NEW YORK -- The third period of Wednesday nights highly entertaining4-3 loss in overtime to the New York Rangers was the night that Tuukka Raskofficially laid claim to being the Boston Bruins No. 1 goaltender. He made some big saves at the end to help us get one point,said Claude Julien. Hes been really good. If anybody had doubts about Tuukka,hopefully theyve been erased by now because hes been solid in every game thathes played.Forget about the four goals allowed during the game. Thefirst two were all credited to the pure skill of the Brad RichardsRickNashMarian Gaborik combination and a defensive breakdown between DougieHamilton and Andrew Ference. The third was a rebound goal after the Bruinsfourth line failed to clear the puck out of the zone with heavy traffic bearingon Bostonsfifth and sixth defensemen. The overtime goal was another Bruins defensemen turnover byFerence when he couldnt handle a bouncing puck near the blueline, and Gaborikwas given a straight line breakaway chance to win the game. It was a creditthat Rask even somehow got his blocker on the first attempt, but then couldntrecover when the Slovakian scorer swatted the puck out of the air for thegame-winning strike. He scored a couple of goals like that today, said Rask. Hesgot a quick snap-shot so I closed my five-hole and then he bats it out of theair. Thats why he scored 50 goals or something last year.Every point will be critical in the 48-game shortened NHLregular season, and it was Rasks efforts alone in the final minutes anintense, playoff-style battle that helped preserve a single point by pushing toovertime. The Rangers poured it on with 11 shots in the third period thatdialed the pressure on the Bostongoalie, and Rask made his best 1-2 combination saves of the year in the finalminute of regulation. Nash fired a wrister from the right face-off circle thathandcuffed Rask, but he was able to push the puck away from the crease. Gaborikwas waiting, coiled and ready to pounce on the rebound. The Rangers forwarddidnt get great wood on the puck, but managed enough to push it back towardthe goal line as Rask was pushing from left post back to the right. He somehow managed to smother the puck underneath him justas he had done in the first period when Nash and Gaborik tried to push him andthe puck past the goal line and protect the tie after Nathan Horton hadsummoned up a clutch goal in the final six minutes of regulation. Looch was playing defense there and Nash shot low blocker.I reacted that to that and I knew Gaborik was there, said Rask. I juststarted making snow angels at that point.The four goals allowed and the 29 saves dont seem like aparticularly great night for Rask, but theyre misleading when one considersthe way Gaborik, Richards and Nash were buzzing around all evening. The pressure was high on Rask to backstop a defense thatmade its share of mistakes in the game, and he was up to the task. Not only that, but Rask made the important save whenovertime was hanging in the balance. Hockey experts from here to Thunder Bay will tell youthats the most important thing on the goaltenders job description. Or as formerBruins head coach Mike Sullivan always -- and we do mean always -- said makingthe critical save at the critical juncture in the game.We had a expletive start, said Rask. They came out hardand we were sloppy. We just couldnt match it early, but showed something incoming back.Critics will say that he should have stoned Gaborik on bothshots again in overtime, but there are only so many free chances at the net youcan give a perennial 40-goal scorer before hes going to break through. Things have gone almost perfectly for Rask in his firstthree games of a season where hes proving some things to himself and to hisorganization. The young Bs netminder outplayed reigning Vezina Trophy winnerHenrik Lundqvist in their first showdown last week in Boston. Rask never blinked in a shootout winover the Winnipeg Jets where the offense never gave him any room to breathwhile flubbing far too many Grade A scoring chances. On Wednesday night Rask kept the Bruins in a game where theywere outclassed in the first 20 minutes in a hostile hockey setting where theother team was on a mission to show they werent nearly as crappy as theirwinless record suggested. Rask has got a 1.95 goals against average and a .926 savepercentage that everybody agrees will make the Black and Gold a Stanley Cupfavorite if he can simply maintain what hes doing now for the next 5-6 months.Theres no pressure on Tuukka. We know what hes capableof doing, said Julien. All we have to do is the job in front of him and thejob that everybody else is capable of doing. The pressure you want him to puton himself is positive pressure, and to say Hey, Im No. 1 and Im a goodgoaltender. Thats what you want.All that positive pressure and error-free puck-stopping isalso making everybody forget about Tim Thomas through the first few weeks ofthe season. Salvaging a point against a frenzied Rangers club stands as anothergiant statement that the Tuukka Rask Era has officially begun between the pipesin Boston.
BOSTON -- It wasn’t perfect by any means, but Saturday night represented a step in a positive direction for Ryan Spooner.
The 24-year-old speedy forward was scratched for the home opener against New Jersey in classic message-sending fashion by Bruins coach Claude Julien, and deserved it based on a passive lack of production combined with some costly mistakes as well. So he stayed quiet, put in the work and then returned to the lineup Saturday vs. the Montreal Canadiens where he scored a power play goal in the 4-2 loss to the Habs at TD Garden.
“He was better,” agreed Claude Julien. “He was better tonight.”
Spooner could have had even more as he got a couple of great scoring chances in the first period vs. Montreal, but Carey Price was able to turn away a couple of free looks at the Montreal net. So the Bruins forward felt he possibly left points on the ice after it was all said and done, but also clearly played his best game of the young season after going from the press box back to the lineup.
“Yeah, I had like maybe four or five [chances] that I could have scored on,” said Spooner. “I’ve just got to bear down on those [scoring opportunities], and a lot [of them] in the first period. It’s good that I’m getting those looks, but I have to score on them.
“I’m just going to go out there and just try to play. I can’t really think about [fighting to hold a spot]. I’ve just got to go out there and try to play, I guess, the game I can and try to use the speed that I have.”
The Spooner power play strike was a nifty one with the shifty forward and David Backes connecting on a pass across the front of the net, and the young B’s forward showing the necessary assertiveness cutting to the net from his half-wall position.
Spooner had five shot attempts overall in the game, and was one of the few Bruins players really getting the chances they wanted against a pretty effective Montreal defensive group. Now it’s a matter of Spooner, along with linemates Backes and David Krejci, scoring during 5-on-5 play and giving the Bruins a little more offensive balance after riding Boston’s top line very hard during the regular season’s first couple of weeks.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while waiting to find out which Walking Dead character got brained by Lucille in last season’s cliffhanger. I’m going with Abraham.
*The SI roundtable talks about the future of Jacob Trouba, and where he’ll end up going when his current situation resolves itself.
*P.K. Subban is apparently getting very comfortable in Nashville, and enjoying life in a city with NFL football.
*Fun conversation between Yahoo’s Josh Cooper and Brad Marchand about a whole range of random topics.
*A cool father-son story where they became the goaltending tandem for the Ontario Reign through a series of dominoes falling after Jonathan Quick went down with injury for the Los Angeles Kings.
*Pro Hockey Talk has Taylor Hall serving as exactly what the New Jersey Devils have needed for the last couple of years.
*For something completely different: FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dan Shaughnessy says that the MLB playoffs couldn’t have played out any worse for the Boston Red Sox.