Rask off to a rolling start for Bruins

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Rask off to a rolling start for Bruins

During a normal season with a three-week training camp and an 82-game schedule, a Monday afternoon matinee against the Winnipeg Jets might have been the perfect time for backup goaltender Anton Khudobin to find his way into the Bruins lineup.

But nothing about this shortened 48-game NHL season is normal, and the No. 1 goaltender of Kazakhstan never got into Monday's tilt.

Instead it made all the sense in the world to insert Tuukka Rask right back in there while hes building himself a happy little groove to start the young 2013 hockey season. The Finnish netminder continued to cement his good start to a pivotal season by stopping 26 shots en route to a 2-1 shootout win over the Jets at TD Garden.

It probably wasnt the portrait of good playoff-level hockey that the Bruins and Rangers put on over the weekend, but it was important to see Rask and his teammates grind through a win early in the year. The Bruins hit five posts and couldn't finish off every chance that a generous Winnipeg defense gave them, but that's when their goaltending needs to cover the offense's back-side.

In that sense Rask had the boys covered on Monday afternoon. It was also important for him to match Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec save-for-save as his counterpart was holding the Jets in the game at the other end of the ice with 26 saves of his own.

We just talked about that before the game, but its a funny thing. No matter how much you talk about certain things it just tends to go a different way, said Rask. We turned the puck over too many times and we didnt get the puck in a few times when we needed. Theyre a good skating team, so we gave them too much space at times.

While Rask wasnt tested all that often by a listless Rangers bunch over the weekend, he needed to be on top of things against a Winnipeg team that shot at him from all areas of the ice. The only goal allowed was a Chris Thorburn strike on a long rebound that was just out of the reach of Zdeno Chara's telephone pole of a hockey stick.

The Bs goaltenders best save of the day: the glove hand snare of a breakaway bid by Kyle Wellwood after he got behind Adam McQuaid and Andrew Ference in a potentially lethal defensive breakdown. That kept it a one-goal deficit early in the first period, and showed early that Rask had to be better than he was Saturday because the defense wasnt quite as good.

But thats generally the job description for the masked men, and what will be asked of Rask as a No. 1 goaltender capable of carrying the Black and Gold until they're consistently at full efficiency.

He was asked to make a few solid technical stops and one sensational one during the 60 minutes of play when that was the case, and the Bruins needed to scramble to kill penalties in the third period and overtime. But then the Bruins dominated and didnt allow a single shot on net in overtime despite being shorthanded.

D-zone we got a little bit loose at times and we had to reel guys back in, but our D has done a great job. They try to give shots from the outside and that gives Tuukka Rask the best chance possible to see those pucks and make the saves, said Claude Julien. Tuukkas come up big for us as well. Defensively, I think were starting to play more through our identity and because of that were getting some offensive opportunities, as well.

There were some saves that were less sensational, but no less important in a contest where one mistake would make the difference. Like the shootout stops on Olli Jokinen and Bryan Little that guaranteed two points at the end of the extra session, and gave the Bruins a 10-3 shootout record over the last two seasons. Strangely enough Blake Wheeler was the only one to score in the shootout for Winnipeg, and thats the only guy Rask has an extensive book on headed into the showdown.

It doesnt really matter whether you watch shootout film or not. You just try to stay patient and wait the guy out, said Rask. I watched film in my first year, maybe a little bit more, but now I havent done it.

Well, whatever Rask is doing is working for him. The Finnish netminder is 2-0-0 with a 0.96 goals against average and a .958 save percentage in his first two games of the season, and couldnt have drawn up a better beginning to a pivotal prove it year for him and his hockey club.

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.