|Tuukka Rask on defensive corrections: ‘It’s not rocket science at this point’||06.20.13 at 9:31 pm ET|
Sometimes it just takes simplifying things to their most basic form.
That’s the way Tuukka Rask feels about the defense in front of him in Game 4 and what he expects for Game 5 Saturday in Chicago.
“We talked about it and moved on,” Rask said. “New game Saturday.”
Was Wednesday’s six-goal implosion on defense the result of Chicago’s skill or Boston’s breakdowns?
“I think it was both,” Rask said. “I think they played a good game. They had, as I said yesterday, legs right off the bat. We didn’t, and we had some mental mistakes. The layers weren’t there and we kind of got caught standing still a lot of times. So, I think it was both.”
Can Boston’s defensive issues from Game 4 be resolved by Saturday?
“Yeah. I think it’s not rocket science at this point,” Rask said. “I think they played good, as I said. We didn’t play our game for the most part. We were standing still and not doing the things we were supposed to do in order to have a chance to win hockey games. We have to adapt that.”
“I mean, a lot of occasions, these finals especially, the momentum shifts and both teams have their moments. We just try to recognize what the situation is and not get too much carried away about the losses or wins and just try to stay even-keel and try to play our game as good as we can and hope that the result will be good.”
There’s little doubt in Rask’s mind that the Bruins will find their game again.
“I don’t think it should be an issue,” Rask said. “I don’t think, for us, it matters whether we are at home or away we always play good games at either places, but I feel confident we can respond.
“That’s something we definitely can do. We can’t just rely on the fact that we have done it in the past. We have to go out there and make it happen again. We feel confident that we have it in us, but we have to be better.”
When you give up six goals in a Stanley Cup finals game, you’re not going to feel real good about your performance. But Tuukka Rask knows enough that when the Bruins allow six goals, it’s more of a defensive breakdown than anything else.
Rask allowed a playoff-high six goals Wednesday night, including the overtime game-winner by Brent Seabrook 10 minutes into the extra period as the Bruins lost Game 4, 6-5, and watched as the Blackhawks won back home ice advantage in the series.
“It’s not fun, but we battled back many times, didn’t make it easy on ourselves,” Rask said. “At the end of the day, it’s a one-goal game. They get it. We just made it too tough on ourselves. Not our best night.”
Rask faced several odd-man rushes that led to scoring chances or loose rebounds, like the one that Patrick Kane finished in the second period on a backhander that left Rask sprawling across his crease, trying to stop the shot in vain.
“The got a lot of shots through and a lot of second opportunities,” Rask said. “You know, you let six goals as a goalie, you can’t be satisfied, but as a team I thought it wasn’t our best defensive game.”
As for the Seabrook winner from the right point, Rask was fighting through traffic provided by Jonathan Toews in front. By the time he saw the puck, it was ticketed far side and Rask had no chance of stopping it.
“I saw it at the last second,” Rask said. “There was some traffic in front, just couldn’t make a stretch.”
It wasn’t just the fact the Bruins were outshot 47-33. The Blackhawks made good on their promise to make it harder on Rask, who was on pace to set a new Bruins postseason record for fewest goals against and save percentage.
“They just got shots through,” Rask said. “I wasn’t able to make saves or we weren’t able to block shots. They got those rebounds, that makes the difference.”
The captain of the Chicago Blackhawks knew what was at stake Wednesday night in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Bruins. Jonathan Toews also knew that coming in, he had no points in the series so far.
When he scored 6:33 into the second period, the Blackhawks had a 2-1 lead and he was finally off the schneid. This was significant because just hours earlier he said he — as captain — needed to be more accountable. He was able to laugh about the irony and the foreshadowing of his comments when teammate Brent Seabrook ended the game at 9:51 of overtime, giving Chicago a 6-5 win and evening the series, 2-2.
“Absolutely, I think it makes a world of difference for you when you finally see one go in,” Toews said. “I’ve got to say this, the last couple days Seabrook has been coming up to me, asking me what I’m thinking about. You know, I have to give him the right answer. I’m thinking about scoring a goal (smiling).
“He’s been trying to help me out, make me think a little bit better, have those positive thoughts. You work hard, eventually you’re going to find a way. Tonight was one of those games, we treated it as a Game 7. We weren’t going to be denied.”
Toews said he felt the same about his offense.
“It’s time to put all those other games behind us, the games where we struggled to score, forget about it, just find a way to do what you do. It was fun to see the puck go in as often as it did tonight.”
Toews was so relieved he forgot what game of the series came next.
“We know we can be better defensively. But we’ll use that confidence and try our best to pounce on them in Game 6 here — Game 5, sorry. Getting ahead of myself (laughter).
As for Seabrook, this was the second huge overtime game-winning goal, as he ended the Western semis series against Detroit with a Game 7 OT goal.
“I mean, we just want to win games. At this point of the season, it’s down to best-of-three. We want to win games, find a way to win ’em any way we can. Obviously, we like when we’re playing with speed, trying to play a puck-possession game, get down low, create chances. That’s when we’re playing at our best.
“Both these guys have been saying we got to be better defensively, as well. We’ve got to be prepared to win a game 1-0 or 2-1. That’s what it’s got to come down to. Boston is a great team. They play a solid style of play. We’re going to have to shore up our D zone and be better at that.”
|Brad Marchand says Bruins have finally learned their lesson: ‘We’re doing a lot more things right’||06.18.13 at 5:49 pm ET|
Ask the players, and that is high praise indeed. The players know how much they played with fire late in the regular season and how much that spilled over into the first round. They were almost burned against Toronto.
The Bruins can sense the difference in consistency. That is to say, it’s there every night, compared to the beginning of the playoffs.
“Yeah, especially against Toronto,” Brad Marchand said, referring to the “Jekyll and Hyde” phase the team was going through. “Guys are way more focused and determined to do the little things right. I think after going through what we went through against Toronto, it kind of opened guys eyes to realize we need to all bear down and be better if we’re going to have shot at winning. I think after that series we all bared down and we’re doing a lot more things right.”
Obviously, for the Bruins to reach their goal, they need to do even more of those things in the next week and manage two more wins, something Marchand is fully convinced he and his teammates are capable of accomplishing.
“I think there’s still areas where we can improve, but for the most part we played a pretty good game,” Marchand said. “We’re doing some things right, there’s still lapses in our game where we need to get a little bit better. Hopefully we can clean that up going down the stretch.”
No more Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from these Bruins, at least not in the eyes of their coach.
After the Bruins dominated Game 3 in nearly every aspect, including a 40-16 edge on faceoffs, Claude Julien heaped praise on the effort level of his team after the 2-0 win that leaves them two victories shy of their second Stanley Cup in three years and seventh in franchise history.
“I think it’s the energy in the game, the effort,” Julien said. “You see our guys, like I said, they’re backchecking, having layers, so when somebody makes a mistake, you have somebody covering up.”
Even several stitches above the eye of Zdeno Chara wasn’t going to keep the commitment level down for the Bruins. Chara said he “lost an edge” during pregame skate Monday night.
“All he did is he slipped, had a little gash over his eye,” Julien said. “I haven’t even seen it. Just by slipping, he got hit just above the eye. Nothing serious.”
The Bruins blocked another 17 shots Monday — to seven for Chicago. Dennis Seidenberg had six by himself.
“We’re blocking a lot of shots,” Julien continued. “The commitment is totally there. Throughout a whole season, it’s not easy to have that full commitment. But I think when you get to this stage, players start feeling it. They go above and beyond. That’s what you’re seeing from our team right now.”
Julien famously lashed out at his team in the first-round series with Toronto, calling the B’s a “Jekyll and Hyde” team when they blew a 3-1 series lead only to grab a dramatic Game 7 win to extend their playoff season.
But that certainly hasn’t been the case since. After the Game 6 loss to the Leafs, the Bruins are 11-2 in these playoffs. And the penalty kill — another area of effort and execution — is a big reason why. With five more kills on Monday, the Bruins have killed off 27 straight penalties.
“It’s our backcheck,” Julien explained. “Our guys are understanding one thing: This is a team, when it attacks, it attacks with four, never three. They’ve got such great skaters back there on the fence that if we don’t do what we’re doing right now, we don’t stand a chance. Our guys, like I’ve said, they’ve committed to that. They realize how important it is to come back. We’re trying to support each other that way and trying to keep it as tight as possible.”
Twice in the third period of Game 3 on Monday, the Blackhawks got to send some of the game’s most talented scorers out on the power play in a game the Bruins led by just two goals. And twice in that period – just like the three previous times in the first two periods – they came up empty-handed.
In five power-play opportunities on Monday, the Hawks managed just four shots and gave up at least that many shorthanded chances to the Bruins. They’ve been woeful on the power play this postseason, converting just 11.3 percent of the time, and running into a strong Bruins penalty kill certainly hasn’t helped them settle in with the man advantage.
“They box you out,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of the Bruins. “They’ve got big bodies. They blocked shots. I think we had some chances to get some pucks through the net. We didn’t. Our entries weren’t great. That’s something you want to look at.”
Entering the zone was indeed a problem for Chicago, although they also struggled at times to hold the puck in at the blue line once they had gained the zone. Several times on their first two power plays of the game, a defenseman lost the puck at the point (granted, the subpar condition of the ice might have had something to do with that) and had to waste valuable seconds chasing it down.
Slumping on the power play is one thing, but giving up three prime shorthanded chances within two minutes is another problem entirely. With Shawn Thornton in the box late in the first period, the Bruins took advantage of the Hawks’ sloppy puck control, requiring Corey Crawford to bail his teammates out again and again.
First, Rich Peverley chased down a puck in Chicago’s defensive zone and came within inches of stuffing it past Crawford on a second-chance attempt. Then Daniel Paille forced Crawford to come out near the right face-off dot to knock a loose puck away from him, in the absence of any Chicago defenders.
Finally, Brad Marchand broke free of the Chicago defense, bolted through center ice and was only foiled at the last second when the puck slid off his stick too early in front of the net (possibly another product of the bad ice).
As hard as the crew inside TD Garden tried Monday, the ice was hardly suitable for two of the best hockey teams in the world to do battle. But battle they did.
There were bouncing pucks all night. There were players like Brad Marchand losing control on what appeared to be a certain shorthanded breakaway. There were pucks jumping over defensemen’s sticks as they tried to keep the puck in the offensive zone.
In short, this is what happens when you play on a humid 80-degree day in mid-June in Boston. The Garden is typically an ice-box in the winter because there is no in-house dehumidifier in the building. As they did in 2011, TD Garden tried to fix the humidity issue by bringing in high-tech dehumidifiers beginning with the Penguins series. On Monday, they didn’t do much good as far as the ice was concerned.
Asked if he thought the conditions were “crappy,” Dennis Seidenberg tried to be as kind as possible but couldn’t help but state the obvious.
“It is pretty bad,” Seidenberg said. “When you try to shoot, try to swing your blade on the ice, it feels like it’s sandpaper. It’s really rough. When you try to pass, the puck bounces. That’s why you have to keep the game simple, like I said. If there’s a play to be made, you have to make sure it’s an easy one. If not, you rather choose to go over the wall and out.
“Again, there was breakdowns today, but we seemed to cover them up a little bit better than the other side.”
It’s similar to when infielders complain about the dirt at Fenway Park, a common occurrence in the 1960s and 70s and, to a lesser degree, today.
Then there’s the perspective of the goalie. Tuukka Rask has already had one episode on the sketchy ice of Madison Square Garden – leading to the “butt stumble” in Game 4 of the Eastern semis that the Rangers won in overtime. Monday, Rask avoided an embarrassing repeat, no thanks to the ice conditions.
“The ice was pretty good in the start of the periods,” Rask said. “Then pretty quickly it got really chippy. It’s tough to get the read off of shots when it’s really a mess out there with the ice. You just got to be extra careful with the crazy bounces and stuff. You don’t want to make any stupid mistakes playing the puck either. You just got to be extra careful.”