|Bruins leave Tuukka Rask no room for error||10.22.15 at 1:44 am ET|
Tuukka Rask has not been a cure-all for the Bruins’ issues. That doesn’t mean he’s been a primary source of those issues.
In five games played this season, Rask has allowed a jarring 22 goals. While goals against is a team statistic, having a goalie of Rask’s caliber is typically a fail-safe against such results.
These are not typical circumstances, however, so judging Rask based on them isn’t entirely fair, even if he is making a whole lot of money.
The Bruins have lost four games this season. In three of them, the B’s were unequivocally worse in front of Rask than he was behind them. Last week’s loss to Tampa qualified as a stinker on Rask’s behalf, but the other performances have seen him allow goals not usually seen around these parts. Does Rask deserve criticism for not being at his best? Sure, but no five-game sample can possibly be seen as an indication that one of the best goalies in the league (remember: Rask is the leader among active goalies in career save percentage, ahead of Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price and everyone else) is some flawed player who no one noticed because he was on a good team.
Granted, what’s alarming with Rask is that, for the first time in a long time, he doesn’t pass the eye test. The numbers are ugly enough, but so too are the goals. Commonly this season, such lowlights have been the result of a Rask miscue exacerbated by Boston’s defensive play.
|5 things we learned: Tuukka Rask struggles as Bruins miss opportunity to steal first win||10.12.15 at 3:38 pm ET|
Even with Zdeno Chara back, the Bruins are not strong on defense. They will need Tuukka Rask to be himself in order to be a good team. In Boston’s first real good chance to steal a win, he wasn’t himself.
With the Bruins capitalizing on a poor start from the Lightning Monday at TD Garden, Boston’s chances of upsetting last season’s Eastern Conference champions were hurt by a pair of goals the former Vezina winner routinely stopped in games and seasons prior. The end result was a 6-3 loss and an 0-3-0 start for the first time since the 1999-00 season.
The biggest damage was done in the opening minutes of the third with Tampa clinging to a one-goal lead. Patrice Bergeron got a stick on a shot from Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin off the rush. The result was a sputtering puck that Rask was in position to stop but saw lightly kick off the inside of his right skate and through his legs.
That led to a Bronx cheer from the Garden crowd on his next save, as Rask had also given up a softy on a slow-moving puck in front during a first-period Tampa power play.
Fortunately for the B’s, they aren’t yet as bad as that 1999-00 team, as that group didn’t pick up a win until its 10th game of the season.
Here are four more things we learned Monday:
TOP UNIT IS TOPS; PASTRNAK FALTERS ON SECOND UNIT
Say what you will about Claude Julien‘s personnel choices for the second power play unit (see below), but the top group of David Krejci and Torey Krug on the point with Ryan Spooner on the half wall, Patrice Bergeron in the slot and Loui Eriksson in front was terrific Monday.
Krejci gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead 18 seconds into Boston’s first power play, while Eriksson picked up his first of the season 23 seconds into a Vladislav Namestnikov holding penalty. Eriksson added his second of the day during a second-period power play, using the shaft of his stick to redirect a shot from Krejci.
With Brad Marchand out with a concussion, David Pastrnak figured to see time on Boston’s second power play unit. He didn’t do much with his chance Monday, as he made a bad pass that was easily intercepted by Brian Boyle at the end of a second-period power play for Boston. Boyle kicked the puck to himself, fended off the slender Pastrnak with ease and scored a breakaway goal to make it 3-2 in Tampa’s favor.
BERGERON PENALTIES COSTLY
After setting career highs in penalty minutes in each of the last two seasons, Patrice Bergeron is now up to six penalty minutes through three games this season. His pair of penalties cost the Bruins more than another player’s might have.
Given that Brad Marchand is out with a concussion, the B’s aren’t exactly in a position to lose another one of their aces on the penalty kill. Tampa got power play goals off of each of Bergeron’s penalties Monday, a goaltender interference infraction in the first period and a hooking call in the second.
JULIEN MAKES RIGHT CALL WITH KELLY
By putting Brett Connolly on Patrice Bergeron‘s line, Claude Julien broke up a third line that was borderline terrible defensively. To fix it, he moved Jimmy Hayes to the right of Ryan Spooner and promoted Chris Kelly to play left wing/babysitter has he did successfully in previous years for Carl Soderberg.
The move paid immediate dividends for the Bruins. Kelly stole a puck in the neutral zone in the line’s first shift of the game, leading to a lengthy offensive zone stay in which the snakebitten Spooner nearly scored. Kelly was then hooked by Matthew Carle to give Boston a power play on which Krejci scored the game’s opening goal. Spooner would draw another penalty midway through the period to set up Eriksson’s first goal of the day.
KREJCI GETS THE POINTS
New linemates haven’t gotten in the way of David Krejci getting off to a strong start. With a goal and two assists Monday, Krejci now has five points (two goals, three assists) in three games this season. It’s the first time since 2010-11 that Krejci has had points in the first three games of a campaign.
|Tuukka Rask: Bruins ‘had a chance to score way more goals’ in season-opening loss||10.09.15 at 12:48 am ET|
Maybe it’s appropriate that the best comments on the Bruins’ lack of offensive finish in a 6-2 season-opening loss Thursday night came from their goalie.
On a night when the Bruins outchanced the visiting Winnipeg Jets badly in the first period, Tuukka Rask had to make several saves close in to preserve a 1-0 lead heading into the first period. There were chances from Ryan Spooner, Brett Connolly and Brad Marchand, all in close and around Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec minutes after the Bruins were staked to a lead on a pretty goal from David Krejci.
“I mean I think most importantly, we want to take that offense,” Tuukka Rask said of what he saw from his vantage point 180 feet away. “We created a ton of chances, and had a chance to score way more goals than we did, so I think that’s the most important thing to take from this game.”
As the Bruins continued to misfire in close in the opening five minutes of the second period, there was the overwhelming sense that the visitors were dictating the pace, using Boston’s desperation against them. That was reinforced once the Jets tied the game and took the lead minutes later in the second.
“When we start cheating offensively a little bit, then one mistake leads to another very quickly, and we did that today a couple times,” Rask said. “It’s a process in the making, and we just have to correct some things out, but it’ll be good.”
Patrice Bergeron was another player who had his chances from close range but could not finish to beat Pavelec.
“It definitely would have been nice to come out of that [first] period with more than one goal,” Bergeron said. “That definitely wouldn’t have hurt us. Looking back in the second, we had a few breakdowns that they capitalized, which we didn’t. That was the story of the game right there. We definitely lost momentum, yeah – we got to find ways to score when we do have our chances and generate some more momentum with that.”
The Bruins outshot the Jets, 14-6, in the first 20 minutes and headed into the first intermission with a power play, thanks to a cheap shot elbow to the face of Bergeron by Jets defenseman Alexander Burmistrov.
“I think it would’ve been nice to come out of there with a better lead than we did after the first with the type of opportunities that we had,” Claude Julien said, echoing the words of Bergeron. “It should’ve been a two- or three-goal period. But we misfired or missed those opportunities and allowed them to stay in the game. And then the second period they came out and kind of took over and we started making some defensive mistakes. Whether, I thought, whether it was coverage, layers, or whether their was decisions with the puck or D-zone awareness, we made all of those mistakes tonight which resulted in goals against.”
|Jonas Gustavsson enters wait-and-see mode with Bruins||10.02.15 at 1:23 pm ET|
Now, the waiting game begins for Jonas Gustavsson.
After going through training camp and playing one and a half preseason games for the Bruins on a professional tryout, the 30-year-old netminder can do nothing but hope that the work he put in was good enough to earn him a contract and a spot on the bench as Tuukka Rask‘s backup.
Claude Julien said Friday morning that Gustavsson would not travel with the team for Friday’s preseason finale against the Capitals, with Rask starting and Jeremy Smith serving as backup. That means the preseason book is closed on Gustavsson, who stopped 42 of 45 shots over parts of two preseason games for a .933 save percentage.
“I’m not trying to think about it too much; I’m trying to do whatever I usually do – just practice, play games whenever I get a chance to play and have some fun,” Gustavsson said after Friday’s practice. “All the other stuff, that’s not in my hands. I guess I’m waiting, but on the other hand, at the same time, I’m just taking it day-by-day like I always do.”
Smith, a 26-year-old who was drafted in the second round by the Predators in 2007, is the favorite to win the backup job after a strong showing last season in Providence. That leaves Gustavsson, who played formerly with the Leafs and Red Wings but was limited to seven games with the Wings by injuries last season, potentially on the outside looking in.
Julien insisted Friday morning that a decision has not been made on the backup goaltender.
“There’s a lot that’s going to come into play there in that decision-making. It’s going to be a group decision,” he said. “We’re going to look at the pros and cons and everything else that goes into it. Unfortunately, that’s where it would be nice to have more preseason games and give a lot of those guys an opportunity to play even more and us assess them even longer, but that’s the way it is. Tuukka’s got to play. He’s our goaltender that we’ve got to get ready for the start of the season.”
Gustavsson’s preseason availability was limited by the birth of his first child, which cost him a preseason start that was perhaps made up when he played all of Wednesday’s game against the Rangers. Malcolm Subban (who started two preseason games) and Zane McIntyre are already back in Providence having been cut from camp.
Julien has noted that the decision the team makes for Rask’s backup will not necessarily be the team’s final decision. If the team loses confidence in the backup, as the Bruins did with Niklas Svedberg last season, they won’t hesitate to call up Subban and give him his shot. Should Smith get the first crack at the gig, such a scenario would do Gustavsson no good unless he remains unsigned.
Gustavsson saw his injuries create that situation last season in Detroit. As he battled a shoulder injury, AHL callup Petr Mrazek emerged as a starting option for the Red Wings, which made his services no longer required. If Gustavsson does happen to win a job in Boston, he intends to keep it.
“Every time you’re on the ice, you’re trying to prove yourself,” he said. “That’s what you’ve got to do, no matter if you have a contract or not. There’s always going to be competition. You can’t really take any spots for granted, no matter if you’re on a one-way or two-way or tryout or whatever it is. If you’re not going to perform over time, some younger kid or some other goalie’s going to take your spot. There’s only 60 spots in the league and there’s tons of good goalies.”
Gustavsson still considers himself one of them. He’ll have to wait to see if the Bruins agree.
|Tuukka Rask happy to get back on ice: ‘You kind of forget how tough it is out there’||09.29.15 at 12:12 am ET|
The long wait finally came to an end for Tuukka Rask Monday night.
The 28-year-old goalie made his 2015 preseason debut after watching the likes of Jonas Gustavsson, Jeremy Smith, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre fill the void over the first four games, all wins.
Monday night wasn’t about the final result, a 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. It was about getting Rask’s feet wet for the first time in game action since the regular season finale last April 11 at Tampa Bay. That night, the Bruins were eliminated in the middle of the game. Monday night, in a game with far less significance, Rask stopped 21 of 24 shots in getting his first taste of action.
“Good to get it out of the way,” Rask said. “You kind of forget how tough it is out there. It doesn’t matter how much you workout or skate, it’s always different when it’s a real game and I definitely felt it. It’s good to get that first one out of the belt and to keep moving on that.”
Rask posted a 2.30 goals against last season with a 34-21-13 mark in 70 games. He will, of course, be the starting goalie for the Bruins when they open the season on Oct. 8 against Winnipeg at TD Garden.
“I think at this point I focus on myself and getting my game where I feel like it needs to be – it’s just with the feel and everything,” Rask said. “I felt that timing was sometimes a little off, angles were a little off at times — not natural all the time. Those are the things I need to work on, but I think in the bigger picture too, looking at the breakouts we did a pretty good job today and communication was pretty good too. The first period I had to handle it a couple times, the first one of the game I just made a bad pass, but after that I made a couple good passes. A couple guys talked to me where they wanted the puck to be and I think they did a good job in front of the net, clearing some sticks and some players. I think it was good.”
Rask realizes that improving Boston’s breakout this season begins with him.
|Observations from Bruins’ preseason loss to Red Wings||09.28.15 at 9:28 pm ET|
Jimmy Howard lost his shutout bid in the final minute of Monday night’s preseason contest as the Red Wings earned a 3-1 win over the Bruins at TD Garden. Here are some quick observations from the preseason contest:
— Tuukka Rask made his first start of the preseason. After coming up with an impressive kick save on Drew Miller and stopping him again point blank in the second period, Miller finally cashed in on one of his chances when he fired a shot from the right circle past Rask at 7:11 of the second.
Rask didn’t get much help from the guys in front of him on Detroit’s second goal. After getting burned by Tomas Jurco, Linus Arnesson took a hack at Jurco but did not deter the Red Wings forward from scoring on the delayed penalty call. The Wings went up 3-0 in the third on a Andreas Athanosiou wrist shot from the point.
Rask finished the game with 21 saves on 23 shots.
— Loui Eriksson scored Boston’s only goal, with Loui Eriksson picking up a rebound in front off a Torey Krug point shot during 6-on-5 play and jamming it past Howard. It was a good finish to the game for his line with Patrice Bergeron and Marchand after the trio struggled to stay onside early in the contest.
— The B’s survived an injury scare late in the second period. After leaving the ice slowly and in pain, Brad Marchand could be seen grabbing his right thigh area as he remained on the bench for the final 5:38 of the period. Fortunately for the Bruins, Marchand was back on the ice to start the third period.
— David Pastrnak may have taken an uncalled stick to the face late in the third period. Pastrnak dropped his stick and left the ice holding his mouth after Brian Lashoff’s stick apparently got him with a little more than four minutes remaining.
– David Krejci was not in Monday’s lineup, Matt Beleskey and Pastrnak were centered by Austin Czarnik. The line wasn’t anything special, though it did draw a pair of penalties.
Pastrnak sprung Beleskey for a breakaway, but the puck was just out of his reach and Jimmy came out of his net to minimize the threat.
Tuukka Rask will see his first preseason action Monday night, as he is expected to play the entire time as the Bruins host the Red Wings.
Speaking after Monday’s practice, Rask said he doesn’t mind having sat out the Bruins’ first four games of the preseason, as he’s as invested in seeing who wins the backup job as anyone.
“I’ve been fine. I’m sure I could have had a game or half a game if I really wanted to,” Rask said. “We figured that I’ll play my games this week and carry it over to next week.”
Jonas Gustavsson will back up Rask on Monday. Still on a professional tryout, he is back with the team after leaving to attend the birth of his first child. Gustavsson, Rask and Jeremy Smith are the only goalies left in camp after the B’s sent Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre to Providence Sunday.
The projected lineup for Monday’s game is as follows:
David Krejci, who was given Sunday off, practiced with the second group Monday. Among the others to skate with the second group were Adam McQuaid, Zac Rinaldo and Brett Connolly. Word is that practice was particularly taxing, as one player was overheard saying it with the toughest of camp so far.