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

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks


Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.

3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems


Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.