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.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while proud of my wife and daughter participating in today’s Women’s March.
*This is from a few days ago, but Bob McKenzie weighing in on the prospects for Claude Julien and his job security is always worth checking out.
*The New York Rangers have themselves a rookie named Pavel that’s doing a pretty darned good job for the Blueshirts.
*What should the St. Louis Blues do with Kevin Shattenkirk as the trade deadline approaches and the seven-year, $49 million contract waiting for him in free agency is pretty daunting?
*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Allen has a list of underperforming NHL stars, including Jamie Benn and Jonathan Toews, that may have been impacted by the World Cup of Hockey. Certainly Patrice Bergeron could have made this list as well.
*Blackhawks backup goalie Scott Darling may be earning some more playing time after the way he performed against the Bruins, according to Pro Hockey Talk.
*Good news with Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson set to return to the team in a couple of weeks after tending to his wife in a battle against cancer.
*The struggles of Anthony Duclair with the Arizona Coyotes mirror the team’s issues this season as well. It’s interesting that Duclair has popped up in trade rumors with the Desert Dogs this season.
*For something completely different: the final Wolverine movie with Hugh Jackman is going to be extremely emotional with its characters.
BRIGHTON, Mass – While both Kevan Miller and Colin Miller were missing from Bruins practice on Saturday morning, both injured Bruins defensemen could be rejoining the team soon.
Colin Miller skated on his own prior to Saturday’s team practice at Warrior Ice Arena for the second or third time since suffering a lower body injury in the win over the St. Louis Blues. Claude Julien said his presence on the ice was proof that the puck-moving defenseman is “definitely on the mend”, and could be nearing a return to practice soon with Sunday marking the sixth straight game that he’ll have missed.
Kevan Miller is out with a concussion suffered last weekend in the win over the Philadelphia Flyers, and the B’s current three-game losing streak has coincided with his absence from the lineup.
Julien said Miller has actually been away from the team for the last couple of days while dealing with a virus, and that his recovery from the concussion symptoms was good prior to being knocked down by the illness.
“Kevan was actually feeling really well and then he got hit by a virus that’s kept him in bed for the last two days,” said Julien. “It’s nothing to do with his original injury. There was a possibility he could have been ready very soon, but that’s set him back a bit.”
Both are obviously out for Sunday’s matinee against the Penguins, but a return to practice at some point next week seems like a good bet for both players. Here are the line combos and defense pairings from Saturday’s practice with the Bruins focusing on getting a good result in Pittsburgh with the hockey club on a “mom’s trip” with 22 of the players’ mothers traveling with the team to and from the game: