Bruins step up for Rask, help earn him season's first win


Bruins step up for Rask, help earn him season's first win

BOSTON -- Tuukka Rask had a 2.71 goals-against average entering Monday night's game against the New York Islanders at the TD Garden. But he had no wins to show for it.

Three starts, three losses. That's how Rask's season had gone.

But everybody in the Bruins dressing room agreed: it wasn't his fault.

Monday night was about extending their win streak to three games. But with Rask getting the nod -- even after Tim Thomas posted a shutout on Saturday night in Toronto -- the Bruins' game against the Islanders meant more than a win streak.

It was about getting Rask something he deserved a long time ago.

"We wanted to get this win for him," said Bruins forward Gregory Campbell after Monday night's game. "He works hard every day. It's not an easy job and he's positive. He's a great goaltender and not too often you have two great goaltenders on one team battling for the same job, so we have a lot of confidence in both of them. Tuukka's played well every time he's been in the net. We just haven't had the goals to support him so it was nice to get those goals and give him his first win."

The B's defeated the Islanders 6-2 on Monday, marking the first time they've scored more than three goals for Rask since last February. In his three previous starts this season, the Bruins were shut out, scored one goal, and then scored two. All three resulted in losses.

Rask admitted some frustration, Monday, with his team's inability to bring their A-game when he's been between the pipes. It's a problem that continued from last season. But things were different against the Islanders.

"I wasn't too frustrated, but obviously, when you feel like you're playing OK, and then you just lose, it's kind of tough on your confidence a little bit," said Rask after Monday's win. "But we battled through it, and it's good to get that win.

"It's more fun to win than lose. I was a little frustrated, obviously. But not too crazy. I knew it would come, because we were playing bad as a team at the beginning of the season too, so it was just bad luck there. It feels good obviously."

Rask made 26 saves and didn't allow a goal after the pair he let up in the first period. He had no chance on the first, as Matt Moulson beautifully re-directed a shot from the point. And on the second, Rask was a victim of a Michael Grabner snipe to the top-right corner.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the game that it would have been "easy" to go back to Thomas on Monday night, after his shutout against the Maple Leafs on Saturday. But Rask's previous success against the Islanders combined with the fact that Julien is dead set on playing both goaltenders this season, made for Rask's fourth start of the season.

And this time, the players in front of him showed up.

"I think it was just a matter of time," said Julien after the win. "I don't think we ever questioned his play. And even in those games he lost, it was pretty obvious that his game was fine. It was us in front of him that weren't doing a very good job.

"So tonight, the players played much better in front of him, and gave him some cushion as well. And he was able to play his game comfortably."

"We really put a lot of talk before the game into it," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. "Its something he deserved and we just didnt do a very good job early on when he was playing. So for sure, tonight to get a win for him and Im sure hes also happy with his performance.

"You could see the guys really sacrifice themselves, blocking shots. We saw Danny Paille was just paying the price. Gregory Campbells always trying to block shots, Dennis Seidenberg. We have guys willing to do their job to prevent any pucks going to the net and Tuukka made really big saves when we needed it."

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right. 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.