Rask may get call on both ends of important back-to-back

Rask may get call on both ends of important back-to-back

While the Bruins have been pretty consistent about giving Tuukka Rask some rest in back-to-back situations over the last few months, the time for rest may be over.

With just 11 games left in the regular season, it appears Rask will be starting both ends of a back-to-back against two important division rivals. He'll definitely play tonight in Toronto against the Maple Leafs, as the third-place B's hope to build their lead over the fourth-place Leafs to five points. And it also sounds like he'll be in goal Tuesday night at TD Garden when Boston hosts second-place Ottawa, a team that's beaten the Bruins badly twice this season and whom they trail by four points in the Atlantic standings.

And Rask -- who's recently played like a goalie who needs a challenge, having posted a subpar .899 save percentage and 2.80 goals-against average in his last six games -- says he's ready.

"Of course," he said Sunday at the team's practice facility in Brighton. "I think at this time of year you don't want to take time off  . . . Every game matters and you have to be ready to play. We've got a big game in Toronto and try to take care of business there, and then we come back and play Ottawa and go day-by-day. That's the best approach you can take.

"[Toronto and Ottawa] are good challenges. In order to be one of those good teams, you have to beat the good teams.”

Coach Bruce Cassidy has been up front about his goalie choices well ahead of games, and that didn't change after Sunday's practice when he hinted Rask was likely to play both Monday and Tuesday. The Bruins are facing a huge four-game week, with games against Toronto, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and the Islanders, and it appears backup goalie Anton Khudobin will get the call against the fading Lightning.

"Generally in back-to-backs we've gone with both goalies, but because we just had a couple of days off and Tuukka's workload wasn't [heavy], we might change it this week to be honest with you,” Cassidy said Sunday. "I'm not going to get ahead of it. Would Tuukka play all four? I highly doubt that, but where we slot in Anton might change from the predictable way that we've been doing it.”

That's a good thing for a Bruins team recognizing the importance of the next couple of games against the teams directly above and below them in the standings, and ready to put a bigger share of the responsibility in Rask's lap.

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

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.