Bruins

Are the Bruins headed for a goalie controversy?

tuukka-rask-boston-bruins-10-21-2015.jpg

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.

Bruins extend qualifying offers to RFAs Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, others

Bruins extend qualifying offers to RFAs Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, others

The deadline to extend qualifying offers to restricted free agents was Tuesday, and the Boston Bruins took care of business with several players.

The Bruins announced they extended qualifying offers to defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, as well as forwards Danton Heinen, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Ryan Fitzgerald and Peter Cehlarik. The Bruins didn't extend a QO to forward Gemel Smith, who was picked up by Boston off of waivers in December.

The ideal outcome would be to workout long-term deals with a few of these players before next season, especially McAvoy, who projects to be the team's No. 1 defenseman for many years.

If these players reject their qualifying offer, they will remain an RFA and their rights will be retained by Boston. RFAs can begin agreeing to sign offer sheets with rival teams on July 1, which is when free agency begins.

In addition to these RFAs, the Bruins must also consider re-signing unrestricted free agent forwards Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari.

The Bruins have $12,003,334 in salary cap space as of Wednesday, per Cap Friendly.

Click here for the top 25 NHL free agents this summer>>>

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Bruins' Matt Grzelcyk reflects on Stanley Cup run with heartfelt Instagram post

Bruins' Matt Grzelcyk reflects on Stanley Cup run with heartfelt Instagram post

The pain of coming up short in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final likely will stick with the 2019 Bruins forever.

The B's admitted as much immediately following their crushing defeat vs. the Blues. But as demoralizing of a loss it was, this is a team that looks to learn from it and come back even stronger next season.

Take it from defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who reflected on the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in an Instagram post on Tuesday. The 25-year-old Charlestown native assured fans that the team will continue to "face adversity head-on."

Read his message below:

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Every time I laced up my skates or rollerbladed over to go play street hockey in Charlestown, I envisioned these very moments. Game 7, Stanley Cup Finals, for the hometown team... We came up one game short, and it hurts probably as bad as you could imagine (and then some). However, I truly believe that accomplishing anything meaningful in life requires you to overcome the obstacles presented your way. This team always faces adversity head on, and we will continue to do so. Focused. Relentless. Together. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to EVERYONE (family, friends, fans) who have supported through the good times & the bad. Your words of encouragement push us more than you know. It certainly does not go unnoticed, especially from a kid who grew up a mile away. It’s been an unforgettable year, memories that will last a lifetime. Looking forward to many more!

A post shared by Matthew Grzelcyk (@matt.grzelcyk) on

Every time I laced up my skates or rollerbladed over to go play street hockey in Charlestown, I envisioned these very moments. Game 7, Stanley Cup Finals, for the hometown team... We came up one game short, and it hurts probably as bad as you could imagine (and then some). However, I truly believe that accomplishing anything meaningful in life requires you to overcome the obstacles presented your way. This team always faces adversity head on, and we will continue to do so. Focused. Relentless. Together.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to EVERYONE (family, friends, fans) who have supported through the good times & the bad. Your words of encouragement push us more than you know. It certainly does not go unnoticed, especially from a kid who grew up a mile away. It’s been an unforgettable year, memories that will last a lifetime. Looking forward to many more!

Grzelcyk was forced to miss most of the Stanley Cup Final after suffering an injury in Game 2, so it had to hurt even worse being physically unable to help his team. Even so, it's clear he's maintaining a remarkably positive attitude through the difficult circumstances.

Highlights from the B's 2019-20 schedule >>

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