Bruins

Morning Skate: Reaves clowns Kessel...and it's scary

kessel-clown.jpg

Morning Skate: Reaves clowns Kessel...and it's scary

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while all of the NHL team Halloween party pictures are beginning to filter out through social media...Always good times.  

*In the spirit of Halloween, Pro Hockey Talk has Ryan Reaves scaring the crap out of Phil Kessel with a creepy clown mask in a classic prank between teammates, I'm just glad Kessel wasn't armed with any hot dogs that he could have used as weapons in a prank gone wrong.   

*Clayton Keller has been the rookie silver lining for an Arizona Coyotes team that has been absolutely dreadful to start the season.

*Carolina Hurricanes ownership is challenging any interested buyers to start coming up with the money as that franchise’s long-term future continues to be swirling.

*Things haven’t really changed for the Colorado Avalanche this season as they’re beginning to fade back toward the bottom in the Western Conference.

*How about those Vegas Golden Knights? They are off to a historic start as they continue to win as an NHL expansion team on their maiden voyage.

*Old friend Brett Connolly will miss at least the next couple of games after taking a shot to the head during his stint with the Washington Capitals.

*For something completely different: The "Shazam" movie is beginning to announce their casting choices, and they sound pretty good.


 

Haggerty: Rask authors one of his best big-game performances

Haggerty: Rask authors one of his best big-game performances

TORONTO – Score one big playoff win for the notion that Tuukka Rask is the big-game goalie that you want on that wall, the big-game goalie that you need on that wall.

Rask was stellar between the pipes, making 31 saves in the Bruins' 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 4 at the Air Canada Centre and quite simply stepped up for his team with Patrice Bergeron (upper-body injury) a late scratch for the game. Rask was at his best early in the game when the B’s were getting their bearings in the first couple of periods without No. 37 on the ice and did his job keeping the game right where it was at a 1-1 until the Bruins could finally kick their offense into gear late in the second period.

”It was very important. The last period was our best period for sure, but we hung in there. We capitalized on our chances that we got, but sometimes when you play a team that’s desperate you’ve got to kind of weather the storm,” said Rask. “Today, we did and we did it together. At the end of the day, we get the ‘W’ and that’s great.”

Among the best stops in a game where the B’s definitely did not win the puck possession battle: A first-period stop on a Patrick Marleau shot on a 2-on-1 that was exactly the kind of play Toronto scored on him twice in Game 3, and a second-period save on a Mitch Marner breakaway chance with the B’s goaltender just getting a piece of the shot from the skilled Leafs forward.

There was a lot of scrambling in the first couple of periods for the Black and Gold, with even a few moments where Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk got caught on the ice together as a pairing hemmed into the zone with their goalie bailing them out. That’s the kind of standing-tall performance that can exude confidence from Rask and make doubts begin to creep into the Leafs players that maybe they’re not going to be good enough to get past the Bruins goalie.
 
Clearly, it wasn’t Rask’s best playoff game ever because his 50-save performance in Game 3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013 will be awfully difficult to top, but this might have been Rask’s best performance in a big spot for his team. With the undermanned group missing Bergeron and the danger that Toronto could even up the series 2-2 and take all the momentum away, Rask did everything in his power to make sure that didn’t happen. It was a resounding answer to those, like this humble hockey writer, that have sometimes doubted his toughness in big-game situations and it was exactly what the Bruins needed from their No. 1 guy.

“We talked about that. You watch the games [on Wednesday] night, right, and you’re watching Tampa Bay and seeing the goaltender performance there, and you watch Winnipeg," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "On the road, you’re going to need a little extra at some point, especially against a team that was down a couple of [games] in our building. We got it and we needed it. Early on they were better and then we found our legs and started managing the puck a little better and getting stronger on it.

“Then we came on and scored some goals for [Rask]. It’s a good formula. Every team needs goaltending. The odd night you’re going to get away without it. But tonight we needed [Rask] to dig in and be very good, and he was.”

So far, it’s been a pretty good postseason for Rask with a 3-1 record, a 2.27 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage for a team that flat-out dominated Toronto in the first couple of games without any need of help from their goalie. Rask wasn’t great in the Game 3 loss in Toronto where he was off his angle on the final Marleau goal that clinched the game for Toronto in the third period. He clearly he found a way to answer for that one game later.

“[Rask] played a phenomenal game. He’s one of the best goalies in the world and he gives us an opportunity to win every night,” said Brad Marchand, who potted the game-winning goal in Game 4 at the end of the second period. “He made a lot of big saves early on to give us a chance to get back in the game. We really need to give him a lot of credit for tonight.”

The way Rask has looked early in the series against Toronto is a pretty good argument that Boston’s plan heading into this season was the right one for their goaltender. They got Rask (54 games played) just under the 55-60 games they projected him for this season so that he would be well-rested down the stretch and into the postseason and he’s 100 percent healthy entering this postseason after battling through groin issues a year ago.

Rask’s brilliant Game 4 might not make anybody forget giving up two goals in 17 seconds in Game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, or essentially calling in sick for a must-win, regular-season finale at the Ottawa Senators that the Bruins memorably bombed out on while missing the playoffs in 2015. Still, it might also be showing that the Bruins No. 1 goaltender is evolving the narrative of his own story, and giving naysayers no choice but to pay credit where it’s due for a critical postseason where Rask can change a lot of minds if he keeps up his current level of play.

Certainly, Rask is off to a promisingly good start three games in and already has one of the signature big games everybody can look back on when reviewing his postseason performance this spring.   

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Bruins step up with Bergeron down for key victory over Leafs

Bruins step up with Bergeron down for key victory over Leafs

TORONTO -- It was a shock for just about everybody in the building when it was announced shortly after the beginning of warmups for Game 4 that Patrice Bergeron, suffering from an upper-body injury, wouldn't be playing for the Bruins.

The home fans at the Air Canada Centre celebrated it as a good sign for the Maple Leafs. On the Bruins side, there certainly was an unsettled feeling that their best player was missing from the lineup.

But the B's slid Riley Nash into Bergeron's spot in the middle, as they did so many times this season, and then went out and played strong hockey to earn a gritty 3-1 win that gave them a commanding 3-1 series lead.

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Boston responded the way it did during the regular season, when Bergeron missed 19 games to injury (including 13 in a row late in the year because of a broken foot). The B's were 12-5-2 without Bergeron, and -- in the short haul -- were able to withstand his absence once again.

"We understand how much [Bergeron] means to this team, [especially since] we lost him during the regular season," said rookie Jake DeBrusk, who sealed the deal with a third-period goal that gave the Bruins a two-goal lead. "Obviously, it's magnified in the playoffs. [But] Riley has played there a bit, so those guys have chemistry from before.

"We knew we'd need a good effort from top to bottom and I thought tonight we showed a good example of that. We had some big players make some big plays, and it was nice to be a part of."

It's still unclear exactly what's wrong with Bergeron, though there were at least a couple of heavy, physical hits in Game 3 that might have caused an injury. He participated in practice in Wednesday -- though there were a couple of instances where Nash hopped into line rushes and drills -- and spoke to the media Thursday morning with no indication that anything was amiss. The first sign there was a problem was when he wasn't present when the Bruins took the ice for pregame warmups Thursday.

Coach Bruce Cassidy said the decision to hold him out of Game 4 was made shortly before the start, but "hopefully he's better and ready to go on Saturday" in Game 5 at TD Garden.

"We were managing [an undisclosed injury] and he wasn't able to go, so we're classifying it as day-to-day," said Cassidy.

Now the question becomes whether the Bruins, with a 3-1 series lead, should rush Bergeron back into the lineup for Game 5. An injury that sidelined him for a playoff game after two off days has to be considered fairly significant, and it might be a better long-term move to let him continue healing.

For now, though, the B's can draw a great deal of satisfaction for circling the wagons and securing a crucial road playoff victory without their best player.

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