Bruins

Bruins aim to end Hurricanes' domination over them

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Bruins aim to end Hurricanes' domination over them

WILMINGTON, MA There arent many teams in the NHL that really have the Bruins number. The odds become even more unlikely that a team has dominated the Black and Gold if theyre not even a playoff team.

But the non-playoff Carolina Hurricanes, the same team that banished the Bruins from the playoffs four years ago, swept the Bs in their four game series during the regular season and outscored Boston by a 14-5 margin. Its those kinds of performances against mediocre teams that gave the Bruins a reputation as a team that can sometimes play down to the competition.

But the Bruins players are keenly aware of last years Canes phenomenon as they ready for their first meeting against Carolina at the RBC Center on Monday night. The tilt against the Southeast Division foe will be the first part of back-to-back games that conclude back at TD Garden against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

Its a pretty important game for us. This is a team that gave us a fair share of trouble last year and they improved their roster. Theyve won their last couple of games, so its going to be a challenge for us, said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. There are certain teams that give other teams trouble. Theyre a four-man attack team and they always have a D up on the rush.

We havent played our best against them, and theyve played some very good games against us. Its one of those things where we want to get that win against them as quick as we can so we can get the monkey off our back.

As expected Eric Staal, Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner share the team-lead with four points on the season, and the oldest Staal brother leads the Hurricanes with three goals scored on the season. The talented, young Carolina defensemen corps combined with skilled players like the Staal Brothers, Skinner and Alex Semin mean that the Bruins could be in for a long night if they start looking ahead to the Devils on Tuesday night.

Julien all but assured that wont be happening.

Their record against us last year is something were well aware of and were going into the game well-prepared, said Julien. They come at the net hard, they open up a lot and we havent been at our best against that kind of a team. We just havent been as prudent playing against a team like that. We need to take away their shots from the point and make sure we clear away any traffic from the front of the net.

There will be an extra challenge for the Bruins to do that without the services of 6-foot-5, 209-pound Adam McQuaid, a staunch stay-at-home defenseman that will miss the game vs. Carolina for personal reasons. Perhaps that will make the Bruins focus even more than last years domination of them in a convincing series of four games.

Morning Skate: Dad's texts and emails reveal enforcer's sad story

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Morning Skate: Dad's texts and emails reveal enforcer's sad story

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wishing everybody a safe night before Thanksgiving. Be careful out there, people.

*The New York Times has a very sad story on former NHL enforcer Stephen Peat, as told to the Times through a series of emails and texts from Peat’s dad as he struggles with a number of seemingly concussion-related issues in his post-hockey life.

*There’s nothing better than some Benn on Benn brotherly crime as Jordie Benn lays a hit on Jamie Benn in the Stars vs. Habs game.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Marc Spector has the Edmonton Oilers hitting a new low after they quit in a loss to the St. Louis Blues.

*Duncan Keith said he wants to play until he’s 45 and defy the odds as one of the few that get a chance to play pro hockey for that long.

*Dylan Larkin is flourishing with the Detroit Red Wings as he’s adding more responsibility to his chores in Hockeytown.

*A Happy Thanksgiving to the Boychuks and all the other great people around the NHL, including Matt Beleskey with the Bruins, who take time out of their days to help make sure everybody has a good meal on Turkey Day.

*For something completely different: Excited for my kids that there is going to be more Trolls in their future starting with a Christmas special on Friday.

 


 

Bruins won't win Cup with Rask in net, and need to start planning for future

Bruins won't win Cup with Rask in net, and need to start planning for future

One season could be an outlier. Two seasons is a trend. Three seasons is a long-term pattern that doesn’t figure to change.

For the last three seasons Boston’s $7 million man between the pipes, Tuukka Rask, has been more ordinary than extraordinary, and that’s a troubling development. At this point it’s enough to convince this humble hockey writer that the Bruins will never win a Stanley Cup with Rask as their No. 1 goaltender, and that should become a real issue in the next few years as the Bruins build back up to contender status.

Anton Khudobin will make his third straight start Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils, and that makes all the sense in the world: The backup has dramatically outplayed the starter this year. Just compare Khudobin’s NHL-leading .935 save percentage to Rask's pathetic .897, and the fact that the Bruins have pulled points from every single game Khudobin has started.

That’s all short-term stuff, but it's important as the Bruins are desperate for point to stay on the outskirts of the playoff picture. Long term, the B's are aiming toward being a Cup contender in a couple of years, when youngsters like Charlie McAvoy, David Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo, Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk will be entering their primes, and grizzled, winning veterans like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand will still have something left in the tank.

But what of the goaltending?

Rask, 30, still has an impressive career .922 save percentage, and nobody can take away his Vezina Trophy or his All-Star level seasons. But his save percentages have dropped noticeably: It's a combined .915 in the last two full seasons, and is below .900 now. He’s become predictable in his approach to shooters, consistently dropping to give them high, open targets around the net. And it feels like he’s lost some of the competitive fire he had when he was a milk-crate-tossing prospect in the minor leagues.

The stretches where he gives up soft goals have gotten longer, and -- as is necessary with a changing, aging cast of defensive personnel -- Rask rarely steals games when the Bruins are outplayed. The organization has also come to the determination that he loses effectiveness if he plays more than 55-60 times ia season.

In short, Rask is being paid as a $7 million-a-year franchise goalie, but he's not playing like one. And there's four years beyond this left on the contract.

The Bruins will have to play him and pump up his value if they any hopes of trading him in the future. He'll have to be inserted back in the lineup at some point anyway, because let’s face it: Khudobin and Zane McIntyre aren’t the answers as his replacement. The B's need to draft, sign or trade for Rask’s heir apparent, and pave the way for that goaltender to be in Boston a couple of years from now when they're again ready for a Stanley Cup push.

Rask proved he wasn’t good enough to carry a talented Bruins team over the top when he crumbled at the end of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks, and he’s been spotty, and oft-times unreliable, in big games ever since. It’s time for the Bruins to begin the search process for a goalie that can take them on a Cup run when they’re ready for it.

After nine seasons, Rask has proven he isn’t that guy.

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