Are the Bruins headed for a goalie controversy?


Are the Bruins headed for a goalie controversy?

The last thing the Boston Bruins want, or need, right now is anything approaching a “goalie controversy” for their hockey club.

The B’s clearly are not there yet when it comes to flip-flopping the roles and responsibilities between Tuukka Rask and Jonas Gustavsson, and are much more focused on being a team on the upswing while quietly taking seven of their last eight points. But there’s a big question of which goaltender gets the starting nod against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night after Gustavsson backstopped the Black and Gold to a Friday night win over the Islanders while stopping 22-of-25 shots.

The Swedish backup netminder wasn’t standing on his head by any means. But he was making key saves in moments when the Bruins really needed them in order to get a good result.

It was the exact kind of performance that they couldn’t get out of Niklas Svedberg last season, but had gotten accustomed to with Chad Johnson and Anton Khudobin in years past.  

“The Monster” is also a perfect 2-0-0 on the season, and feeling pretty solid between the pipes to start things out despite limited playing time as Rask’s understudy.

“So far it’s been good since the season started. You always look at things that you want to improve, and that keeps you going I guess,” said Gustavsson, whose numbers aren’t all that much gaudier than Rask’s, with a 2.50 goals against average and an .896 save percentage through a pair of games. “There is still room for improvement, I guess.”

Gustavsson has worked diligently to find ways to prove himself to a dressing room full of new teammates, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed among his new Bruins teammates. The real question for him is whether he’ll be able to hold up physically over the course of a full season after sustaining some injuries in the last couple of years.

“He’s been very good,” said David Krejci, of his recollections of Gustavsson. “I remember when he was playing in Detroit, and stuff. He’s got two games and two wins. I thought he did a very good job of keeping us in the game in the first period [against the Islanders] when it easily could have been more than 2-1.

“He’s playing well, you know? He’s competing hard in practices. It’s good to have two very good goaltenders.”

So now Gustavsson has two of the Bruins’ three wins on the season, and Tuukka Rask has the second worst goals against average (4.40) and save percentage (.845) in the NHL while clearly struggling with his confidence behind a porous Bruins defense.

The goalie hasn’t been horrendous despite the numbers, but it’s also clear that some bad habits have developed in his game amid the onslaught of goals against: his angles are off on outside shooters while failing to aggressively challenge them, and he’s dropping into the butterfly far too often at the first signs of trouble.  

It was slightly eyebrow-raising when Claude Julien opted for Gustavsson rather than Rask on Friday night in a fairly important game against a strong Eastern Conference opponent in the Islanders. But it was the right call by the head coach, as was pairing Ryan Spooner and Joonas Kemppainen together before they produced a pair of key goals in the win over Brooklyn.  

Now it will be truly interesting to see if Julien rides the hot hand with Gustavsson, or goes back with his No. 1 in Rask given that the Bruins are in a stretch where they play just the one game against the Coyotes over the next week.

“Those are decisions that we make along the way,” said Julien. “We’re certainly not throwing the towel in on one of the best goalies in the league just because [Rask has] had an average start. We’re going to work our way through this.”

Given the long layoff before and after the Coyotes game next week, it’s a no-brainer that Rask is going to play Tuesday night after getting the win in their building a couple of weeks ago. The $7 million a year goalie will be given umpteen chances to turn his season around, as he should.

It could very well be that Friday night’s breather allowed Rask to exhale, relax and regroup mentally after the worst statistical weeks of his pro hockey career, and that the Bruins franchise goalie will looking more like the guy that won the Vezina a couple of years ago.

But let’s be honest here. It’s a lot worse than an “average start” to the season for Rask, and the Bruins are slowly marching toward some hard goaltending decisions if Rask can’t find his goaltending game quickly.

Could two goals in the Bruins scrimmage spark David Pastrnak?

Could two goals in the Bruins scrimmage spark David Pastrnak?

BOSTON – Certainly an intra-squad scrimmage isn’t going to amount to much in the grand scheme of things once the Stanley Cup Final gets going at the start of next week.

But maybe, just maybe, Bruins right winger David Pastrnak can start catching fire offensively in the best-of-seven game series against the St. Louis Blues after scoring a couple of goals in Thursday night’s glorified practice. Pastrnak and David Backes both scored two goals apiece in the 5-3 final score in the intra-squad, and Pasta does have a solid seven goals and 15 points along with a plus-7 in 17 games during the playoffs.

“It was good. I’m going to give it to Jaro [Halak] a little bit,” said the Czech-born Pastrnak, who scored both of his goals against B’s backup Jaroslav Halak. “He’s Slovakian, so I love to score on him. I’ve never practiced so many days without a game before, so [the scrimmage] is going to be useful.”  

Certainly Pastrnak was being tongue-in-cheek about scoring on his own goalie, but the truth is that the 22-year-old hasn’t really enjoyed a truly dominant stretch in this postseason to this point aside from notching two-goal games against both Toronto and Columbus in the first couple of rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Certainly part of that is the tight-checking nature of the playoffs and the best teams’ top lines cancelling each other out in most games. But there’s also a sense that Pastrnak hasn’t been able to unleash his big shot on the power play with much regularity, and a legit curiosity factor as to whether or not he’s playing through some kind of injury.

As he said during the Columbus series when things were a little slow offensively, Pastrnak is doing the best he can and has certainly seen an uptick in his involvement since joining back up with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the Perfection Line.

“I think we’ve done just fine. We’re just playing as a team and every single night it’s somebody else’s turn to shine. That’s what the good teams do,” said Pastrnak. “It’s unbelievable how good every line has been in different games, and that’s what so much for us to enjoy in the room.

“I’m doing my best. Every game is different. Obviously there have been games where I’ve been better and there have been games where I’ve been worse, but this is not what I’m focusing on. I’m focusing on trying to help the team rather than whether I’m scoring or not.”

Still, Pastrnak only had six shots on net in the entire four-game conference final series against the Carolina Hurricanes, and he should be more of a consistent threat than that when he’s healthy and going well. So perhaps that scoring burst in the scrimmage can light the candle that ignites the flame on Pasta’s offense at a crucial time when a hot goal-scorer could carry his team to the Stanley Cup. 

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Bruins mock draft 2019 roundup: Who can B's target late in first round?

Bruins mock draft 2019 roundup: Who can B's target late in first round?

The Boston Bruins are four wins away from reaching the NHL mountaintop.

But if they want to stay there, finding strong talent in the draft is a good place to start.

The 2019 NHL Draft is less than a month away -- June 21 in Vancouver -- and the Bruins will have either the No. 30 or No. 31 pick pending their result in the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues.

Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are virtual locks to be the top two picks, but there's a lot more uncertainty after that, especially near the end of the first round.

Which prospects could the Bruins target? To get a sense of who's in the mix, we've combed through a few NHL mock drafts to see who the analysts have the Bruins taking in the first round.

Position/Shot: Defenseman, Left
Height/Weight: 6-foot-6, 198 pounds
Last played for: U.S. National Team Development Program

Vlasic has good hockey genes; his cousin is San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and his sister, Emma, is a senior forward and captain at Yale. He also stands at 6-foot-6, so if the Bruins are looking ahead to life without 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara, Vlasic might be worth considering. 

The Bruins don't have a pressing need at defenseman with Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo in the fold, but Vlasic has been tied to Boston in a couple mock drafts. The 17-year-old boasts plenty of upside and will play at Boston University this fall, so there's a local tie here, too. 

Position/Shot: Defenseman, Left
Height/Weight: 6-foot-0, 161 pounds
Last played for: Sioux Falls Stampede, USHL

Another left-shot defenseman, Johnson doesn't boast Vlasic's size but still plays a physical game. He also has experience in big moments, tallying eight points in 12 playoff games to help lead Sioux Falls to this year's USHL championship.

Position/Shot: Left Wing/Right Wing, Left
Height/Weight: 6-foot-0, 163 pounds
Last played for: Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk, MHL

Dorofeyev would need time to develop, but the upside is there: The Russia native racked up 31 points on 17 goals and 14 assists in 19 MHL games this past season while earning a spot in the MHL All-Star Game. He could be an intriguing project for the B's at the end of the first round.

Position/Shot: Right Wing, Right
Height/Weight: 5-foot-10, 163 pounds
Last played for: Sioux City Musketeers, USHL

Brink blew up for the Musketeers this season, winning USHL Forward of the Year honors after tallying 68 points (35 goals, 33 assists) in 43 games. The Minnesota native is headed to the University of Denver next season but appears to be developing into a strong offensive talent.

Position/Shot: Center, Right
Height/Weight: 6-foot-10, 181 pounds
Last played for: Niagara Ice Dogs, OHL

An excellent skater with strong hands and proven play-making ability, Tomasino is another offensive-minded forward who put up 34 goals and 38 assists in 67 games for the Ice Dogs this season. The B's took three centers in last year's draft, though, so Tomasino would be entering a crowded space here.

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