Bruins

Pouliot still without qualfying offer; may be done in Boston

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Pouliot still without qualfying offer; may be done in Boston

PITTSBURGH It looks like the often erratic, sometimes brilliant Benoit Pouliot era might be over in Boston after just one up-and-down season.

One year after the Montreal Canadiens didnt extend a qualifying offer to Pouliot making him an unrestricted free agent signed by the Bruins, it appears the Bs will do the same thing. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed to CSNNE.com that Boston has extended qualifying offers to restricted free agents Tuukka Rask, Matt Bartkowski and Lane MacDermid thereby allowing them to match any offer sheets the RFAs might received after July 1.

The Bruins havent extended a qualifying offer to Pouliot, and Chiarelli wasnt ready on Friday afternoon to rule out that it might happen by the June 25 deadline. But it appears the Bruins are ready to relinquish their RFA protection rights for a player that never truly found his stride in Black and Gold.

Pouliot did post his second-best career total with 16 goals and reached a personal high with 32 points while riding shotgun on the third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley for much of the season. He had arguably the two prettiest goals by the Bruins last season including a between-the-legs toe drag against the Florida Panthers in December, but Pouliot also struggled through long bouts of invisibility on the ice.

The 25-year-old all but disappeared in February with one point and a minus-7 in 13 games, and appeared to catch the Bruins by surprise on at least one occasion when he wasnt feeling healthy enough physically to play.

The limited production was probably to be expected for a buy low project that the Bruins only spent 1.1 million on for the 2011-12 season, but Pouliots inconsistency has spurred the Bruins to look for a veteran Mark Recchi type on the third line as a potential replacement.

The Bruins could bring Pouliot back after July 1 even if they dont send him a qualifying offer, but that doesnt seem likely at all.

Haggerty's Talking Points: Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand spark Bruins in win over Sabres

Haggerty's Talking Points: Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand spark Bruins in win over Sabres

GOLD STAR: Tuukka Rask was excellent in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-4, but still managed to escape the first period with a tied 1-1 score. Then Rask stopped the show in the third period with the Bruins nursing a 3-1 lead. The Sabres dialed up the pressure before Evan Rodrigues got a golden scoring chance from the right face-off circle. He stepped into the shot and launched it toward the open net, but Rask made a last-ditch leap and snagged the puck with his blocker to rob a certain goal for the Sabres.

It was the highlight save of the season for Rask, and probably for the rest of the NHL in competition with another show-stopping save from Marc-Andre Fleury a couple of nights ago. It was also the difference in the one-goal game which Rask finished with 36 saves.

BLACK EYE: Urho Vaakanainen struggled early in the game making mistakes with the puck in his early shifts and really never got going for the Bruins during the game. He has not been impressive at all in this season’s stint at the NHL level, and that was the case against Buffalo where he finished with no shots on net and a giveaway in 13:44 of ice time.

Worse still, Bruce Cassidy was critical of Vaakanainen postgame and said that he wasn’t ready to go at the drop of the puck on Thursday night. That’s a bad sign for a young player that should be hungry to stay at the NHL level.

Perhaps Vaakanainen just needs more time to build up his confidence, or perhaps he’s just really struggling in his second pro season with the kind of sophomore slump that can happen from time to time.

TURNING POINT: Really, it was Brad Marchand and his linemates waking up and taking control of the first period. Marchand created havoc on the fore-check and that turned into a chance for Zdeno Chara to blast a slap shot that Marchand redirected past Linus Ullmark for the game-tying goal toward the end of the first period.

The Marchand goal almost immediately shifted the momentum of the game and it allowed the Bruins to head into the first intermission locked in a 1-1 tie rather than down a goal after no-showing for the first 12 plus minutes of the game. They didn’t deserve to be tied after one period, but they were and that was a huge difference-maker, especially after getting outshot 17-4 to start the game.

HONORABLE MENTION: It wasn’t Marchand’s best game by any margin, but he still came out with a pair of goals in a 3-2 win over the Sabres. The first was a gutsy tip of a Zdeno Chara blast right at the front of the net in the first period and the second was a power play goal that catapulted the B’s into the lead in the second period.

Marchand finished with just the two shots on net and two registered hits in 19:20 of ice time for the game and certainly wasn’t clicking 5-on-5 with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak like usual. But at the end of the day Marchand showed up and produced, Rask showed up and produced and Pastrnak showed up and produced his 20th goal of the season. When that happens with Boston’s best players, they rarely lose.

BY THE NUMBERS: 12 – the consecutive number of home games that the Bruins have drawn points from this season dating to the start of the year, the seventh longest streak to start a season in the last 30 years.

QUOTE TO NOTE: â€śSave of the year. That’s why he’s making the big bucks. We’ve got him back there to save our butts.” –Brad Marchand, on Tuukka Rask’s leaping blocker save on Evan Rodrigues in the third period that ended up saving the game for the Bruins.

HAGGERTY: How does Bergeron stack up against NHL's top centers?>>>

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Bruins' Tuukka Rask robs Sabres' Evan Rodrigues with incredible save

Bruins' Tuukka Rask robs Sabres' Evan Rodrigues with incredible save

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask provided one of the best saves you'll see all season on Thursday night.

In the third period vs. the Buffalo Sabres, Rask robbed Evan Rodriguez with a ridiculous save using his blocker.

Watch the play below:

With some help from that insane play by Rask, the B's went on to defeat Buffalo by a score of 3-2.

Next up for the Bruins (14-3-5) is a matchup at TD Garden against the Minnesota Wild (8-11-2).

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