B's continue to get 'stellar goaltending' as Rask keeps streaking

B's continue to get 'stellar goaltending' as Rask keeps streaking

BOSTON – One sure sign that a goaltender is going well is when he ends up winning epic duels between puck-stoppers. That’s just where Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask finds himself midway through the season.

Rask improved to a personal-best, 19-game point streak in Boston’s 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. He stopped 32 shots while staring down Jake Allen performing his own miracles at the other end of the ice. The Bruins No. 1 goalie is 17-0-2 over those 19 games and is fourth-best all-time in point streaks for a B's goalie, behind only the legendary Gerry Cheevers (32 games in 1971-72), Pete Peeters (31 games in 1982-83) and Frank Brimsek (23 games in 1940-41).

Perhaps his best arrived in the third period when Rask kicked away a long point shot, and then managed to go post-to-post for the big glove save on Jaden Schwartz bearing down with a backhanded rebound attempt. It was still a one-goal game at that point, and even one fault in Rask’s game could have messed things up for the Black and Gold.

As he’s been for much of the past three months, Rask was up to the task.

“I think this team has always been confident in Tuukka, especially lately,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Those key saves late in the second period – I thought we did a really good job keeping it clean in front of him for the most part – but those were two big saves. He wanted to match the other guy because I thought the other guy…it was good goaltending tonight.

“I think any team will play better when they know their goaltender has their back, and Tuukka certainly had that, as well as Anton [Khudobin]. We talked about it. Anton has been very good for us, and we’ve been fortunate, for the last stretch since mid whatever it was…November, to have stellar goaltending.”

Certainly, the numbers back it up. The Bruins goalies are fifth in the NHL with a .918 save percentage this season and are currently the favorites to walk away with the Jennings Trophy at the end of the season with a 2.41 goals-against average. Clearly, the Bruins put forth one of their best efforts on Thursday night to respond to what the Blues brought to the table with a big, strong and heavy attack, but Rask was equally locked in while watching  Allen stop 43 of 45 shots at the other end of the ice.

“Allen played a great game, a lot of good saves that kept them in it. You just know when it’s a one-goal game you know at some point there’s going to be a chance, you try to make that save,” said Rask, who is tied for sixth in the NHL with a .924 save percentage and ranks third with a 2.12 GAA. “You know maybe today came in the third period and then after that, we extended the lead, and you just try to keep it tight at all times.

“A lot of it is team play like how your team plays in front of you. Lately, as goalies, we haven’t had to stand on our heads and play unbelievable games to keep us in it. Our team is playing great hockey offensively, defensively and all around. I think it helps everybody. Everybody feels more confident, and everybody is trying to pick each other up all the time. We’re no different.”

There’s no telling how long Rask can keep his point streak going with his strong play combined with a consistent 200-foot team in front of him, but it could be awhile given that he’s also well-rested because of how good Anton Khudobin was in the first half of the season. Things are lining up perfectly for Rask and the Bruins, so perhaps we’ll finally get to see just how good he can be as a No. 1 goalie at the time when the B's will really need him in the spring.

That being said, it was a playoff-style game vs. St. Louis on Thursday night and a playoff-style performance from Rask that should leave some enthusiasm for what’s in store a couple of months from now.  


Bruins' Bjork out for season after undergoing shoulder surgery

File photo

Bruins' Bjork out for season after undergoing shoulder surgery

TORONTO -- Anders Bjork's up-and-down rookie season has come to an end, as the Bruins' left wing underwent left shoulder surgery this week that’s expected to keep him sidelined for the next six months. 

Bjork was knocked out of a Jan. 30 loss to the Anaheim Ducks when Francois Beauchemin caught him with a cross-check to the left arm, but it’s unclear whether he was already playing through some level of shoulder injury prior to that collision. According to the B’s release, the 21-year-old winger “underwent successful left shoulder arthroscopy and labral repair on Tuesday” at Mass General Hospital. Bjork had been spotted around the Garden in recent weeks wearing his left arm in a sling, but it was difficult to guess the severity of the injury based on what looked like a fairly run-of-the-mill hit from Beauchemin. 

The injury and season-ending surgery ends a bit of a lost year for Bjork, who cracked the Opening Night roster and finished with 4r goals and 12 points in 30 games.

He showed the speed and skill required to be a top-6 forward at the NHL level, but also appeared to need more development time when it comes to battle level and adjusting to the physicality level in the pro game. The former Notre Dame star never seemed to fully bounce back from getting steamrolled in the neutral zone by Matt Martin in the middle of November, and ended up spending time in Providence as well prior to his season-ending injury. 

Bjork’s injury certainly doesn’t rule him out completely as a trade asset ahead of Monday afternoon’s trade deadline, but it probably makes him less attractive to NHL teams looking for young, NHL-ready talent that can step into their lineups right now. With Bjork headed for the long-term injured list and Frank Vatrano traded to the Florida Panthers for a third-round pick, that certainly opens the door for both a) a deal to bring on a veteran rental winger ahead of the trade deadline and B) a spot to be opened up in the Bruins organization for Ryan Donato when the Harvard University star, currently at the Olympics, is ready to sign.

Those are both very good things despite the downer news about Bjork, who watched fellow rookies Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen live up to the expectations many had for him.



Bruins trade Vatrano to Florida for third-round pick

Bruins trade Vatrano to Florida for third-round pick

TORONTO – The Bruins are making more moves well ahead of the Monday trade deadline as they shipped injured winger Frank Vatrano to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 2018 third-round pick. 

The trade somewhat eases a crowded roster, essentially gives the B’s a replacement for the third-rounder they sent to the New York Rangers for Nick Holden earlier this week and gives them a solid return on an undrafted college hockey free agent that had fallen a bit this season on the B’s organizational depth chart.

Vatrano had two goals and a minus-3 rating in 25 games with the Bruins this season, but had typically been either a healthy scratch or strictly a bottom-six winger when he had been in the lineup this season. Vatrano, the East Longmeadow, Mass., native who turns 24 next month, had fallen behind Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen on the depth chart as two of the aforementioned three had locked down top-nine roles.

In that respect, it wasn’t much of a surprise to hear Vatrano getting moved as he’d hit a wall in his development with the Bruins after scoring 20 goals in his first 108 career NHL games and lighting up the AHL as a goal-per-game player. Now, Vatrano will get a chance to rekindle that goal-scoring ability with the Panthers and prove that he’s more than the one-dimensional player he appeared to be in three seasons with the B’s.

There was some thinking Vatrano might have served as a trade asset to be utilized in one of the potential deals that the Bruins have cooking for a rental wingers Patrick Maroon, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash or Thomas Vanek. Instead, general manager Don Sweeney scoops up a solid draft pick asset for a player that was sitting on the bench for the Black and Gold. That's a solid piece of asset management in a trade deadline period that so far is going very well for the GM.