After jumping out ahead of the pack in the Eastern Conference early on in the season, the Bruins find themselves in their most trying times with 18 games left on their schedule. They’ve lost three of their last four in regulation, and Claude Julien  has tried different tactics in recent days to wake a team that’s been bad for the first time.
Part of that included giving back-to-back starts to Anton Khudobin for the first time this season when he put the backup between the pipes Thursday in Ottawa and Saturday in Toronto. That followed a 3-1 loss to the Jets Tuesday in which Winnipeg marched back from a 1-0 deficit in the third period with three unanswered goals (one of which was an empty-netter), resulting in Julien saying following the game that the B’s needed “timely saves” and didn’t get them from Tuukka Rask .
Rask made his return to the net in the third period of Saturday’s loss to the Maple Leafs , but it’s been a strange week for him. He got called out by his coach for the first time this season and was then given his longest stretch of time on the bench all year.
The 26-year-old, who is in the final year of his contract and will be a restricted free agent following its expiration, bit his tongue when asked about Julien’s comments.
“We do need timely saves,” Rask agreed. “It’s no secret I don’t think, right?”
As for Khudobin getting back-to-back starts, Rask doesn’t feel threatened or shaken by Julien’s decision.
“I’d like to play every game, obviously, but I didn’t take it too personally,” he said. “I’ve got to play good games, I realize that. Some tough losses there, I let in two goals in Pittsburgh and Winnipeg and we lose the games, but I wasn’t awful. It shouldn’t break my confidence.”
Julien insists that he wasn’t trying to send any sort of message to Rask by sitting him for consecutive games. He was correct in pointing out that Khudobin’s been more than serviceable thus far and added that he simply wanted to reward Khudobin for breaking Boston’s two-game losing streak Thursday.
“Tuukka is Tuukka. He’s hard on himself,” Julien said. “My thinking behind that was that Khudobin’s played well for us this year, and after playing that game in Ottawa where he was really good, he deserved a second start. I anticipated that this week coming up, Tuukka would have lots of opportunities to play. It was more based on what I saw coming up and on [Khudobin’s] play. Unfortunately it didn’t pan out [well] but Tuukka went in there and I thought he was solid in the jobs that he got in the third period.”
In fact, Rask wasn’t very hard on himself, but more defensive on Sunday. After saying that he agreed with Julien’s “timely saves” comment, Rask was asked how he’d assess his level of play of late. He responded by saying that he was between the pipes as the Jets came back, but that he didn’t single-handedly blow the game.
Said Rask: “I’m not blaming myself for those goals, but we were still up 1-0 and it would be nice to at least get a point out of that, but I don’t think I’ve been awful, if that’s what you’re saying.”
Rask wouldn’t be getting all of this attention were it not for Julien’s comments Tuesday. He’s been one of the league’s top goaltenders this season (Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports even wrote on Tuesday that Rask should be the favorite to win the Vezina ) and his team hasn’t scored in front of him. Still, the last week has served as a bit of a speed bump in Rask’s first full season as a starter and it will be interesting to see how he comes out of it.