Bruins

A day of challenges for Bruins rookies in matinee vs. Avs

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A day of challenges for Bruins rookies in matinee vs. Avs

The Bruins' young guns were impressive in the season opener, accounting for a couple of the goals and a handful of points in the 4-3 win over Nashville.

The challenge now will be for players like Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork and Charlie McAvoy, among others, to maintain that performance through an 82-game regular season, and that will be apparent when those players suit up for a Monday afternoon matinee against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden.

The Bruins haven’t beaten the Avs at home in their last nine meetings dating back to 2001, and many of them have been sleepy, low-emotion affairs that you sometimes see in non-conference match-ups. With the Bruins' youngsters not used to participating in the afternoon matinees that pop on an NHL schedule, they need to find a way to manufacture readiness in a potentially challenging setting.

“We have to guard against [low energy] because we have got some young players that might be used to playing at night all the time,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “We have to make sure with our group that we’re up and at them and on-time. Colorado has been out East for a while and going through New York, so they should be adjusted.

“We just need to play our game. [The Avs are] probably not coming in here in the greatest of moods after losing to New Jersey, but we need to concern ourselves with being ready. I don’t say that facetiously because some of our young guys just aren’t used to it, and we have to get them going . . .  because we have a lot of them in the lineup.”

Everything will be a “first-time” experience for the Bruins rookies, who are so crucial to the success of this year’s team, and Monday represents another one of those challenging experiences. The good news is that Boston’s group of youngsters have good heads on their shoulders and seem ready for these moments.

“The tempo, the style of play, it’s NHL it’s the real deal. No slouches out there,” said DeBrusk. “There are usually one or two guys on each team [in juniors or the AHL] that you can try to circle and expose but there wasn’t one [in his NHL debut], that’s for sure.”

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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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