Rask's performance in Montreal goes beyond the numbers

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Rask's performance in Montreal goes beyond the numbers

MONTREAL Tuukka Rask only finished with 20 saves Wednesday night against the high-flying Canadiens, and some might take that as a rocking-chair effort for a goaltender in a rivalry game at the NHL level.

But Rask was instrumental in Bostons victory while holding things together in the first period with 11 saves.

"I told the team we needed to come out of the first period tied or ahead, and we were able to do that because Tuukka saved us," said Claude Julien. "He was outstanding early in this game."

Strictly for comparison sake, it took the Bruins offense more than 12 minutes just to get a single shot on Montreal's net. Certainly the Habs shot themselves in the foot a few times in defeat as Tomas Plekanec unsuccessfully flailed at a breakaway attempt while all on his own in the second period, and David Desharnais missed wide right on a doorstep chance in the third period that actually went through Rask's pads.

We wanted to come out hard and match their work ethic for that first period. But we didnt, said Rask. They got a lot of chances but luckily we got out of it in a 0-0 game and stuck with it for the rest of the game.

I dont think we felt good going into the third period. We were kind of waking up or a little rattled maybe. Its a game for first place and we were playing just well enough to lose by one goal. Then we started playing hockey.

But Rask was also his competitive, calm self while closing off a Lars Eller breakaway goal in the first period, and kicking it away to safety in the corner with a right pad save. The Finnish goaltender then just plain refused to let anything pass while chaotic scrambles bunched up all around him in fine Montreal fashion.

It wasn't a one-man operation either, however, and individual defensive players came up big behind Rask.

During one exchange in the first period Rene Bourque had the puck at the right post, and presumably had the kind of raw strength needed to push the puck past the goal line. First Dougie Hamilton had the presence of mind to block his scoring chance when the Bs goaltender was outside his crease.

Rask held the line on Bourques second rebound attempt.

The B's goaltender didnt have a shot at Montreals one goal in the second period scored when P.K. Subban ripped a shot off of Rich Peverley's stick blade that arched high into the corner of the net. So Rask put that score behind him and made 19 other stops throughout the game sandwiched around the one breakaway killer save on Eller that he tidily knocked aside with a stiff right pad.

Later in the third period Rask was again just as solid shutting down a last-ditch effort by the Canadiens to tie the game as Habs skaters grew desperate. Things continued to go white-knuckle until the very end as both clubs got whistled for penalties in the final minute plus of the game.

One confidence booster for Rask, who improved to 6-1-1 on the season with the win, is that his body of work against the Canadiens continues to improve. The Bruins goaltender upped his career record against Montreal to a 2-6-1 mark that could still use a few more W's for good measure.

His 1.96 goals against average and .922 save percentage this season are exactly where they need to be.

Tuukka has had the right attitude for us since day one with high expectations and question marks that go along with it, said Claude Julien. Day in and day out he just does his job and doesnt get too high or too low. Hes a normal goaltender.

That may be a surprise to a lot of people, but hes so easy going. I can talk to him in the middle of a game about something thats going on, and he has no issues. Some goalies would probably bite your head off if you said something to them in that kind of situation. But hes down to earth and easy to coach. That kind of translates into the calm play that allowed us to come back in this game.

Rask can afford to be much calmer when hes on the winning end as hes been six times in eight chances this year, a great start for the first-place Bruins and their goalie establishing himself as one of the best in the Eastern Conference.

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.