Bruins come through in front of Rask

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Bruins come through in front of Rask

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Fighting has always been known to spark a hockey club. Three fights in the first four seconds of a game, including two clear-cut victories, as the Bruins had Thursday night, should be enough to fire up the squad.

But as much as Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Adam McQuaid got the TD Garden rocking in the early moments of their against the Dallas Stars, a win wasn't guaranteed.

Their fights would have been meaningless if there had been no response after the fact.

Well, the Bruins responded.

As B's defenseman Andrew Ference -- who had the team's fourth fight, and third win, in the first four minutes of the first period -- pointed out after Boston's 6-3 win over Dallas, some good hockey got lost in all the fighting.

What also could have been lost in all the fighting was the fact that the Bruins played good hockey in front of Tuukka Rask.

Rask entered Thursday's game with a sub-par 4-10-1 record, but his 2.67 goals-against average and .923 save percentage told a different story about his season.

So many times this year, Bruins players have taken the blame for a game in which Rask was credited with the loss. But they did so because it was true. For most of Rask's starts, the B's have failed to show up to play the same way they do when Tim Thomas is in net.

And make no mistake about it, it's nothing more than a coincidence. But that doesn't hide the fact that it happens.

It didn't happen on Thursday, as the Bruins responded to the fighting with two early goals from Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron in the first 1:20 of the game. They went into the second period with a 4-0 lead.

"Well, part of it is our fault, to be honest with you," said Bergeron after the win about the team's play in front of Rask. "Rask's got the numbers, the numbers are unbelievable. He doesn't get those wins, but part of it is our fault, as teammates. And we need to step up and give it a good effort in front of him. We did that tonight, but also, I think he made some amazing saves and kept us in the game."

"We feel so bad for him," said Ference. "So many of the games that he started this year, he plays great and then we just seem to screw it up for him. The fights are one thing, but after the fights, to respond with some really good goals, and I think a really good first period, that's the impressive thing. Anybody can go out there and drop the gloves and fight, and do all that stuff. But to follow it up with really good hockey, is what makes it successful."

Rask finished with 30 saves, but allowed three goals on a third-period letdown to make the score 4-3.

The B's quickly called a time out, and turned things around, scoring two goals. Rask turned it around as well, making several more big stops to preserve the lead.

"It's nice to see some offensive power," said Rask. "Especially the way we started the game. Three fights, and then respond with four goals. That's a good sign. They helped me out a lot today."

"I don't know how many people realize how many key saves he made at those key moments," said Bruins coach Claude Julien, praising Rask for being the team's best penalty killer during Dallas' five-minute power play in the second period.

"He made some big saves, and he made some really, really big saves at the right time, and that's what you want from your goaltender," added Julien. "Whenever the other team gets those great opportunities, if he can come up with some big saves, that usually makes the difference in the game, and he did that for us tonight . . . We're going to need more of that from him as we move forward."

And Rask will certainly want more of the same from his teammates when he's between the pipes.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while enjoying Hockey Day in America. 

*Brian Boyle is the subject of trade rumors with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he wants to stay a member of the Bolts. 

*Watch out for the Florida Panthers, who swept the road trip through California and are now back in playoff position for the first time in a long time. 

*It’s great to see play-by-play man Dave Strader back in the broadcast booth doing what he does best after his cancer diagnosis. 

*Hats off to the Bruins ECHL affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators, for the sweet-looking Boba Fett sweaters worn during this weekend’s Star Wars night. 

*It’s pretty amazing when you’re an NHL player and a former first round pick, and you’re the one most known for being somebody else’s brother. That’s life for Dallas Stars D-man Jamie Oleksiak. 

*Interesting piece about sportswriting, politics and a couple of worlds that were destined to collide at some point. 

*For something completely different: For the 40h anniversary of Star Wars, the toys are being used to recreate classic movie scenes. 

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons.