Rask strong between the pipes, ready for more

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Rask strong between the pipes, ready for more

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

OTTAWA It had been so long since Tuukka Rask had played a competitive game in an NHL rink that nobody would have blamed him if hed forgotten what it was like.

The 24-year-old goaltender became a spectator after taking the loss against the New Jersey Devils in the regular-season finale way back on April 10, and got a front-row seat to the Tim Thomas Show from then on.

It all ended well for Rask and the Bruins as they captured the Stanley Cup, which the young goalie was able to take back to Finland with him over the summer, but goalies want to get out on the ice and stop pucks.

Rask got his chance to warm up the puck-stopping muscles with the full start against the Ottawa Senators in Bostons opening preseason game on Wednesday night. He was brilliant while making 34 saves and pushing things to overtime in a game where the Bruins were badly outplayed in front of him, but once again came up just a little short in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Sens at Scotiabank Place.

Bruins coach Claude Julien correctly surmised that the game wouldnt have even made it to overtime if Rask wasnt so good, and determined that his tired-looking team needed a day of rest.

Tuukka played well tonight and he was a big factor in keeping it close, said Claude Julien. Ottawa was definitely the better team tonight. They played a more direct game and we didnt muster up much.

A Mika Zibanejad fluttering shot fooled the Bs goaltender for the game-winner, but it couldnt wipe out all the good work leading up to it. Rask looked sharp early, but saved some of his best stops for the sleepy middle of the game as his defense broke down around him.

The sprawling glove save on Mark Parrish as he bombed down the left wing was a thing of midseason beauty, and Rask kept things under control when a quartet of youngsters (Dougie Hamilton, Jordan Caron, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Tardif) started running around on a delayed penalty call for more than a minute, which put the goalie in a shooting gallery.

It was good to get some game action in and see a lot of shots, said Rask. I didnt feel too bad. Every game is kind of the same. You just cant approach it like its a preseason game or a playoff game.

You just kind of try and stop every puck. But its definitely messier. Guys dont make plays like they usually do in the regular season and pucks are kind of just bouncing off guys sticks. But its still a hockey game and you do your best at it.

Does Rask like the preseason action to be a little helter skelter, so its not so much of a shock to the system when the real bullets start flying?

Its probably better that way, said Rask. Obviously teams are trying different rosters and they dont have the lineups that they usually have and theres chaos. But thats preseason and its part of it.

Rask will need the chaos, the odd bounces and the fluttering shots here in preseason, but the young goalie is going to play more than his 29 games last season while backing up Thomas this season and he might as well be ready for it.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.