Bruins

Notes: Rask finds his rhythm on the road

191545.jpg

Notes: Rask finds his rhythm on the road

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

OTTAWA Tuukka Rasks confidence level shouldbe at an all-time high this season after pitching a 33-save shutout against the Ottawa Senators following a season thats been full of adversity.

The young Finnish netminder came out of the gate slowly this year, but has caught fire with a four-game winning streak over the last two weeks punctuatedby a 1-0 shutout of the Sens at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday night.

Rask captured wins during the first two games of the road trip against the Islanders and Senators, and finished off his week strong with back-to-back wins against the Oilers and Senators over thefinalthree days of Boston's last big road swing of the season. Its no coincidence that the second game of each of those consecutive pairs ofstarts turned out to be the better effort its a pattern thats manifested itself since he was tending the net for the Providence Bruins in the AHL.

Ive always been that way in my career, said Rask. Even in the AHL, I was always better on Saturdays than I was on Fridays. I dont know why?

I guess I cant really blame it on old age, so Ill just say that Ive got to get my engine going a little earlier.

Rask captured his second shutout of the season and improved his record to 9-11-1 on the season, and also has combined with Tim Thomas for an amazing nine NHL shutouts this season. Its no surprise that Bostons goalies lead the league in save percentage and rank second in goals against average, and the ThomasRask tandem has lived up to every bit of hype they garnered before the season started."For him it's great. He had a tough start to the season and the winloss column has not been in his favor, but lately he's been doing a lot better," said Claude Julien. "His game is obviously getting better, and I'm sure the shutout is something that's really going to help his confidence."

The game essentially turned over in the second period when Rask stuffed center Jason Spezza on a breakaway attempt in a scoreless game, and proved that Bostons netminder was up to the challenge in one of the few spots where the Boston defense broke down.

It seems that Tuukka Time is finally enjoying its very first prolonged run of the season, and it couldnt have come at a better point for a Bruins team needing to find some rest for Thomas. Claude Julien indicated he wasnt sure if Andrew Ference would quite miss the two weeks that Peter Chiarelli had estimated on Monday, and said the Bs wouldnt have any hard answers on the lower body injury until the team arrived back in Boston.

Ference was scheduled to see team doctors on Wednesday, but the Bs coach indicated that the Boston defenseman felt much better with 24 more hours of rest and rehab.

We dont need another defenseman right now, said Julien. I know what Peter said, but we need to get Ference evaluated in Boston because hes feeling a lot better today than yesterday and that four hour flight usually isnt very good.

Its hard to really tell at this point, but well know a lot more tomorrow. Itll be easier to be a little more definitive about it after that.

Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic and Bobby Orr were among the Bruins players and alumni involved in the new Dropkick Murphys music video for Going Out in Style that was premiered on rollingstone.com Tuesday afternoon. In the video Thornton is sitting at a bar with NESN's Heidi Watney while the band plays the song, and at one point he menacingly stares into the camera just as he might before a hockey fight. The B's enforcer had a great time filming the video, but said it was shots of Diet Coke and water for the 9 a.m. shoot during the All-Star break."We had a really good time. They asked me if I wanted to come down and be involved, and of course I was happy to," said Thornton. "Originally they were going to have me as thebouncer in the bar, but we went with this instead. I think the whole video was so good it came out even better than I thought it would, and I had some pretty high expectations."Thornton said that the video-makers got the angry look into the camera after Lenny Clarke went nose-to-nose with the B's tough guy, and started yelling in his face. It took three takes to finally get the shot that made the video."The first time Lenny's face was too far away from me," said Thornton. "The second time he got right in my face, and I couldn't help but start laughing. The third time was the one that they ended up using right after Lenny was done yelling at me."Amazingly, the Bruins power play went 0-for-2 on Tuesday night, and is 1-for-13 in five games since Tomas Kaberle has joined the Bruins. Despite the raw number, Claude Julien likes the increased puck movement and easily achieved scoring chances produced by Kaberle and the new-look Boston power play that time.The way Julien sees it, it's only a matter of time before Boston cashes in on the power play. The NHL War Room actually reviewed a Zdeno Chara one-time slap shot during Boston's first power play that appeared to cross the goal line, but it was eventually ruled "no goal" on the ice and in the review booth after Craig Anderson made the tardy glove save. Its been an interesting 24 hours for Steve Kampfer.The 22-year-old defenseman was scratched for a pair of early games on the current road trip after Tomas Kaberle arrived from the Maple Leafs, but hopped back into the lineup Sunday in Edmonton after Andrew Ferences lower body injury.Kampfer was a minus-1 in 13 plus minutes of ice time and appeared a little rusty in Sundays win after more than a week away from game action, but thats just the tip of the iceberg. Kampfer also got a call from his agent Monday morning that he was being sent down to the AHL, but it certainly wasnt as close to dire as it originally seemed.Kampfer was designated to the AHL during an entire afternoon spent in Ottawa, and then recalled at 5 p.m. in a paperwork move that now allows the young defenseman to qualify for an AHL playoff roster should Bostons season end sooner than Providences. The youngster is highly unlikely to spend any time in Providence through the rest of the regular season or during Bostons playoff run, but its a move similar to the paper transaction the Bs made with Phil Kessel during his rookie season in Boston.Kessel never ended up playing in any AHL playoff games during that 2007-08 campaign.Once Kampfer was assured the paper transaction didnt mean anything to his immediate future in Boston, he could instead concentrate on implementing the little blueline nuances he picked up while watching the game from up in the press box last week.It was great to get back into the lineup. You dont like sitting out at all. Its a relief to get back in, but you also know youve got to play well to keep your spot, said Kampfer, who was much better in Tuesday's win over the Senators. Right now Im just taking it day-by-bay and earning a spot back. When you sit out you see areas where you can make a play, or see you guys patience. You realize you were rushing when you could have really taken more time to make something happen.Kampfer said one of the biggest pluses while serving as a healthy scratch was simply watching the skill set Kaberle brought to the table as the puck-moving defenseman. Its something the young Bostonian hopes to develop into someday.One of the things that Claude talked to me about was really watching how some of the other guys on our team, and in particular how a guy like Kaberle handles himself in the defensive zone and moves things around in the offensive zone, said Kampfer. Its one of those things where you can really pick some things out from other guys that can help you out in your game.I couldnt ask for anything better. You can see how Kaberle moves the puck and the plays he sees. At the same time you want to be back in the lineup, and youre still learning by watching him whether its in practice or at other moments. There are so many areas he can make plays where you wouldnt see it otherwise.
Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

cp-spark-bruins-knights-kuraly-sbias-1-101617.jpg

Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

LAS VEGAS -- Even though it's only five games into a new regular season, it feels like the Bruins are in danger of going off the tracks.

They finished their three-game Western road swing Sunday with an aimless 3-1 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, which came on the heels of a wretched defeat in Colorado and a victory over the winless Coyotes. Sunday was particularly disheartening, as they never tested their ex-goalie, Malcolm Subban, putting only 21 mostly harmless shots on net against a player they gave away on waivers just a few weeks ago,

They may only have three losses in five games, but it sure feels like there's trouble starting to brew in Bruins land.

“It could be a lot of different things,” said Brad Marchand about the loss to Las Vegas. "We may not have been as mentally prepared for that game as we thought we were. They wanted it more than we did. They out-battled us in a lot of areas and they were the better team. We were making it hard on ourselves. We were trying to do too much with the puck, and not directing enough of the pucks toward the net. You can’t get rebound and you can’t get bodies there if the puck isn’t going there.”

That is a lot of different things. A lot of different problems:

-- They couldn’t fight to get to the front of the net against a rugged Vegas defensive group that was going to make them battle to get there.

-- Once again they had too many passengers along for the ride, with both Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano failing to even be a blip on the game’s radar screen. Spooner suffered a lower body injury midway through the game, but while he was out there he was a non-factor once again. 

-- It felt like there was no flow at all to Boston’s game, with breakouts dogged by sloppy passing and players who weren’t hard enough on the puck.

-- When they did get a chance to create something they either missed the net with their shot, or opted not to even take the shot in the first place. 

-- They lost 67 percent of the 57 draws taken during the game, and saw Spooner, Riley Nash and David Krejci and Ryan Spooner go a combined 8-for-29 in the face-off circle.

-- They chased the puck for long stretches and certainly didn’t ever put together anything approaching a consistent, driving pressure in the offensive zone.

Missing stalwart veterans like Patrice Bergeron and David Backes certainly isn’t helping. It makes the Bruins a much smaller group up front that can be pushed around by bigger, stronger defensive units.

But even so, there’s a sense the Bruins can’t consistently bring their 'A' game to the rink with them and don’t seem to have much fight when they fall down by a couple of goals. Trailing by just two goals going into the third period, the Bruins had four shots on net for most of the final period until a late flurry produced a score by David Pastrnak.

Perhaps of more concern, though, is the growing feeling that the Bruins aren’t all on the same page.

Marchand vaguely referenced that the Bruins weren’t prepared to play Sunday, and Tuukka Rask said he’ll no longer comment on anything except his own goaltending. Rask has always been candid and willing to be frank about any shortcomings after Bruins losses, but it appears that’s not something that is any longer welcome inside the B’s dressing room.

“I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on,” said Rask. “I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

Meanwhile, Krejci was similarly short in his postgame thoughts and started talking about avoiding pointing fingers after a frustrating loss.

“There’s no reason to point fingers," he said. "Yeah, we lost a game and it was a frustrating loss. But it’s just the fifth game of the season, so we don’t need to make a big deal out of it. We’re going to back to Boston, we’re going to work hard in practices and we’re going to get ready for the next game.”

Clearly, the fact this stuff is coming to the surface just five games into the season is a cause for concern. But it makes sense, given the way the Bruins are letting an easy portion of the season slip through their fingers.

In their first 10 games of the year, they're facing only one team that made the playoffs last season and they've got plenty of spaced-out stretches in the schedule to get off to a strong, healthy start. Instead they’re losing to subpar teams and highly unproven goalies, and doing so with a real lack of energy or purpose on the ice.

Certainly management would be smart to think about shipping underperforming players like Vatrano back to the AHL in place of Peter Cehlarik or Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. And a few more games like Sunday’s snooze-fest could advance trade talks for a player like Matt Duchene.

But there aren’t going to be any easy answers. It comes down to hard work and hunkering down together as a team, and Sunday’s pitifully inept loss in a very winnable situation was yet another sign the Bruins aren't even close to being there yet.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Spooner, McQuaid injured in Bruins' loss to Golden Knights

cp-bruins-mcquaid-spooner-101617x.jpg

Spooner, McQuaid injured in Bruins' loss to Golden Knights

LAS VEGAS -- The Bruins are already missing a handful of players to injuries, and they may have lost a couple more in Sunday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Ryan Spooner was knocked out in the second period with a lower body injury, and Adam McQuaid was lost in the closing seconds of the third period when he was hit by a Colin Miller rocket from the point in his leg. McQuaid had to be helped to the dressing room after staying down on the ice for a few long moments, and the hope is that it’s the same kind of mostly harmless “dead leg” hit that allowed Kevan Miller to bounce back immediately from his Friday incident in practice.

McQuaid was spotted up and walking around in the visiting dressing room area postgame, so hopefully it’s nothing serious with one of the few Bruins giving everything he has on the ice each and every night.

Spooner finished with just eight shifts and 6:42 of ice time while failing to generate much offense, and went 1-for-4 in the face-off circle before getting shelved for the rest of the game. He just has a single point and is a minus-3 in four games this season and is once again has been pretty hard to notice on the ice during 5-on-5 play. It perhaps wasn’t a huge loss for the Bruins, given how much Spooner has been struggling to find baseline consistency, but the Bruins can’t continue to sustain injuries to their center men without those missing bodies beginning to take a toll.

The Bruins already have Paul Postma on hand if they take any injuries on the back end, but any more losses up front could mean the B’s dip into Providence where Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Kenny Agostino are all off to hot offensive starts.