Rask brilliant in December

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Rask brilliant in December

The Bruins have often said they have two No. 1 goaltenders in their deck.

It looks like for the first time since they became a tandem three years ago, both Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask are playing that way. Rask continued a torrid December run with a 3-0 shutout victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. That performance gives him an otherworldly .971 save percentage during four starts this month.

Rask was the beneficiary of a Kings team that seemed alternately confused andor asleep after going through a coaching change 24 hours prior. Regardless, the 24-year-old netminder was still stellar between the pipes. With a 41-save effort that included a 20-stop third period, the backup goaltender improved to 6-4-1 on the season with his first shutout of the year. He has now passed Thomas in save percentage (.939 to .938) and goals against average (1.82 to 1.92).

Rask's play has no doubt been a confidence booster this month. But he also got positive reviews after he replaced Thomas last weekend against the Blue Jackets in a tie game and came away with the victory. That show of faith was a brilliant coaching move for Claude Julien, and something that may help Rask as he competes with the best goalie in the world for playing time.

He was good tonight. He was arguably our best player tonight. He stood tall and they threw a lot of shots at him, certainly not easy shots to stop, said Julien. There was a lot of traffic in front of the net screens. He had the quick feet going, made the saves on close-range and was probably our best player.

So he got better as the game went on and I thought he did a good job the other night coming in and kind of settling himself in the third period against Columbus and then he just carried that into tonight.

The toughest saves of the night came late in the game with the Bs holding down a three-goal lead and Los Angeles finally showing some desperation and thats when Rask shook off a play with Kings scrapper Dustin Brown walking in alone. Brown maneuvered through the Boston defense before getting turned away by the young puck-stopper, and his shutout was complete.

You just try to win every game. The team knows what Im capable of and theyve seen me enough so I dont really need to prove that day in and day out, said Rask, who is a ridiculous 3-1 with a 0.91 goals against average and a .971 save percentage during four games in the month of December. Theres no more to prove to them than I have to prove to myself. I dont take any extra pressure on that.

I just tried to save every puck. You dont want to think about shutouts because you might chase yourself but couple tough chances in the end but that was it.

The plan all along was to start Rask at home against the Kings on Tuesday, and come back with Thomas in Ottawa, where hes piled up the most road wins and shutouts of any road arena in his Bruins career.

Claude Julien wouldnt discuss his goaltending plan after Tuesday nights shutout victory, but its all but assured hes still going to come back with Thomas against the Sens as outlined Tuesday morning.

What will be interesting is which goaltender gets the call against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon in an important Eastern Conference match for the Bruins. Juliens decision could rest largely on what Thomas does against the Senators on Wednesday night, but more playing time should be trending toward Rasks direction given the way that hes played.

With Rask standing on his head this month, and the Bruins still without Zdeno Chara for what could be the next couple of games, its certainly worth discussing a little more playing time for Rask. The high number of shots for the Kings indicates a Bs team thats perhaps playing a little more in the bend but dont break mold, and there needs to be some tightening up in front of the goalie.

We have to tighten up a bit. I think we went through spurts in the game where we were playing well and spurts where we werent, Brad Marchand said. You know, Tuukka did a great job of keeping us in it when shots were coming at him but we definitely played sloppy at times.

So its a good thing Rask is playing so well that he can cover for a sloppy group of Bs finding their way in a Chara-less world.

Once the Bruins get past their spread-out schedule (seven games in a little less than three weeks) leading into the New Year, there will be a steady diet of Rask in the second half of the regular season. That much is certain as it has been Bostons strategy all along to give Thomas some second-half rest.

Where once that might have seemed like a risky proposition, one could now make the argument its the best chance for Boston to win given the level at which Rask is playing in net.

Morning Skate: Pronger on his way to a GM job?

Morning Skate: Pronger on his way to a GM job?

*Chris Pronger takes a job in the front office of the Florida Panthers and wants to be a GM in the NHL someday.

*It sounds like Alex Radulov is playing contract chicken with the Montreal Canadiens while demanding pretty massive term and salary demands.

*Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has a top-nine winger on his wish list after dealing away Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

*A good look from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jon Rosen into what the draft outlook is for the Los Angeles Kings entering this weekend.

*Ryan Strome is ecstatic about moving on from the New York Islanders and heading to the Edmonton Oilers where he’ll get a chance to fully utilize the skills that went under the radar in Brooklyn.

*Even without a high pick, the Buffalo Sabres and Jason Botterill will be making some moves at the NHL Draft.

*You want some talk about the Bruins prospects and their potential draft targets for the Black and Gold this weekend. Here’s FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kirk Luedeke on with a podcast up in Maine called the Bruins Diehards talking all of that good stuff just a couple of days ago.

*Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall is going searching for another goalie after once again deciding that Philly needs more help between the pipes. This seems to be a perpetual situation for this group, doesn’t it?

*Jeff Marek has his final 2017 NHL Mock Draft up and running, and he has St. Cloud State forward Ryan Poehling headed to Boston with the No. 18 pick.

*Apparently Linda Cohn wants to push out Gary Bettman and take over as NHL Commissioner when her contract is up with ESPN. Well, okay then.

*It was a little emotional and totally uplifting to see Denna Laing getting saluted at the NHL Awards ceremony. I’m so glad that my daughter has strong role models like Denna that show young women what courage and character are all about.

*The rumor mill is getting worked up at NHL Draft weekend, and it sounds like the Minnesota Wild are going to be busy potentially dealing Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or Jason Pominville in the next week or two. Certainly, the Bruins have been front and center in those discussions, but it remains to be seen if something gets done.

*For something completely different: The glowing reviews are coming in for the new Netflix series, GLOW, and it doesn’t sound like a fun concept.

 

Report: Bruins among several teams interested in Wild's Scandella

Report: Bruins among several teams interested in Wild's Scandella

CHICAGO – The Bruins missed out on the first flurry of defensemen traded on Friday morning, but they may be in on the second wave of quality D-men expected to be made available around the NHL Draft.

The Bruins are one of several teams actively in discussions with the Minnesota Wild about defenseman Marco Scandella, who fits the profile of what the B's are looking for to fill a top-four role. TVA’s Ren Lavoie was the first to report the latest interest but the Bruins have long been watching the Minnesota back-end situation waiting for one of their defenders to become available.

Scandella, 27, is big, at 6-foot-3, 205-pounds, he’s got a few years of NHL experience, he’s a left-handed shot and he’s already proven he can be a top-four defenseman in the NHL. Scandella is coming off a so-so season with the Wild where he posted four goals and 13 points along with a minus-2 rating in 71 games. and for the first time in three seasons, he averaged under 20 minutes of ice time for the first time in the past three seasons.

RELATED: Haggerty's Mock Draft 4.0: Expect a frenzy of pre-draft trades 

Scandella would be a good potential fit on the left side in a top-four role playing in a pairing with Charlie McAvoy as the B's look for a good, mobile partner that can play at both ends of the ice. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they are clearly not the only team in the running for the Montreal-born Scandella. One of those teams is his hometown Montreal Canadiens, who are hungry for a few D-men after losing several in the past couple of weeks.

There are other names filtering out of Chicago as the draft gets underway tonight. One of the more interesting D-names is Massachusetts native Noah Hanifin. The former Boston College standout is rumored to be available as the Carolina Hurricanes look to bring some star power in at the forward position. He was the player Boston initially wanted in the draft a couple of years ago before standing pat and selecting Jakub Zboril as one of three consecutive first-round picks.

There doesn’t seem to be a match for Hanifin with David Pastrnak as the only realistic option to be going to Carolina in return and that’s not something the Bruins are going to entertain with one of their cornerstone roster pieces. Still, it’s encouraging that so many quality D-man names are emerging on the trade market with Don Sweeney and the Bruins looking to get down to business this weekend.