Is it time to start getting worried about Tuukka Rask again?

Is it time to start getting worried about Tuukka Rask again?

BOSTON – Is it time to start getting worried about Tuukka Rask?

The Bruins goaltender had a rough first period Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins where he allowed three goals on seven shots on net in the opening 20 minutes, and hasn’t been all that outstanding lately for the Black and Gold. In his last six games Rask is sporting a below average .888 save percentage, and has allowed three or more goals in four of the six games played while falling far away from a hot streak in the middle of the season.

To his credit, Rask pulled himself together after a couple of soft goals allowed in the first period against the Penguins and finished with 24 saves while allowing just one more for the rest of the game against Pittsburgh. It was an instance where Rask probably could have been yanked if he’d allowed any more goals in the second period, but instead he was able to hang in there while Pittsburgh made a first period goaltending change with their backups.

Bruce Cassidy said following the game that he didn’t consider pulling Rask after allowing three in the first period, but it certainly could have been a reality if it continued in the final 40 minutes.

“No. Zero. Tuukka has to play through some of these games. If he was fatigued in terms of his workload of late, we would look at that. But it’s just, right now, he had a stretch there where everything was like a beach ball to him, I think. Now, there are some goofy ones from odd angles,” said Bruce Cassidy. “The last goal, I don’t think any goalie is stopping that, it’s ping-ponging around. So, he’s just going to have to fight his way through it a little bit here and find his game.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to score four the other night and eight tonight, and that’s just part of it for him, too. If there was an injury or something there, we would talk to him and give him some rest, but it’s just a part of the year where he’ll have to find his focus, find his game, work with Goalie Bob

[Essensa], and hopefully he comes out of it. The good news is we’re winning.”

To be fair to Rask, it was probably two of the first three goals allowed in the first period that weren’t ideal for the Bruins No. 1 goalie. One would hope that Rask might have been able to stop Pittsburgh’s third goal scored by Riley Sheahan with just 3.2 seconds in the first period, and certainly he should have stopped Phil Kessel’s bad angle goal that beat him short side midway through the first period. Rask joked about it after the game because it had ended up well for the Bruins, but there’s no question he was fighting the puck in the first period.

“The first period I thought we were playing with white pucks there. The only time I saw the puck was when I dug it out of the net. Had some red bull in the intermission there and I actually made a couple saves after that,” said Rask. “The first one, I reacted like it was going high and it was kind of a wobbly puck. The second one [was a] bad angle shot and the third one, I mean I could have had a couple of those.

“But at least, you know, I battled back, and made a couple saves. We played a heck of a game. Everybody was going. It was fun to watch. Too bad I was playing goal, I wish I was in the stands having a beer.”

Clearly it’s a good thing that didn’t happen as Rask stopped 18-of-19 shots in the final two periods after getting his game together, and he really settled into things along with the rest of the team in front of him. Perhaps that will push the Bruins No. 1 back into a good stretch between the pipes, and his recent inconsistencies can be a thing of the past.

Right now Rask is tied for 17th in the NHL with the .919 save percentage and third in the NHL with a 2.23 goals against average, a pair of decent numbers that have fallen back to Earth a bit from where they were six weeks ago during his long, personal winning streak.

But another poor performance from Rask as of late will continue the nagging questions that the Bruins top goalie can’t consistently play well when the pressure is on, and serve as a reminder that the No. 1 goalie still has plenty to prove when it comes to big time performances in the kind of big games that the B’s will have in their near future.


'Light at end of tunnel' for Bergeron's return

'Light at end of tunnel' for Bergeron's return

BRIGHTON, Mass – The long regional nightmare for Bruins fans might be coming to an end sooner rather than later.

That’s because Patrice Bergeron hopped on the ice on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of his team’s morning skate and then stuck around to jump in and out of drills while showing strong progress from his fractured right foot suffered at the end of February. 

Clearly,  Bergeron isn’t ready to play now and will miss his 11th consecutive game Monday night when the B's face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at TD Garden.

Still, it looks like No. 37 will be headed on the four-game road trip after the game and could potentially become an option to play at some point over the next week or two. Certainly, it’s a sign that Bergeron is going to be able to come back and play meaningful games before the playoffs. That’s something that has the 32-year-old excited after missing the past three weeks.

“It was nice to be back on the ice and skating. It felt good. It’s been a long three weeks, but it was nice to finally move forward and be on the ice. It was definitely nice to be on the ice with the guys,” said Bergeron, who skated on Sunday with Bruins Skating and Skills Coach Kim Branvold as well. “There’s definitely still some discomfort, but it’s a lot better. That was to be expected that it wasn’t going to be perfect when I was back right away.

“I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel right now being on the ice. We’re trying not to set a timeline right now, but just make sure I feel good and have my bearings on the ice. So far I’m happy with where we’re at.”

Certainly, it would be good timing if Bergeron returned soon when it appears David Backes (deep laceration on his right leg) is going to miss a week or two and Jake DeBrusk is out with no timetable for a return after getting dinged with a big hit in Carolina on Boston’s most recent trip.

Impressively, the Bruins have gone 8-2-0 since Bergeron has been out. Riley Nash has been a point-per-game player in March while filling in for No. 37 with three goals and nine points in nine games along with a plus-4 rating. Still, the Bruins all know their all-around game will rise to another level when they get their best all-around player back in the lineup and re-form what’s been the best two-way forward in the NHL this season with Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.


Donato to make Bruins debut as a member of the third line

File photo

Donato to make Bruins debut as a member of the third line

BRIGHTON --  Ryan Donato will make his NHL debut for the Bruins on Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and it looks like he’ll do it as a member of the third line.

The newly-signed Harvard star was wearing No. 17 at morning skate on Monday at Warrior Ice Arena, and skating on the left wing with Noel Acciari and Brian Gionta in a new-look third line made necessary by injures to Patrice Bergeron, David Backes and Jake DeBrusk in the last few weeks. 

Donato signed with the Bruins on Sunday, so it will be interesting to see how ready he is to “plug and play” at the NHL level after crushing NCAA competition with 26 goals in 29 games for the Crimson this season. 

Otherwise it was a fairly standard lineup for the Bruins aside from Tommy Wingels dropping down to the fourth line to allow Acciari to center the third line, and thereby allow Donato to play the wing position where the B’s project him to be at the NHL level.

In other very positive B’s news, Bergeron -- recovering from a fractured right foot -- made a return to the ice, working on his own ahead of morning skate and then jumping in here and there in the team skate/

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Blue Jackets based on morning skate: