Tuukka Rask

Rask elevates game, shaky start behind him

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Rask elevates game, shaky start behind him

BOSTON – As Tuukka Rask goes, so go the Bruins right now.

At least that’s been the case lately as a refocused No. 1 goaltender and his surging hockey team once again were in synch together during a quality win over a playoff-level opponent.

The Bruins No. 1 goaltender has won four games in a row, while the Bruins have captured right wins in their past 10 games. The team's last win was a 3-1 triumph over the high-octane New York Islanders on Saturday night. Rask stopped 30-of-31 shots in the victory, and was at his best in the third period when the Bruins killed off a pair of five minute major penalties. Tuukka provided the steady goaltending they had been looking for.

Bruce Cassidy said the settled play and approach from his goaltender helped tell him the story of how his Bruins team was going to play that night: smooth, confident play that never allowed the Isles much room or time to operate their offensive game. 

Contrast Rask right now with the frazzled, overactive goalie from the first six weeks of the season, and it certainly paints a picture of why he was inconsistent.

“Tuukka [Rask], you can usually tell by how calm and composed he looks – and it means we’re generally calm and composed in front of him for the most part. It’s not scrambly, so he doesn’t have to become scrambly,” said Bruce Cassidy. “That’s usually a good indicator, and I thought Tampa he was, Philly, and so we’re getting the result for him, playing in front of him well and scoring a few more goals. He’s earning his breaks in nets now, too.”

Clearly Rask was on top of his game by the time the third period rolled around, and he was flashing the pads and maybe even a little Finnish swagger when he swallowed up a Mathew Barzal wrist shot clean from the face-off dot. It was one of 12 saves that Rask made in the final 20 minutes as the Isles attempted to make a hurried comeback, and the Bruins needed their No. 1 goalie to start making all manner of saves while the B’s defense refused to buckle despite killing off penalties most of the period.

The Bruins did give up a goal to Anders Lee as one of the penalties expired to keep things tight, but they did all bending, and no breaking, in this one, and that’s all they needed.  

“We played a great game.  It started in the first period, we had our legs, we were skating, had a lot of jump, didn’t give them anything,” said Rask, who is sporting a .946 save percentage over his last six games. “A lot of power plays they had but we shut them down pretty good.  That last one there, they made a last play there but other than that I thought we did a really good job blocking shots and keeping them to the outside."

“I’ve had good rhythm to my game. Guys are doing a good job eliminating the second chances and obviously if you don’t get rebounds all the time it helps too. But we’re skating back so hard that we are kind of forcing them to take shots in bad spots. When they don’t have all the time in the world to pick the corners up, it’s kind of easier for me too. I think that’s played a huge part of that, coming back to our own zone and shutting them down the slot area and also blocking a ton of shots.”

Clearly there’s still some work to do for Rask as he’s still tied for 22nd in the league in save percentage (.912) and ninth in the NHL with a 2.43 goals against average, but his sluggish start is beginning to fade as he strings together a strong stretch of goaltending. It all started with some time on the pine for four games in a row amid his struggles, and since that point he’s been the No. 1 that the B’s need if they’re going anywhere this season. 

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Talking Points: DeBrusk makes huge statement vs. Islanders

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Talking Points: DeBrusk makes huge statement vs. Islanders

GOLD STAR: A huge night for Jake DeBrusk, who steps up to help protect a teammate and then scores the game-winning goal. Unfortunately, he came up one assist short of the Gordie Howe hat trick, but it was great to see the 21-year-old make a huge statement in a game where much of the talk was around Mathew Barzal instead of him. DeBrusk started his night by watching Charlie McAvoy get taken out with a big hit in front of the Islanders bench, and his first response was to step in for his fallen teammate. DeBrusk got 17 minutes in penalties for his troubles in a really weak sauce instigator call, but then scored on his very first shift after coming out of the penalty box in the third period for the game-winner. DeBrusk finished with four shots on net, a hit, a goal and a plus-1 rating in 7:52 of ice time while showing his teammates what kind of character he has inside. That’s good stuff.

BLACK EYE: I’m going with Steve Kozari, Graham Skilliter, Matt MacPherson and Brian Murphy as the weight that was dragging this game down as they tossed three different five-minute major penalties at the Bruins in one game. One was obviously for a very weak instigator call where Jake DeBrusk waited for Casey Cizikas to drop the gloves before engaging him after his hit on Charlie McAvoy, and it continued in the second period with a late Brad Marchand hit on John Tavares. Marchand was aggravated by Tavares earlier in the shift and it was definitely a penalty, but it’s hard to understand why the refs went with a five-minute major then. Then David Backes was tangling with Andrew Ladd in the third period, and it looked like the two players were going to drop the gloves. Instead, the refs step in and they somehow whistle David Backes for a game misconduct and five-minute major for headbutting. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen that call in my almost 15 years covering the league, and I didn’t see anything that warranted that type of book being thrown at him.This was a real head-scratcher of a game as far as officiating.

TURNING POINT: The Islanders outshot the Bruins by a 13-10 margin in the third period, but that was to be expected as the B’s were whistled for two different five-minute majors while trying to protect a fairly slim two-goal lead. It eventually became a one-goal lead, but they were able to kill off both extended Islander power plays in the final period, and also kicked in their own empty net insurance goal at the very end for good measure. The Bruins won the game by scoring goals in the second and third period, but they also won the game by successfully protecting that small lead against an Islanders team looking to get at least a point out of them.

HONORABLE MENTION: Tuukka Rask was excellent for the Bruins stopping 30-of-31 shots and continues to take his game in an upward trend after starting the year so shakily. Rask is riding a four-game winning streak, sporting a .946 save percentage in his last six games dating back to the end of his four-game exile while Anton Khudobin stepped in for starting duties. The Bruins are playing better, more concerted defense in front of him, but Rask is also playing confident and calm hockey between the pipes while turning away nearly everything he sees. The Bruins are a better team when Rask has his best game going, and he’s getting into that zone with his goaltending right now.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 – The number of consecutive games where David Pastrnak has a point after racking up two assists in the win over the Isles.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s hard to say if it’s the best but it’s been, it was really good. I thought tonight we talked about the one thing that we had to really take care of was our D [defensive] zone tonight. We definitely did that, especially against an offensive-minded team like the Islanders.” – Patrice Bergeron, on holding down the Islanders to a single goal despite three different five-minute major penalties for the B’s. 

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Rask, Bruins stop red-hot Islanders with 3-1 victory

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Rask, Bruins stop red-hot Islanders with 3-1 victory

BOSTON – The Islanders rolled into Boston with a red-hot offense against a red-hot Boston Bruins team, and the B’s ended up taking the win for the 8th time in their last 10 games.

Goals from Brad Marchand, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen paced the offense, but it was all about the Bruins defense and Tuukka Rask holding down the high-octane Isles offense in a 3-1 win at TD Garden.

After a scoreless first period where the Bruins held the high-powered Islanders to just four shots on net, they finally got things going in the middle 20 minutes. Brad Marchand took a pass and fired a tester shot from the left face-off circle that somehow trickled through the pads of Jaroslav Halak on the way to the back of the net.

The game stayed that way until the third period, and was only marked by a very iffy instigator penalty on Jake DeBrusk after he stepped in following a heavy Casey Cizikas hit on Charlie McAvoy near the Islanders bench. DeBrusk missed most of the second and part of the third period while serving his 17 minutes in penalties, but made up for lost time in the third when he scored on a spinning, firing shot from the slot after finally getting out of the box.

That was the way the game stayed despite a five-minute major call on Brad Marchand for interference in the second period, and a five minute major and game misconduct to David Backes in the third period for head-butting Andrew Ladd. Once again this looked like a very questionable call from the zebras on a fairly normal dust-up between Bruins and Islanders players.

The rest was up to Tuukka Rask, who stopped all 31 shots that he faced on the way to his fourth win in a row. 

 

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