Rask bounces back in loss

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Rask bounces back in loss

BUFFALO Sometimes when youre smack in the middle of the tempest, you cant see the answer right in front of you.

Tuukka Rask knew something was amiss as he grew more uncomfortable with each passing game between the pipes as it mushroomed into a five-game losing streak. But a visit in Buffalo from Bs goalie coach Bob Essensa helped the young Bs goaltender realize hed been dropping too rapidly into his butterfly position when the going got tough.

It was a subtle observation from Essensa, but it was all Rask needed to climb out of his February abyss. Rask was his normal stoic goaltending self while backstopping the Bruins to a 2-1 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center, and looks like hes back on track.

Dropping down has been a weakness of mine lately. It has a lot to do with confidence. Goalie Bob Essensa came here and started to work on that. Its good when somebody tells you that because sometimes you dont realize it yourself, said Rask. Its not always such an easy thing to do when youre feeling the best that youve ever felt. Its a challenge mentally to stay patient and stay up.

Too bad that we lost, but I thought we played a good game.

Sure it was technically Rasks sixth straight loss, but it was also the first time in more than a month the Bs have pulled points out of consecutive games.

Rask made 26 stops including the deflection of a Derek Roy shot away from danger in the opening minute of the first period, and seemingly immediately banished the demons of his previous appearance in Buffalo.

There wasnt going to be a repeat of the blowout defeat that saw Rask apologizing to Tim Thomas on ice for forcing him into a game on his night of rest. That would have been the one where Rask allowed three goals on 10 shots and was pulled early in the second period en route to the Bs worst loss in four years.

It was a good battle. The shootouts can go either way, said Rask, who hadnt allowed fewer than two goals since a 9-0 shutout win over the Calgary Flames back on Jan. 5. I just tried to be more patient and not go down earlyexcept for that Sekera goal. Obviously it was a step ahead for me and hopefully I can keep it up.

Rask was keeping it up Friday night while evenly facing down a red-hot Ryan Miller through a scoreless first period. He shook off an Andrej Sekera goal in the second period that had him kicking himself for slipping into his habit of dropping down too early, and locked it down in the final 20 minutes as his team mounted a comeback.

Rask had strong defensive efforts from Johnny Boychuk and Zdeno Chara protecting things in front of him, but he was calm, effortless and at his quiet best when Buffalo attackers broke through. Rask confidently pounced on pucks that skittered through the crease area and flawlessly absorbed shots fired directly on him.

Several weeks ago in the same building against the same team he was coughing up dangerous rebounds all over the ice. This time he was the picture of control and economic motion between the pipes.

In overtime Rask was the recipient of a stellar Zdeno Chara defensive play as he shooed away a Thomas Vanek that looked destined to be the game-winner. But Rask used his scrambling athleticism to quickly recover and make the follow-up save on Andrej Sekera.

Of course the Finnish netminder swore softly to himself for failing to corral Vaneks wind-up slapper and Derek Roys game-winner in the shootout both of which he managed to get a piece of but the building blocks are in place.

Rask is putting one foot in front of the other to regain the form he had while leading the NHL in goals against average and save percentage headed into January.

Never is that more important than the stretch of 22 games in 40 days the Bruins are headed for once they finish up their six-game road trip with Saturday nights tilt against the Senators.

The Bruins need Rask to step up and provide quality performances to keep Tim Thomas rested and ready down the stretch. That will be an easier chore if Claude Juliens confidence index has risen significantly after seeing some vintage Tuukka against the Sabres.

I thought his game was good tonight. He was solid and made good saveskey saves, said Julien. He seemed like he was in good control. From the bench he seemed calm and was making saves look easy.

I like the way that he battled back in this building from the last time he was here. His game was good and gave us a chance to win.

So Rask is feeling good about himself and his technique between the pipes, and its inevitable that the wins will be following if he continues on that path.

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.