look at three goals-against as a great goal and a little under that would be wonderful," said Billington. "Any time you get your goals-against in that vicinity, you should be looking at getting something out of the game, maybe it's a point or maybe it's a win. In the past few games, we've been around that mark. Unfortunately [in two road games against Tampa Bay and Florida], we didn't get anything out of that and in New York [against the Rangers] we didn't get anything out of that. It's nice to get some goals here. We need to get some on the road and if we do that, we'll see even more wins."

As hellish and tense as the uncertainty has been while the Bruins have struggled to find their way this season, Billington figures he already has been to hell once, when he played in Ottawa, so this isn't so bad in comparison. He has been in the league since the 1985-86 season and has seen it all.

"I've been through a lot in my career," he said. "I don't know if you can even follow its path unless you're my mom or dad. So, I think you have to take a certain attitude and view at it in order to survive it. I can only fall back on my past experience and the learning I've taken from that and apply them from now. The bottom line is believing in yourself."

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