Rask off to a rolling start for Bruins


Rask off to a rolling start for Bruins

During a normal season with a three-week training camp and an 82-game schedule, a Monday afternoon matinee against the Winnipeg Jets might have been the perfect time for backup goaltender Anton Khudobin to find his way into the Bruins lineup.

But nothing about this shortened 48-game NHL season is normal, and the No. 1 goaltender of Kazakhstan never got into Monday's tilt.

Instead it made all the sense in the world to insert Tuukka Rask right back in there while hes building himself a happy little groove to start the young 2013 hockey season. The Finnish netminder continued to cement his good start to a pivotal season by stopping 26 shots en route to a 2-1 shootout win over the Jets at TD Garden.

It probably wasnt the portrait of good playoff-level hockey that the Bruins and Rangers put on over the weekend, but it was important to see Rask and his teammates grind through a win early in the year. The Bruins hit five posts and couldn't finish off every chance that a generous Winnipeg defense gave them, but that's when their goaltending needs to cover the offense's back-side.

In that sense Rask had the boys covered on Monday afternoon. It was also important for him to match Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec save-for-save as his counterpart was holding the Jets in the game at the other end of the ice with 26 saves of his own.

We just talked about that before the game, but its a funny thing. No matter how much you talk about certain things it just tends to go a different way, said Rask. We turned the puck over too many times and we didnt get the puck in a few times when we needed. Theyre a good skating team, so we gave them too much space at times.

While Rask wasnt tested all that often by a listless Rangers bunch over the weekend, he needed to be on top of things against a Winnipeg team that shot at him from all areas of the ice. The only goal allowed was a Chris Thorburn strike on a long rebound that was just out of the reach of Zdeno Chara's telephone pole of a hockey stick.

The Bs goaltenders best save of the day: the glove hand snare of a breakaway bid by Kyle Wellwood after he got behind Adam McQuaid and Andrew Ference in a potentially lethal defensive breakdown. That kept it a one-goal deficit early in the first period, and showed early that Rask had to be better than he was Saturday because the defense wasnt quite as good.

But thats generally the job description for the masked men, and what will be asked of Rask as a No. 1 goaltender capable of carrying the Black and Gold until they're consistently at full efficiency.

He was asked to make a few solid technical stops and one sensational one during the 60 minutes of play when that was the case, and the Bruins needed to scramble to kill penalties in the third period and overtime. But then the Bruins dominated and didnt allow a single shot on net in overtime despite being shorthanded.

D-zone we got a little bit loose at times and we had to reel guys back in, but our D has done a great job. They try to give shots from the outside and that gives Tuukka Rask the best chance possible to see those pucks and make the saves, said Claude Julien. Tuukkas come up big for us as well. Defensively, I think were starting to play more through our identity and because of that were getting some offensive opportunities, as well.

There were some saves that were less sensational, but no less important in a contest where one mistake would make the difference. Like the shootout stops on Olli Jokinen and Bryan Little that guaranteed two points at the end of the extra session, and gave the Bruins a 10-3 shootout record over the last two seasons. Strangely enough Blake Wheeler was the only one to score in the shootout for Winnipeg, and thats the only guy Rask has an extensive book on headed into the showdown.

It doesnt really matter whether you watch shootout film or not. You just try to stay patient and wait the guy out, said Rask. I watched film in my first year, maybe a little bit more, but now I havent done it.

Well, whatever Rask is doing is working for him. The Finnish netminder is 2-0-0 with a 0.96 goals against average and a .958 save percentage in his first two games of the season, and couldnt have drawn up a better beginning to a pivotal prove it year for him and his hockey club.

Spooner responds positively to healthy scratch


Spooner responds positively to healthy scratch

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. 

Sunday, Oct. 23: Hall fitting in with Devils


Sunday, Oct. 23: Hall fitting in with Devils

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.