Rask's off-night disrupts Julien's goaltending strategy

Rask's off-night disrupts Julien's goaltending strategy

By Danny Picard

BOSTON -- Claude Julien knows what he wants to do between now and the playoffs. He wants to give Tim Thomas some rest.

But what he wants to do, and what he has to do, between now and then, may force his hand to get away from his most desired goaltending strategy.

That was no more evident than in Friday night's 6-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, a loss that saw Bruins back-up Tuukka Rask allow two questionable goals on the first two shots he faced in the opening minutes of the first period, and a total of five goals on 19 shots through the first two periods.

That was all the Bruins' coaching staff could stand to watch, as Rask sent the B's into the second intermission on a horrendous mishap behind his own net, whiffing on an attempt to swing it behind the goal, and watching a Todd Bertuzzi bank shot go off his pads and into the net for a Detroit 5-1 lead with 3:22 remaining in the second.

Tim Thomas relieved Rask of his duties to begin the third, and allowed one goal on 15 shots. But the fact that the B's had even use him, went against the team's original goaltending plans.

Those plans include giving Thomas some extra rest down the stretch, making sure that the 36-year-old goaltender is ready for what looks to be a serious playoff run.

And while the Bruins still believe in Rask ability to carry some more of the load in the team's final 27 games, it's stinkers like Friday night that don't assure Julien that his goaltending plans can be set in stone.

"I don't know what's going to happen in these next 27 games," said Julien after the loss. "Whether one guy's going to get really hot, whether both of them are going to play well. I deal with it day by day, I've always said that, because you don't know. You can't think 27 games ahead, or 20 games ahead, or 15. You've just got to go by schedule. You've got to go by how things are going.

"My goal, standing here, is, I'm telling you that I would like to give Tuukka some games, and give Timmy some rest, and utilize both, in a way that it works for our hockey club. But I can't tell you right now I've got the blue print, because the blue print changes every day, as you saw tonight."

Anytime that Rask hasn't looked like a hockey god in the crease this season, the question is still asked: "Are you struggling because of your lack of playing time?"

And every time, Rask gives the same answer: "No."

In reality, Rask hasn't struggled this season like he did on Friday night against Detroit. His 5-11-1 record doesn't tell the full story, or true story, of his season. He's been a whole lot better than that.

Most of the year, it's been the team in front of him that hadn't shown up. And even though that was still the case on Friday, the early goals that Rask let up, combined with Bertuzzi's bank-shot from behind the net in the second period, were Rask's fault.

"That something that should never happen, when you think about it as a goalie," said Rask on allowing two goals on the first two shots he faced. "We didn't play our best, that's for sure."

Bertuzzi gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead, just 1:10 into the game, when he came down the right wing, and beat Rask with a slapper off the right post and in. Dan Cleary added another, two minutes later, when he beat Rask through the five-hole on a shot that could have been saved.

But it was Bertuzzi's first one that Rask deemed inexcusable.

"It was a good shot, but still, if it goes short side like that, you've got to have it," said Rask. "And a couple other ones too, but you can't do anything about it anymore, right?"

He also can't do anything about Bertuzzi's second one, which ended his night.

"I thought I deserved to get pulled," said Rask. "I didn't play at my level today."

"We didn't feel he was as sharp as we needed him to be, that was number one," said Julien. "He still made some good saves. We did recognize that as well, but I think he just wasn't sharp tonight, and after discussing the situation, we just felt the right thing to do was to give Timmy the third period."

When asked who would start in net for the Bruins on Sunday in Detroit, Julien said he hadn't yet made that decision.

Julien knows how he wants to handle the goaltending situation from here on out. It's up to Rask's play to allow him to do that.

"We keep saying over and over, we need Tuukka, to come in and give Timmy some rest," said Julien. "And we need Tuukka to play well, because we know he can play well.

"Tonight was a tough night for Rask. The last time he played, he was very good for us. So he's capable of it. And I think we'll just chalk that up as a tough night, like the rest of the team in front of him, and move on."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Mike Giardi: 'Zero faith' Bruins can turn things around

Mike Giardi: 'Zero faith' Bruins can turn things around

Mike Giardi and Lou Merloni discuss the Boston Bruins recent collapse, and debate who deserves the blame.