Bruins notes: B's emotionally drained

191545.jpg

Bruins notes: B's emotionally drained

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Claude Julien believes that he saw a flat team that was perhaps emotionally drained after a couple of big games against the Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens recently, and its really impossible to prove hes off the mark.

Perhaps the Bruins had tired legs and weary brows after racking up 187 penalty minutes in an epic butt-kicking of the Habs at TD Garden, and it manifested itself in a listless 6-1 loss to a surgically precise Red Wings team on Friday night.

I think tonight we watched The Wings because I think we were flat. We werent skating tonight. We were second on the puck, and even when they had the puck, I just felt that they had lots of times to make plays, said Julien. We were very slow reacting tonight. So I dont know if the emotional games that weve played lately caught up to us, but we just came out flat.

It just seemed that nothing was going to go our way, even when we had some scoring chances. We hit the posts as well and had a couple of good scoring chances that could have gotten us back in the game, but it just wasnt going in for us. Obviously they were the better team tonight, but were a much better team than what we showed.

Tuukka Rask clearly struggled and was pulled for the second time this season, but the defense in front of him was substandard in every way possible despite limiting the Detroit skaters to less than 20 shots through the first two periods.

Mark Recchi said it was pretty clear to him that the Bs had no legs, and that Detroit was the perfect team to expose them.

I just dont think we had our legs. When you dont have your legs against a team like that, with very good puck control possession players and a team that can really move the puck well, they can make you look flat-footed a lot, said Recchi. If we have our legs, its different. For whatever reason we didnt today and we have to be a lot sharper. We have to go to their building now and try to redeem ourselves.

The Red Wings had lost three of their last four games heading into Friday night and been outscored 12-4 in those contests, so its clear they were highly motivated coming into the Friday night beating. Now its up to the Bruins to turn the tables at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday afternoon before a national audience on NBC.

This is the opportunity that we have, we get another shot at these guys, said Julien. I think its important that we go in there and play our gameplay a lot better. At least that way, you see where you stand with teams like Detroit.

Steve Kampfer donned No. 5 when he played youth and high school hockey in Michigan in honor of Niklas Lidstrom after watching the silky smooth Wings defenseman growing up a Detroit fan, and essentially said that the Joe Louis Arena feels like his own backyard.

Its fun to play your childhood idol, but you want to play him hard and hopefully someday be better than he is, said Kampfer prior to Friday nights defeat. You come to play your game, youre coming to play your teams game and when you do that youre helping the team. Thats what were trying to do tonight, and hopefully we can shut these guys down. Theyre a great team, great players with a lot of Stanley Cups, so its going to be a game where were going to have to try to make them play our style of hockey.

The Michigan University grad played in The Joe countless times over the years as a youth player and as a member of the Wolverines in some pretty epic CCHA battles, and is looking forward to playing in front of more than 50 friends and relatives in Detroit on Sunday afternoon. Kampfer said hes already got 30 confirmed for the game, and hes making arrangements for another 20 on Saturdays off day.

The bottom line is, its a big game for Kampfer after earning favorite son status as a four-year member of the Wolverines hockey team and now as a young NHL player making his way as a puck-moving defenseman.

Its definitely an exciting couple of days. Youve got to look forward to tonight. Its going to be fun, but weve got to play our game and play strong, said Kampfer, who snapped a seven game scoreless stretch with an assist in Bostons 8-6 win over the Canadiens. I grew up with Steve Yzerman, Sergei Federov, Brendan Shanahan... you know. The Russian Five days with Lidstrom, Chelios, Konstantinov. All of those guys. I grew up watching and idolizing them, so this is going to be a lot of fun.

David Krejcis power play goal in the first period was literally the only bright spot of the game for the Bruins, and snapped a 20-game goal-scoring drought for the Czech Republic playmaker. Krejcis last score before Friday night was a two-goal game against the Florida Panthers on Dec. 27 a long, long time ago in a rink pretty far away.

The Bs were outscored 4-0 after Krejcis score, and didnt show many signs of life aside from a couple of near misses in front of Jimmy Howard.

We were just looking at the first half of the first period and they scored two quick goals and I guess from there, we got a little close, but you know, the score didnt matter, said Krejci. They just outplayed us today.

Theres no reason to think it could have been any different when you have the mighty Detroit Red Wings coming to town, and its all but assured that Tyler Seguin wouldnt have been a difference-maker in a 6-1 loss to the Wings at the Garden Friday night.

Tyler Seguin was scratched for the second consecutive game and Mark Stuart was scratched for the eighth straight game in favor of Zach Hamill and Adam McQuaid, respectively.

"He has a ton of talent," coach Claude Julien said of Seguin. "He hasn't had the benefit of other players, such as Taylor Hall in Edmonton, who has played for Memorial Cup teams and so forth. We all know the skill set is high and potential is very high.

"His game may have slipped lately, but he doesn't have the privilege of playing on a rebuilding team where you can keep throwing guys like that out there. He has that time to be patient with that."

Fridays home game at TD Garden against the Detroit Red Wings was the first Friday night Bruins game in Boston since a Nov. 20, 2008 tilt against the Florida Panthers at the Garden.

Tuukka Rask was pulled after the second period, and it marked the third time this season that the Bruins have pulled a goaltender from the game. The Bruins are 0-2-1 in those three games this season.

Bostons 6-1 loss to Detroit tonight was their largest margin of loss since a 6-1 setback to Anaheim on Oct. 8, 2009 and their first of the season by more than three goals.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

cp_morning_skate-.jpg

Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while waiting for the next wave of announcements that the Bruins have signed college players out of the NCAA tournament.
 
-- Former Wild goaltender Josh Harding is finding his way after his MS diagnosis forced him out of the NHL prematurely.

-- Young D-man Seth Jones is becoming the “hoss” defenseman that the Blue Jackets will need come playoff time.

-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has Wild coach Bruce Boudreau calling a loss to the Canucks “embarrassing” as the hard times continue for Minnesota.  

-- Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney is ready to step up for the Leafs after they lost Frederik Andersen to injury.
 
-- Old friend David Warsofsky has been recalled from the AHL and will be with the Penguins as crunch time hits ahead of the playoffs.

-- USA Hockey is now reportedly reaching out to rec league and former Division III women’s hockey players to find a replacement roster for the world championships as the USA women continues their boycott.
 
-- For something completely different: We have an honest-to-goodness think piece about pulling the “Irish Exit.” Well, okay then.

Haggerty: Time for Bruins to make a change in goal

bruins-rask-khudobin-rask-032617x.jpg

Haggerty: Time for Bruins to make a change in goal

BROOKLYN -- For the second year in a row, Boston's franchise goaltender and $7 million man Tuukka Rask couldn’t physically answer the bell for one of the biggest games of the year.

Rask was unable to go Saturday night when the Bruins faced the Islanders at the Barclays Center because of a lower body injury. Anton Khudobin stepped in and helped the B's to a 2-1 victory that snapped their four-game losing streak, moved them past the Isles back in the second wild-card spot, and enabled them to close to two points behind Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division.

It wasn't quite the same as last year, when Rask was too sick to play the win-or-go-home regular-season finale against Ottawa. The Bruins got shellacked in that one and missed the playoffs. There are still two weeks left in the regular season, so Saturday didn't have the same do-or-die consequences.

But Khudobin, who made 18 saves, gave Boston some energy and enthusiasm in the crease with the same kind of battling, chaotic style that Tim Thomas exhibited. Watching Khudobin throw a double-pad stack at John Tavares on a late third-period Islanders power play in a one-goal game was a clear sign that Rask wasn’t in net, and his unconventional technique perhaps distracted Tavares enough that he ripped his open shot off the crossbar and away from harm.

Afterward interim coach Bruce Cassidy fervently sang Khudobin’s praises, and almost seemed to be shedding some light on what they aren’t always getting from their top goaltender in these crunch-time games.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots," he said. "And you kill that many penalties. (The Islanders failed to score on six power plays.) It was a nice building-block win for us.

"I loved [Khudobin’s] performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

So now the Bruins have a choice about what to do Tuesday against the Predators. And the hope here is that Khudobin gets a second straight start, whether or not Rask is healthy enough to go.

Khudobin has won five games in a row and has a 1.98 goals-against average and a  .920 save percentage since the All-Star break. Rask, in contrast, has an inflated 2.91 GAA and .892 save percentage in that span.

More than that, however, there’s a real issue developing with Rask and how much trust the Bruins can have in him when the games matter most. He gave up a couple of bad goals in the loss to the Lightning on Thursday night, and afterwards looked like the boy who lost his dog when answering questions with a soft, unsure voice that began to trail off when it came time to accept responsibility for his part in the ugly defeat.

The downcast expression was a concern, and it certainly seemed like Rask was rattled mentally as much as he was beaten physically after that defeat.

So the overriding question now is: What good is a No. 1 goaltender if he doesn’t play like one when it matters most?

Maybe Rask is seriously injured and we’ll find out after the season that he needs hip surgery, and was far less than 100 percent all year. Or maybe playing three games in four nights was too much of a strain, and he needed the weekend away from the ice after the unavoidable bump in workload.

The fact that the Bruins expect Rask to practice on Monday, however, really takes some of the oomph out of the serious-injury argument, and makes one wonder how he can practice Monday after not playing in the biggest game of the season on Saturday.

Maybe Rask was angered by Cassidy calling him out by saying the team “needs more from him” after the goalie's lackadaisical performance in the loss to Tampa Bay, and that played into the goalie’s sudden case of “lower body discomfort” on Friday after saying Thursday he felt fine physically.

Maybe Rask is frazzled emotionally after the burden of carrying the team at times this season, and he needed a few days away from the ice to recollect himself and get ready for the crucial seven remaining games on the schedule.

Still, the Bruins can’t look at Rask as someone they can rely on when the chips are down for the rest of this season. That cost them last year, and shame on the Bruins if they again make the mistake of putting all of their playoff eggs in the Rask basket.

Perhaps it’s time to even start thinking about other goaltending options this summer. Rask will no longer have full no-trade protection once the season is over. He's been inconsistent at best in the biggest moments over the years, and the B’s shouldn’t pay a goaltender like he’s one the best if he isn’t when the late-season heat is on.

But that’s a question to ponder in a month or two.

For now, the Bruins should ride the hot goalie -- Khudobin, who showed Saturday he's willing to battle his butt off -- and let Cool Hand Tuukka cool his heels on the bench while recuperating from whatever it is that kept him out of a gigantically important game in Brooklyn this weekend.