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: It's time for Pastrnak to take a step forward

Haggerty: It's time for Pastrnak to take a step forward

BRIGHTON -- The third season is usually a pivotal one when it comes to an NHL player's development and trying to forecast exactly how high their ceiling will be.

So it is for David Pastrnak, who is expected to take a major leap forward in his third year after showing flashes of great promise in each of his first two seasons.

“The [World Cup] is done, so now all of my focus is on being as ready as I can for this upcoming season,” said Pastrnak, 20, who threw probably the biggest hit of his career on unsuspecting teammate Patrice Bergeron when the Czechs played Team Canada in the preliminary rounds. “I feel way bigger, very comfortable on the ice, and I obviously feel really good right now.”

Pastrnak has had moments of dazzling brilliance in Boston so far while riding the usual learning curve that every young player travels in Claude Julien’s system. In addition, injuries last season sidetracked his development process.

Pastrnak put up 21 goals and 55 points between Boston and Providence as the youngest player in either league as an 18-year-old rookie two years ago. Last season he had 15 goals and 26 points in 51 games for the Bruins while also missing significant time because of a fractured foot. The injury not only sidelined him for a few months but also made it difficult for him to jump onto the moving train of the NHL regular season once he was ready to return.

Just as the former first-round pick was really catching fire at the end of the year, time ran out on a Bruins team that had a few too many older veterans with empty gas tanks after being ridden hard throughout the season. Pastrnak scored goals in each of the final couple of games, and showed off the game-breaking ability that should be on full display if he's healthy and placed in a position to succeed.

His World Cup stint ended on a high note, as he played his best game of the tourney against Team USA, though he didn’t make a major impact in the elite international competition. He put on five pounds of muscle during the offseason and clearly looking bigger and stronger at 189 pounds after ending last season closer to 180.

Part of that is the natural physical maturation process for somebody Pastrnak’s age as he gain’s “man strength”, and some of it was a dedicated effort. He worked out in Boston with the B’s training staff for much of the summer for the first time in his career.

The expectation is that Pastrnak is going to be running on the right wing with David Krejci on Boston’s second line, and the search in training camp is for a left wing who can bring added playmaking ability and maybe a little size and strength to the mix. In a perfect world Krejci and Pastrnak will develop into the same dynamic, two-way combination of Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

Pastrnak and Krejci could be a lethal offensive duo to be sure, but they’ll also have to pay attention to the little details if they want to stay together playing for Julien. Perhaps with that in mind, Julien was looking to temper expectations for Pastrnak

“I don't know if [the World Cup experience] accelerates expectations. But it's certainly encouraging to see that a guy that's got that experience to go and play at that level, and made himself better,” said Julien. “We know he's skilled and we know he's fast, and he's also gotten stronger. He's taking steps in the right direction here. We can look at those guys that are first overall picks and say, wow, some guys are exceptional.

“Some of the guys, you've got to give them time to grow and develop. That's what we need to do with David Pastrnak. I think we've got to stop putting expectations too high for him, and allow him to grow properly. He's going to have some growing pains and there are still some things he's going to want to get better at. There are still some things that he's going to want to learn that we're going to want to teach him. Let's give him that opportunity to grow properly without the extra pressure and extra expectations that maybe are not realistic.”

One would argue Pastrnak put those expectations on himself when he posted the 21 goals and 55 points as an 18-year-old, but that’s neither here nor there. Instead, the Pastrnak development project can, and should, be one of the things considered when we evaluate Julien’s current ability to get the most out of his young prospect-type players.

The bottom line with Pastrnak and the Bruins is this: It’s his contract year and motivation should be sky high. The Czech youngster is one of the few people who can step up and help fill the offensive void left by the free-agent departure of Loui Eriksson. Expectations are much higher for an experienced, talented 20-year-old than they are for a wide-eyed 18-year-old, and Pastrnak needs to make a big stride forward. Now is the time for Pastrnak to show all he’s learned, and completely unleash the array of offensive skills that caught everybody’s eye in the first place.

The Bruins need Pastrnak, and young players, to step up and start taking ownership of the hockey team.

Beleskey, Spooner and McQuaid highlight Bruins lineup vs. Red Wings

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Beleskey, Spooner and McQuaid highlight Bruins lineup vs. Red Wings

The Bruins announced their lineup for the second preseason game on Wednesday night at home against the Detroit Red Wings, and it was slightly more veteran-laden than the youthful Boston group tapped for Monday night’s opening loss to the Blue Jackets.

Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner, Adam McQuaid and Dominic Moore lead the grizzled group of Bruins players readying for the exhibition tilt against their Atlantic Division rivals, and 19-year-old Zachary Senyshyn will make his preseason debut after getting fully medically cleared from appendectomy surgery a couple of weeks ago.

The 2015 first round pick has had a bit of a rough summer after bouts with mononucleosis and appendicitis forced him to miss Bruins rookie camp, but Senyshyn has quickly regained his strength and the blazing speed that's his biggest asset as a player. 

Austin Czarnik, Peter Mueller and Sean Kuraly are the only players from the opening night roster that will be in again to show their stuff against the Winged Wheels, and undoubtedly to get another long look from the Bruins coaching staff. Here is the full Black and Gold lineup for Wednesday night’s home date against the Red Wings with the untelevised exhibition game to be streamed on bruins.com

 

FORWARDS: Noel Acciari, Matt Beleskey, Anton Blidh, Austin Czarnik, Brian Ferlin, Jesse Gabrielle, Justin Hickman, Sean Kuraly, Dominic Moore, Peter Mueller, Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Spooner.

DEFENSEMEN: Linus Arnesson, Chris Casto, Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon, Adam McQuaid, Colin Miller.

GOALIES: Malcolm Subban, Daniel Vladar.