Haggerty: Bruins are riding with Rask and don’t have much choice

Haggerty: Bruins are riding with Rask and don’t have much choice

BRIGHTON, Mass – The job of building Tuukka Rask back up to form continues this weekend as the Bruins goaltender will get his third consecutive start in a Saturday afternoon matinee against the Flyers in Philly.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed that his No. 1 netminder will get the call against the hapless Flyers after Rask ended a personal four-game losing streak Wednesday against the Lightning. Backup Anton Khudobin will get a start on Monday night against the Nashville Predators. Clearly, it’s a balancing act for the Black and Gold between getting Rask fully back on track and keeping Khudobin in the zone that’s pushed him to a 7-0-2 record to start the season.

It’s not an easy trick to pull off, but neither was pulling the team back from oblivion when Cassidy made the bold choice to bench Rask for four games in a row in favor his red-hot backup. That gut-instinct move has paid off huge dividends for a B’s team that’s won five of six and is back in a playoff spot after hovering near the bottom of the conference in mid-November.

“They’ll split the games. Tuukka will play [on Saturday] and Khudobin will go on Monday and we’ll go from there after that,” said Cassidy. “Doby, you don’t want him to sit for too long. We’ve kind of documented why we went with Tuukka consecutively rather than [Khudobin] and we’ll see how it works out. We’ll give them one start each and then assess next week.”

Rask has stopped 51 of 56 shots in the two starts against Edmonton and Tampa Bay for a .911 save percentage that’s at least a little closer to his norm from the past couple of seasons, but there’s still an element of shakiness in the goalie’s game that will only be vanquished with a puck-stopping cocktail of steady playing time, some good results, continued competition - in the form of Khudobin - and a solid helping of confidence.

There’s really no other choice but a ride-or-die attitude when it comes to the Bruins and Rask, however. Even amidst his struggles, he’s clearly the only goaltender in the organization who’s going to be able to take the Bruins to the playoffs and handle the starter’s workload that’s still in front of the Black and Gold.

For all of the good things he’s done this season, Khudobin has shown in his NHL career that he’ll either get hurt or wear down over a full season with a starting goalie’s workload and young goalie Zane McIntyre has taken a step back with Providence this season sporting very pedestrian AHL numbers with a .898 save percentage and a 3.11 goals-against average.

Khudobin can certainly push Rask for short bursts of time and could continue to make it closer to an even split of starts than anybody dreamed of at the beginning of the year, but it's clear the Bruins know who they're goalie is going to be when it matters most this season. 

There may be an effort to revisit the goaltending situation this summer and whether the Bruins have to explore other ways to improve their current group. That's something they absolutely should do while figuring out where their goalie of the (near) future might be becoming from. 

Still, the Bruins are doing the right thing building Rask back up into fine working order with this string of starts that continues Saturday in Philly. 

Bruins resiliency on full display in third-period comeback vs Stars

AP Photo

Bruins resiliency on full display in third-period comeback vs Stars

GOLD STAR: Every once in a while Brad Marchand wills the Bruins to a win that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise had, and that happened again on Friday night with a three-point explosion for No. 63 in the final 20 minutes. Marchand finished with a goal and three points in 19:57 of ice time along with a plus-2 rating, and played a key role in the three-goal outburst that allowed the B’s to vanquish a 2-0 deficit. It was Marchand that opted not to shoot from the face-off dot with a look at the net in the closing seconds, and instead dropped it down low to David Pastrnak as he curled around the net and pushed a puck past Kari Lehtonen for the game-winner. Marchand finished with two shots on net, eight total shot attempts and a number of big plays in the third period redirecting pucks in close, kicking off shorthanded scoring plays and then setting up clutch game-winners in the final 15 seconds of the game. It’s the kind of night where Marchand played like an MVP even if he isn’t going to get much of a sniff at the Hart Trophy. 

BLACK EYE: Jamie Benn scored a shorthanded goal for the Dallas Stars, but he also jumped up in the air and clobbered Brad Marchand from behind with a completely unnecessary hit in the third period that went without a penalty being called. Instead it seemed to incense Marchand, who never gave up in the final sequence and ultimately fed a pass to David Pastrnak down low for the game-winner with just 11.1 seconds remaining in the game. Benn finished a minus-2 for Dallas while being on the ice for a pair of goals against, had a brutal 1-for-7 performance in the face-off dot and really acted like a punk on the play with Marchand in the third period. Benn is a better player than that and shouldn’t be resorting that level on a fellow star player like Marchand. 

TURNING POINT: Once again the Bruins really turned things around in the third period while outscoring the Stars by a 3-0 margin, and really flooding the Dallas net with 10 of their 36 shots on net for the night. It all started with a relentless shift from Boston’s top line where Riley Nash made a pass from his knees before taking a big hit, and then Brad Marchand redirected a David Pastrnak shot from the slot off his leg and into the net for Boston’s first goal. That first score finally allowed the Bruins to begin building some momentum, score each of the next two goals as the game slipped away from Dallas and once again proved themselves as a hockey club that one doesn’t ever doubt in the third period. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Tuukka Rask had a career-high 40 saves and turned away some really good looks from the Dallas offense while showing exactly what the Bruins can be capable of when their goaltending is on point. The only goals that beat Rask were a first period score with droves of traffic in front of the net, and a second period shorthanded score for Jamie Benn where he pulled one of those unconventional finishing moves on Rask at the very end. Rask made 11 saves on the Dallas power play alone during a trio of PP chances, and made a crucial leg pad save on Antoine Roussel in the third period that helped open things up for the goal-scoring outburst late in the game. Hopefully the strong, resounding performance from Rask answers some of the questions about some of his recent so-so performances between the pipes.   

BY THE NUMBERS: 29 – the number of goals this season for David Pastrnak as he readies to become only the ninth Bruins player to hit the 30-goal plateau in back-to-back seasons over the last 35 years of franchise history. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Resiliency. We didn’t want to go quietly for sure. We can live with the end result as long as we play the right way. The end result went our way again in the end, and I think that’s a credit to the guys.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN about another comeback win for the Black and Gold.

Pastrnak scores with 12 seconds left to lift Bruins over Stars, 3-2

AP Photo

Pastrnak scores with 12 seconds left to lift Bruins over Stars, 3-2

DALLAS - David Pastrnak broke a tie with 12 seconds left and the Boston Bruins scored three straight goals in the third period to rally past the fading Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night.

A scramble followed a faceoff in the Dallas end, and Brad Marchand passed to Pastrnak in front. While falling down, he put the puck past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

TALKING POINTS: B's resiliency on full display vs Stars

Tuukka Rask made a season-high 40 saves for the Bruins. Marchand scored Boston's first goal and also assisted on a short-handed goal by Tim Schaller that tied it midway through the third period.

The second-place Bruins won for the first time in three games (1-0-2) to move within four points of Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay. Boston has already clinched a playoff berth.

The Stars are winless in their last seven games (0-5-2). They remained four points behind Colorado for the second Western Conference wild card.

Dallas led 2-0 on a first-period goal by Esa Lindell and Jamie Benn's short-handed score late in the second.

In the third, Marchand tipped in a shot by Pastrnak before Schaller scored on a 2-on-1 with Marchand.

Lehtonen finished with 33 saves.

Lindell scored 2:26 into the game. Jason Dickinson tried to deflect a shot from the right point into the net but the puck went wide right. Curtis McKenzie picked it up behind the goal line and passed to Lindell high in the left faceoff circle. His wrist shot went in off Rask's right arm.

Benn missed two good scoring opportunities early in the second period, but connected at 19:22. He took a pass from Tyler Seguin at the Dallas blue line and had a breakaway when Matt Grzelcyk fell down. Benn slid a backhand under Rask.