Rask's performance in Montreal goes beyond the numbers

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Rask's performance in Montreal goes beyond the numbers

MONTREAL Tuukka Rask only finished with 20 saves Wednesday night against the high-flying Canadiens, and some might take that as a rocking-chair effort for a goaltender in a rivalry game at the NHL level.

But Rask was instrumental in Bostons victory while holding things together in the first period with 11 saves.

"I told the team we needed to come out of the first period tied or ahead, and we were able to do that because Tuukka saved us," said Claude Julien. "He was outstanding early in this game."

Strictly for comparison sake, it took the Bruins offense more than 12 minutes just to get a single shot on Montreal's net. Certainly the Habs shot themselves in the foot a few times in defeat as Tomas Plekanec unsuccessfully flailed at a breakaway attempt while all on his own in the second period, and David Desharnais missed wide right on a doorstep chance in the third period that actually went through Rask's pads.

We wanted to come out hard and match their work ethic for that first period. But we didnt, said Rask. They got a lot of chances but luckily we got out of it in a 0-0 game and stuck with it for the rest of the game.

I dont think we felt good going into the third period. We were kind of waking up or a little rattled maybe. Its a game for first place and we were playing just well enough to lose by one goal. Then we started playing hockey.

But Rask was also his competitive, calm self while closing off a Lars Eller breakaway goal in the first period, and kicking it away to safety in the corner with a right pad save. The Finnish goaltender then just plain refused to let anything pass while chaotic scrambles bunched up all around him in fine Montreal fashion.

It wasn't a one-man operation either, however, and individual defensive players came up big behind Rask.

During one exchange in the first period Rene Bourque had the puck at the right post, and presumably had the kind of raw strength needed to push the puck past the goal line. First Dougie Hamilton had the presence of mind to block his scoring chance when the Bs goaltender was outside his crease.

Rask held the line on Bourques second rebound attempt.

The B's goaltender didnt have a shot at Montreals one goal in the second period scored when P.K. Subban ripped a shot off of Rich Peverley's stick blade that arched high into the corner of the net. So Rask put that score behind him and made 19 other stops throughout the game sandwiched around the one breakaway killer save on Eller that he tidily knocked aside with a stiff right pad.

Later in the third period Rask was again just as solid shutting down a last-ditch effort by the Canadiens to tie the game as Habs skaters grew desperate. Things continued to go white-knuckle until the very end as both clubs got whistled for penalties in the final minute plus of the game.

One confidence booster for Rask, who improved to 6-1-1 on the season with the win, is that his body of work against the Canadiens continues to improve. The Bruins goaltender upped his career record against Montreal to a 2-6-1 mark that could still use a few more W's for good measure.

His 1.96 goals against average and .922 save percentage this season are exactly where they need to be.

Tuukka has had the right attitude for us since day one with high expectations and question marks that go along with it, said Claude Julien. Day in and day out he just does his job and doesnt get too high or too low. Hes a normal goaltender.

That may be a surprise to a lot of people, but hes so easy going. I can talk to him in the middle of a game about something thats going on, and he has no issues. Some goalies would probably bite your head off if you said something to them in that kind of situation. But hes down to earth and easy to coach. That kind of translates into the calm play that allowed us to come back in this game.

Rask can afford to be much calmer when hes on the winning end as hes been six times in eight chances this year, a great start for the first-place Bruins and their goalie establishing himself as one of the best in the Eastern Conference.

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins pulled the worst of their no-shows on Monday afternoon in the 4-0 shutout loss to the Islanders.

It was a lethargic, mediocre start in the first period that devolved into the bottom dropping out on the Black and Gold when they allowed three unanswered goals in the second. Then, to top it all off, they showed zero urgency or push to make a comeback in the final period. 

It was “unacceptable” in the words of the Bruins players from beginning to end with careless, elementary mistakes in the defensive zone and absolutely zero sustained push in the offensive zone despite a deceiving 32 shots on net.

So, where was the urgency for a Bruins team that’s barely ahead of the Maple Leafs and Senators in the Atlantic Division despite having played six more games than each of those two?

Apparently the Bruins were feeling a little cocky after playing a solid five-game stretch where they’d gone 3-1-1 and taken down the Panthers, Blues and Flyers while elevating their level of play. Heart and soul team leader Patrice Bergeron admitted as much on Tuesday morning as the Bruins cancelled practice and turned their attention toward righting the ship Wednesday night in Detroit.

It was frankly a little stunning to hear Bergeron admit that his Bruins team thought they could win just by showing up on Monday afternoon, but that’s exactly what he copped to in something of an apologetic way.

Brad Marchand said Monday postgame that the Bruins “just weren’t ready [to play]” against the Islanders, and it sounded like his linemate agreed with him.

“It’s about realizing that you can’t take teams lightly, or take the foot off the gas pedal for a period, for a game, or whatever. It hurts us every time we do it, so we have to learn and realize that it just cannot happen. Teams are too good and the points are too valuable for us,” said Bergeron. “You never want to do that, but at the same time maybe it was something that happened because it was a terrible start, and to not respond when they scored the goals. Maybe that’s what happened yesterday.

“As much as you don’t want it to happen, maybe we thought it was going to be an easier game than it actually was against them.”

On the one hand, it’s somewhat shocking to hear that admission from a player that’s always played with full work ethic and an effort level that’s never been questioned. But Bergeron was also a minus-3 in the 4-0 loss and was every bit as guilty as everybody else up and down the roster for the team’s most pathetic loss of the season at a time when results are all that matter.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, though, because the lack of urgency on the bench is mirrored by the lack of urgency upstairs in the Bruins management office right now. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told the Boston Globe last week that he’s considering a move with the head coach along with a number of other things to spark a team treading water, but it doesn’t feel like a major move is on the horizon with this Bruins team.

Trade talks are still in the formative, discussion stages as GMs like Joe Sakic and John Chayka are overvaluing their players looking for a king’s ransom for guys like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. While Claude Julien should be under the microscope with a team sleepwalking its way through perhaps a third season in a row without the playoffs, it also doesn’t feel like the Bruins are going to pull the trigger on that move until the offseason at the earliest.

This humble hockey writer still insists that this playoff-caliber Bruins team plays at times like a one that needs a swift kick in the backside. Perhaps Julien isn’t up for it after 10 long, successful years of battles with the same core group.   

So, what is there to do then besides make cosmetic moves like shipping underperforming Anton Khudobin down to Providence, or rearrange the deck chairs on a third and fourth line that it’s difficult to tell apart on most days in Boston?

If the Bruins front office wants to truly get to the bottom of their team’s lack of urgency on the ice, perhaps a look in the mirror might be in order. Because that same lack of urgency is playing out with a management group that’s watching their team sink into the Atlantic Division muck right now and seems gun-shy on making a move that could rattle cages.

“Right now where we are in the standings, we’ve got a lot of games to play but we’re still in a playoff spot,” said Julien. “We try and play with the expectations that we have, and that’s to do the best with what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of new faces and we’re trying to build with what we’ve got here moving forward.”

Certainly nobody is talking about trading away their blue chip prospects like Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy, but there are veteran players on Boston’s current roster that aren’t cut out for battling into the postseason with a young team. It’s plain to see when a middling hockey team can’t find the inspiration to go out and take care of business against a bad Islanders group on a sleepy Monday afternoon just a month after they made the same mistake against the same team on home ice.

The Bruins showed in a five-game stretch leading up to the Islanders debacle that they should be held to a higher standard - that of a team that should qualify for the postseason. But one question arose again and again watching the poorest of poor efforts play out on Monday afternoon: why should the Bruins players show any feet-in-the-fire urgency on the ice when it doesn’t feel like there’s much feet-in-the-fire urgency from upper management to improve the flailing hockey club?

Until that organizational dynamic changes, it’s difficult to see things getting much better, or worse, for a Bruins team that looks destined for the mediocre middle once again this season. 
 

Bruins cancel practice to 'regroup' after bad loss to Islanders

Bruins cancel practice to 'regroup' after bad loss to Islanders

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins were supposed to hit the ice for the eighth day in a row on Tuesday following their empty 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon, but those plans were scrubbed.

The reeling Black and Gold instead cancelled practice, with only Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and Zane McIntyre taking the ice at Warrior Ice Arena and the rest of the B’s hitting the giant reset button after an embarrassing loss.

“I think it’s one of those [things] where you’ve got to regroup and recharge the batteries, and feel better,” said Patrice Bergeron. “Maybe a little bit of fatigue was part of it [Monday vs. the Isles] and you use a day like today to look forward, look at videos and be better the next day. It happens today and we have another game tomorrow [against Detroit].”

While it is true that the Bruins and Winnipeg Jets have played more games than anybody else in the NHL in this wacky season with a condensed schedule, the B’s leaders weren’t having it as an excuse with both the Maple Leafs and Senators holding an incredible six games in hand on Boston. Blown opportunities against bad opponents are exactly the recipe for missing the playoffs, as they have in each of the past two seasons, and the Bruins are tracking to do that again.

“All of the teams are in the same situation. It’s about managing and finding ways to be at your best every night and in every game. Yes, maybe [the condensed schedule] is part of it, but you can’t just put the blame on that. We’re professionals and we need to show up every game.”

The Bruins didn’t show up against the Islanders on Monday afternoon and basically pulled their second no-show vs. the Isles on home ice this season. There’s no excuse for that given the B’s current situation battling for the postseason. 

Maybe a day off the ice will improve that situation and maybe it’s simply rewarding a team that didn’t earn it on Monday afternoon, but the B’s have to hope it’s much more of the former than the latter.