TORONTO -- You can blame plenty of individuals on the Bruins for the Game 7 predicament that they’re in.
Certainly Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin should shoulder plenty of the responsibility with zero goals through six games against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and there's little evidence that things are going to change for either one of them anytime soon.
The third line, featuring future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr, hasn’t lifted the production of Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley from the flat-line level its been at for most of this year.
Nathan Horton scored three goals in three games based partially on the strong play of linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic, but has looked disinterested at times in Games 5 and Game 6.
Bruins defensemen have been playing hard, but there’s clearly a limit as to how proficient they’ll be at breaking the puck out of their own zone with speed and precision.
Even Claude Julien and his coaching staff will need to take a long look at adjustments that could have been made (switching lines, benching players that aren’t putting out full effort) as Randy Carlyle has seemed to be one move ahead through the entire playoff series.
But one Bruins player that can’t be faulted for the way things have unfolded? Tuukka Rask.
The Finnish netminder has the exact same .932 save percentage as Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer, and both of the goals surrendered in Sunday night’s 2-1 loss at the Air Canada Centre were under considerable duress.
He made flashy glove saves in the first period on Phil Kessel, and then again on Dion Phaneuf in the closing seconds of the middle period in order to keep things scoreless through the first 40 minutes. When the Bruins haven’t been at their best in this series, which has happened often enough, Rask has been there as the unbending backbone for his napping teammates.
“He’s done a great job for us,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We’ve got to do a good job in front of him. It’s about finding a way as a team.”
The first goal surrendered in the third period was a Phaneuf tipped shot in front as Toronto got traffic in front of Rask. The second score was a Kessel rebound score after Bergeron broke his stick on the defensive zone face-off, and James van Riemsdyk occupied both Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg in front of the net.
Is Rask getting frustrated that the team’s offensive production isn’t there?
“Yeah . . . you’d love for the offense to score five goals a game,” said Rask, who has stopped 55 of 59 shots in the losses in Game 5 and Game 6. “But it’s not going to happen. I stopped everything that I saw. We’re frustrated, but determined.
“I expect us to play to go out [in Game 7] and play a great game. We talked about playing with desperation and matching Toronto’s desperation, and I don’t think we did that. Hopefully we’ve got something left.”
One thing Rask doesn’t want to talk about is comparing this season to the Stanley Cup year two seasons ago. But it's safe to say he's answered any questions about his playoff abilities that may have come up when he manned the pipes for Boston's playoff collapse against the Flyers three years ago.
“I don’t even want to talk about that,” said Rask. “This is the playoffs, and we’re focused on this. We haven’t played well enough to close out the series and tomorrow is our last chance.”
With an offseason contract and his playoff reputation riding on the line, Rask has showed up in every way during the series. Now it’s up to some of his underachieving teammates to do the same.