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Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask named NHL’s First Star of Week

11.14.16 at 1:50 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask was named the NHL's First Star of the Week. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Tuukka Rask was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask’s near perfect season continued on Sunday night with a 21-save shutout against the Avalanche.

It was the perfect cap to a stellar week of hockey for the 29-year-old netminder. And it came with a deserving-albeit-minor Monday morning accolade for the B’s ace to hang his signature mask on, as the National Hockey League has announced that Rask who has been named their First Star of the week ending Nov. 13.

In a week of hockey in which the Bruins jumped up to second place in the Atlantic Division, Rask went a staggering 4-0-0 with an 0.75 goals against average and .970 save percentage.

Rask started his week with a strong 32-save shutout over the Sabres at TD Garden on Monday, needed to stop just 15-of-17 for a win over the Blue Jackets on Thursday (Rask actually stopped 15-of-16, too, but Colin Miller’s own-goal counted against No. 40), and then came through a monstrous back-to-back performance against the Coyotes and Avs in which Rask stopped all but one of the 52 shots thrown his way — a power-play goal by Radim Vrbata — between the two clubs.

Rask is now 10-1-0 on the year overall, and his 10 wins are tied with the Canadiens’ Carey Price for the most in the league. Only Price (.957) and Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk (.947) have posted a better save percentage than Rask’s .945 this season, too. And only Price, at 1.40, has a better goals against average than the 1.54 Rask has posted through the first month of the season.

Rask and the Bruins are off until a Nov. 17 road head-to-head with the Minnesota Wild.

5 Things We Learned in a strong finish to brutal week of hockey for Bruins

11.13.16 at 10:00 pm ET
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David Krejci scored the game-winning goal in a 2-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday. (Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

David Krejci scored the game-winning goal in a 2-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday. (Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

Apparently, the Bruins will rest when they’re dead.

And they’re far from dead.

In the final game of a brutal five-game-in-seven-day stretch, the Black and Gold put forth perhaps their most dominating effort to date, with a season-high 45 shots on Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov, while Tuukka Rask recorded his third shutout of the year (the 33rd of his career) behind a 21-stop night in a 2-0 win at the Pepsi Center.

B’s center David Krejci opened up the game’s scoring with his second goal of the season, scored 9:30 into the first period.

It would hold as the lone goal of the opening frame, and the only goal through two periods of play for that matter, as the Bruins unloaded on the Avalanche with a 23-shot second period that would have been real ugly for Colorado had it not been for the calm and relaxed presence of Varlamov in the Avalanche net.

Similar to last night’s nailbiter against the Coyotes, the Bruins were forced to cling to life to their one-goal edge, especially when Brandon Carlo, one of the club’s go-to killers, was sentenced to the box midway through the third period, but like they did all night, the Bruins continued to frustrate an Avalanche squad that never put more than seven shots on net in any period.

The Bruins finally gained breathing room with 27.2 seconds left in the game courtesy of Dominic Moore’s fourth goal of the season, an empty-net goal, to give the Bruins the 2-0 final they left the ice with.

With the victory, the Bruins finished this marathon week with 8-of-10 points, and were just 63 seconds in Montreal away from making it a 9-of-10 week at the very least. Also: the Habs are off to a straight-up ridiculous start, so perhaps it would have been best to chalk that one up at a schedule loss, anyways. In a week that could have gone so, so bad and come with a billion excuses — some of which would have been valid with multiple back-to-backs — the Bruins found a way to not only win, but not stoop down to the level of their opponents. That’s more than we could say about these B’s clubs over the last two years, by the way.

Here are four other things we learned in the win.

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Bruins make couple of lineup changes for game vs. Avalanche

11.13.16 at 6:38 pm ET
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Joe Morrow

Joe Morrow

On the second leg of a back-to-back that began with Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Coyotes, the Bruins will take to the Pepsi Center ice against the Avalanche with a couple of minor tweaks to their lineup.

On defense, Joe Morrow will draw into his first game since Oct. 22.

The 23-year-old Morrow has yet to record a point this year, and finished with a minus-2 rating and four minutes in penalties in his last game. Morrow, a former first-round draft choice by the Penguins in 2011 (23rd overall), has skated in 50 NHL games to date, and has tallied two goals and eight points, including a career-best seven points in 33 games last season.

With Morrow in, Colin Miller will take a seat as a healthy scratch. A fixture on the Bruins’ third pairing with John-Michael Liles, Miller has one goal and two points in 15 games this season.

Up front, Sean Kuraly will draw into action for the second game of his NHL career.

The 23-year-old Kuraly finished the his NHL debut — made in a shootout win over the Lightning on Nov. 3 — with a minus-1 rating, one shot attempt, and an 0-for-2 mark on faceoffs.

Kuraly will take Tim Schaller’s spot on the B’s fourth line.

For the second night in a row, Tuukka Rask gets the call in the net.

The 29-year-old stopped 31-of-32 on Saturday, and is a ridiculous 6-0-0 with a .952 save percentage in six road games this year. Rask has also allowed one goal or fewer in six of his last nine starts, but has zero wins and a .928 save percentage in five career games against the Avalanche. The Avs are the only team that Rask has yet to beat in his NHL career.

The Avalanche counter with Semyon Varlamov.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner – David Krejci – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – Riley Nash – Austin Czarnik

Sean Kuraly – Dominic Moore – Jimmy Hayes

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Joe Morrow – John-Michael Liles


5 Things We Learned from another strong road night by Bruins’ Tuukka Rask

11.12.16 at 10:55 pm ET
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B's captain Zdeno Chara scored the first goal of the night in a 2-0 win over Arizona on Saturday. (Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins scored two goals in 1:50 in a 2-1 win over the Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Saturday night. (Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports)

Another night away from TD Garden, another win for Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.

In the club’s ninth road game overall, and Rask’s sixth start away from home, the 29-year-old Rask came through with another strong night and stayed perfect on the road, this time behind a 31-of-32 night in the B’s crease in a 2-1 win over the Coyotes on Saturday night.

Peppered early and often by a quick-skating Coyotes attack, Rask stood tall with 17 stops through the first two periods of play.

The Bruins supported Rask with two goals in a 1:50 span in the second period, the first from Zdeno Chara (though later credited to Ryan Spooner) and the second from David Pastrnak.

Both goals came on one-timers from just about right between the circles and with traffic in front of Coyotes goaltender Louis Domingue (who appeared legitimately surprised with each red light lit).

But it was in the third period where Rask continued to be the Bruins’ final — and best — line of defense.

The Coyotes finally answered the B’s tallies in the third period, though, with a power-play goal from Radim Vrbata with Jordan Martinook parked in front of No. 40 in black and gold.

But as the Coyotes pressed for the game-tying tally, Rask stood tall on two last-second chances from the Coyotes’ Oliver Ekman-Larsson with the Arizona net empty, and found some help from the defensive unit in front of him, too, as Adam McQuaid finished with a team-high four blocked shots.

With another strong night in the B’s net, Rask bumped his road save percentage on the year up to a ridiculous .951 (up from a .948), and has allowed one goal or fewer in six of his last nine starts.

Here are four other things we learned in the win.

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Bruins looking for more of same in start of another long road trip

11.12.16 at 6:34 pm ET
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The Bruins begin a three-game road trip tonight in Arizona. (Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins begin a three-game road trip tonight in Arizona. (Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports)

Not even a month into their season, the Bruins have been on the road more than Willie Nelson.

The Bruins opened their season with a three-game road trip. Then they came home for three games at TD Garden, and embarked another stretch away from home with a four-game road trip. Then it was back to Boston for two games, in Montreal for a road game, back home for one, and now, beginning with tonight’s road contest with the Arizona Coyotes, the Bruins embark on another three-game road swing.

“That’s the theme of our team this year, on the road again,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said when asked of yet another prolonged trip away from the Garden. “Since the beginning of the year we have had those week-long road trips which so far has been good.  As I mentioned earlier in the year, when you get those road trips you get a chance to bond better and get to know each other. There are some new faces and it can only get better but we look forward to being at home for awhile at some point, those home cooked meals and also having your fans behind you. 

“We’ll take this three-game road trip, make the most out of it and come back here hopefully with smiles on our faces.”

The smiles have come on the road for the Black and Gold, too, with five wins in eight games in their road whites. And with goals from members of the second, third, and fourth line — and the first of the year for B’s defenseman Torey Krug — in Thursday’s win over the Blue Jackets, the Bruins will look to carry their offensive momentum into Glendale with a more simplified approach.

“I don’t think it’s a secret. When we’re on the road, we’re willing to play that simple, hard ugly game,” B’s forward David Backes said of the club’s road success out of the gate. “At home we’ve had tendencies to get too cute and turn pucks over in the neutral zone or just inside their blue line and that’s a recipe to feed the other team’s offense and we’ve dug ourselves some big holes and haven’t been able to dig out of them when we’ve been at home. I think lately, we’ve trusted that game that we’ve built and had success on the road. I think the game in Montreal we had 43 shots on the second night of a back-to-back with travel against a really good team and I think that really instilled a belief in us that if we play that game, we’re going to tilt the scales in our favor.”

It’s no secret that the play of goaltender Tuukka Rask has made the Bruins a great road team this year, as the 29-year-old enters play with five wins and just eight goals allowed (a .948 save percentage) in five road games this season. Rask, of course, has been dominant against the Coyotes in his career, too, with seven wins and a .936 save percentage in eight games.

But without a morning skate, it’s unclear whether or not the Bruins will go with Rask or Zane McIntyre, who stopped 20-of-23 shots against in a Tuesday night loss in Montreal. The Bruins also welcomed Anton Khudobin — out with an upper-body injury sustained in an Oct. 24 practice at Warrior Ice Arena — back for this trip and on the ice at Friday’s practice.

The Coyotes give the nod in their crease to Louis Domingue. Domingue took a loss on Thursday behind a 24-of-27 night against the Winnipeg Jets, and enters play with four wins and an .895 save percentage in 10 starts. The 6-foot-3 Domingue has appeared in one game against the B’s in his NHL career, and it was a 28-minute relief effort in which he stopped all 14 shots against.

This is the first of two meetings between the Bruins and Yotes this season.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Bruins

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner – David Krejci – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – Riley Nash – Austin Czarnik

Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Jimmy Hayes

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

John-Michael Liles – Colin Miller


It’s time to start giving Don Sweeney some credit

11.12.16 at 9:00 am ET
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Don Sweeney. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Don Sweeney. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Ever since the Bruins had their “Sliding Doors” moment when they got swindled in the Tyler Seguin trade three years ago, beating up on the front office has become sport around these parts on par with giving the finger in traffic and mainlining Dunks. To be sure, the suits deserve all the grief sent their way during the tenures of both former GM Peter Chiarelli and current boss Don Sweeney.

Bloated deals, unearned no-trade clauses, and some truly awful drafting were just some of the reasons for fan resentment. But it hasn’t been all bad and Sweeney and his staff should be commended for the work they’ve done in shoring up the bottom six. Though the bottom half of the forwards are often overshadowed by the top half because scorers get the glory, the work they do is essential, as well.

Ever since the Dan Paille/Greg Campbell/Shawn Thornton line was dismantled, the Bruins have struggled to find a similarly effective and cohesive fourth unit. Thanks to a couple of shrewd summer pick-ups, however, they now have a trio that isn’t a liability when Claude Julien sends it over the boards.

Dom Moore was the latest addition to the roster when he signed in late August and has been effective pivoting the fourth line. Moore is the epitome of a role player. He’s a vital penalty killer, and his contract is $900,000 well spent, even if the Corsi Crew whines about his possession metrics. Julien is able to trust him in all situations and his experience is better to have out there late than a kid. His three goals and two assists have been a nice little bonus.

On July 1, the Bruins released a list of six signings with Anton Khudobin and John-Michael Liles, the two biggest names on it. Tim Schaller wasn’t a name most were familiar with, unless they’re Providence College fans, but he’s certainly become known since. A free agent after three years in the Buffalo organization, Sweeney signed him for a shade over the minimum ($600,000) and has more than gotten his money’s worth.

Schaller brings some good size, energy, and as we saw Thursday, some nifty hands in close as he potted a sweet roof job. He grabbed onto the role and his two goals so far have doubled his NHL career total. It’s not a stretch to think he’ll add to it further in the near future.

The undrafted Noel Acciari was signed on June 8, 2015 for just under $800K after leading the national champion Providence Friars with 15 goals; his 32 points was second on the team. He played in 19 games last year notching one assist but struggled to make an impression on a team that struggled throughout the year to make an impression.

However, this year Acciari has meshed well with Schaller and Moore to revitalize the bottom line prior to being injured on Monday (he’ll miss about four weeks). He plays much bigger than his 5-foot-10 frame and uses his body well along the boards and in the corners to dig out pucks. He has two helpers on the year and helps drive possession in the 10 minutes of ice he gets per game.

Even if this threesome doesn’t quite make you forget about that old ‘Wine Line,’ it’s still been one of Claude’s most effective so far this year. And a lot of the credit for that goes to the front office for doing their due diligence on these guys.

Under $2.3M for a quality fourth line is good cap management. We beat up on the front office guys all the time when they screw up. It’s only right that we acknowledge their work when they do things well, too.

Bruins finally finding contributions from everybody else

11.11.16 at 3:55 pm ET
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The Bruins had goals from five different skaters in Thursday's win. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins had goals from five different skaters in Thursday’s win. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

On his 46th shot of the season, Bruins defenseman Torey Krug found the back of the net for the first time this season. Matt Beleskey, in his 13th game of the season, followed Krug’s first with his first goal of the season. Austin Czarnik followed the Beleskey strike with the second goal of his NHL career. Fourth-line forward Tim Schaller struck with his second goal of the season 24 seconds after Czarnik, and in 4:01, the Bruins had goals from four different scorers in what would finish as a 5-2 win for the B’s over the Blue Jackets on Thursday.

In a night that ended with goals from five different Bruins when David Backes added the fifth goal of the night, and his first since the first game of the season — and six, actually, if you want to include defenseman Colin Miller’s own-goal on goaltender Tuukka Rask in the third period — the Black and Gold finally found contributions from somebody not on their ultra-talented first line.

Neither Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, nor David Pastrnak registered a point in the win.

In fact, they weren’t even on the ice for any of the goals.

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