Bruins

Are the Bruins playing to the personalities of their goalies?

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Are the Bruins playing to the personalities of their goalies?

BOSTON – What’s happening between the pipes is beginning to become much more than a coincidence for the Boston Bruins.

After four spirited wins with Anton Khudobin in goal, Tuukka Rask had his number called and the B's responded with a medium work ethic, low energy game in a 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday night.

Things are developing into a pattern where the Bruins are a day late and a dollar short when Rask gets the call, and he now has a paltry eight of Boston’s 24 points on the season with a 3-8-2 record overall this year. Some of the work ethic stats were particularly discouraging with the Oilers outhitting the Bruins, and more alarmingly Edmonton blocked twice as many shots (11-to-5) despite holding a healthy shot attempt advantage in the game.

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When Sunday’s effort is put in contrast with the four wins behind Khudobin, it looked much different with Kevan Miller, Zdeno Chara, Brandon Carlo and others stepping up and blocking shots while the Black and Gold scratched and clawed their way to victory. Rask certainly wasn’t bad overall on Sunday night in allowing three goals on 35 shots, and he actually improved his season-long save percentage to a still-subpar .899 in defeat.

On the first goal, Rask wasn’t square to the shooter in Patrick Maroon, and all three goals were from Edmonton shooters that went upstairs with the Bruins goalie on his knees in the perpetual butterfly position. Still, not bad isn’t good enough to earn the two points most times in the NHL, and that’s where Rask and the Bruins were once again.

“He needs a win. He wants a win, obviously. He’s a goalie. They’re judged on their wins and losses generally speaking,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I thought [Rask] played well early. We weren’t good, we gave up some opportunities, or not good enough, I guess, especially that second period. They get one off Charlie [McAvoy]’s foot. That doesn’t help. [It’s] a little bit of a tough break for the goaltender. I thought Charlie did a good job trying to box out a big body, and it goes in off his foot.

“[It’s a] good shot on the third goal, but again, that’s what it’s come down to lately, that one good shot, and we’re not able to get the goal for him. Or for us too, it’s not just about him, right? It’s about the whole group.”

Afterward it was the same reaction from Rask, however, where the bounces didn’t go his way and he said he was determined to keep working hard no matter how the playing time gets divvied up between him and a red-hot Khudobin.

“[The losses] start to pile up and nothing seems to go your way, it’s frustrating. Obviously right now it’s frustrating, but tomorrow is a new day, and Tuesday, go back to work and start building something new,” said Rask. “That’s all you really can control – your work ethic, and attitude, and how you show up to work. That’s what I’m going to do.

“[The time on the bench] can affect you mentally if you let it. But I try not to. Dobby [Anton Khudobin] has played unbelievable. He’s getting the wins. That’s what matters. We need wins. The only thing I can control, like I said, is the work. Show up and have a good work ethic, a good attitude and whenever you get the chance to play, you try to give the team a chance to win. It hasn’t been affecting me a lot. Obviously, it’s something new, but you move on.”

The first goal allowed was partially on Rask, the second goal was a point shot that glanced in off McAvoy’s skate in front of the net and the third shot was a Ryan Strome sniper shot from the slot that beat Rask high to the glove side. It wasn’t necessarily about the goals allowed for Rask on this night, but it was more about the passive, laid-back mentality that the Bruins adopted in the defensive zone. They weren’t jumping in front of shots and a couple of times both the shooting and passing lanes were wide open for seams from a struggling Oilers team.

Contrast that with the fiery, aggressive demeanor that the Bruins players took with Khudobin, where they blocked shots, fronted pucks and battled with the same kind of tenacity that Khudobin showed staring down Nico Hischier in the shootout vs. New Jersey. It once again felt like the Bruins were operating at a slower, easier-to-play-against pace in front of their No. 1 goaltender, but Cassidy said it was nonsense to think the same Bruins team could play all that differently depending on the goaltender.

“I don’t think the players, it ever crosses their mind who’s in net. I mean, we got two [goals] in New Jersey, two [goals] in LA. We just play, and we’re in a lot of close games. It’s just who we are right now. We’d like to extend leads better,” said Cassidy. “I thought we did it against Pittsburgh, a very good team came back [on us] and then we got it again.

“No I don’t think our players think about that, ‘Well, it’s Tuukka [Rask] tonight, we owe him run support, or it’s Dobby [Anton Khudobin].’ We just play, and tonight, I just thought we lacked energy, and I don’t know if it would’ve mattered who was in net. We just didn’t have a lot of jump.”

All due respect to the Bruins head coach, but it feels like something is very much disconnected between Rask and the Bruins effort level in front of him.

Maybe Cassidy is right and it doesn’t matter which goalie is in net when it comes to the level of energy emanating from the Bruins players. But something tells this humble hockey writer that if we see battlin' Anton Khudobin back in net against the Tampa Bay Lightning, we’ll also see the return of the gritty, competitive hockey team ready to block shots and compete fully when the Bruins take the ice on Wednesday night.

That’s all that really matters from game-to-game right now as the Bruins need points and a consistent playing style in front of whatever goalie gets them where they need to be. They can figure out the long term answers to their burgeoning goalie controversy later, but for now it’s about whatever is working nightly for the Black and Gold.  

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NHL Power Rankings: Toronto off to a prolific, roaring start

NHL Power Rankings: Toronto off to a prolific, roaring start

Boy, it sure looks like the offensive firepower is going to be in the Atlantic Division again this season. Auston Matthews leads the NHL with a whopping 10 goals scored in six games for Toronto this season, and John Tavares is actually third in the league this season with six goals scored in his first season in Toronto. In between is David Pastrnak with his seven goals scored in five games this season for the Bruins with no signs of slowing down for Boston either.

Sure Alex DeBrincat and Nathan MacKinnon are next with six goals apiece as well, but Morgan Rielly (13) and Patrice Bergeron (11) are also top five in the NHL in points behind Matthews with his 14 points in six games in one of the hottest starts to a season in NHL memory. Perhaps it will even out and some of the Atlantic Division players will fall off the pace, but right now it sure looks like there are going to be nightly fireworks in the Atlantic with Tampa Bay, Toronto and Boston all boasting serious offense.

Anyway, without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:

1.       Toronto Maple Leafs (5-1-0, rank last week: 7) – Auston Matthews and John Tavares have combined for 16 goals in six games so far. That’s pretty damn good.

2.     Chicago Blackhawks (3-0-2, rank last week: 2) – Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane are carrying the offense right now for the Blackhawks, but they also still haven’t lost a game in regulation as of yet.   

3.    Nashville Predators (4-1-0, rank last week: 3) – Pekka Rinne has allowed just five goals in his three starts thus far this season as the Preds continue to combine goaltending, defense and pretty decent offense for top results.

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4.    Boston Bruins (4-1-0, rank last week: 9) – After getting shellacked by the Washington Capitals on opening night, the Bruins have outscored opponents by a 22-6 margin over the last four games. Those games have also been against the Sabres, Senators, Oilers and Red Wings, so the B’s still have some proving to do.  

5.  Anaheim Ducks (4-1-1, rank last week: 5) – It might be time for Nick Ritchie to start thinking about a new work address because it sure seems like the Ducks have shown that they don’t really need him. It’s an impressive start for a team that’s suffered injuries and the holdout from Ritchie.  

6.  New Jersey Devils (3-0-0, rank last week: 11) – Kyle Palmieri has as many goals (six) as everybody else on the Devils roster three games into the regular season. Who would have guessed that or the undefeated start for the Devils?

7.    Colorado Avalanche (3-1-1, rank last week: 6) – Semyon Varlamov and Nathan MacKinnon have sprinted out of the gate for the Avs and helped stake them out to a pretty good start in the Central Division. Now they have to show that they’re for real for the long haul, but the talent is there.

8. Dallas Stars (3-1-0, rank last week: 8) – So far it feels like Ben Bishop is making a difference for the Stars, and has given them that stability between the pipes that they desperately needed.

9.   Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1-1, rank last week: 8) – Zero goals for Sidney Crosby through the first four games of the season for the Penguins. How many more games before we start to see the first hot take columns saying that Sid the Kid is now over the hill.

10. Carolina Hurricanes (4-1-1, rank last week: 10) – Four goals and 11 points for Sebastian Aho through six games for the Hurricanes as he continues his ascension toward being of the better players in the league. Carolina is playing some very good hockey out of the gate, but we’ll have to see how long that lasts.

11. Washington Capitals (2-2-1, previous ranking: 1) – The Capitals have been okay out of the starting gate, but one had to suspect that it was going to take a while for Washington to get the whole Stanley Cup celebration thing out of their system.

12. Columbus Blue Jackets (3-2-0, rank last week: 18) – The Artemi Panarin watch is on in Columbus as he’s the team’s leading scorer with three goals and seven points, and also registers as their biggest potential trading chip this season as well.

13. Winnipeg Jets (3-2-0, Rank last week: 20) – Kyle Connor leads the Jets with four goals scored in five games as Winnipeg is just starting getting started at what’s expected to be another potential Stanley Cup-contending season.

14. Calgary Flames (3-2-0, rank last week: 23) – The Flames are scoring plenty with their throng of skilled young players, but they’ve got to do a better job of keeping the pick out of their need if they want to truly contend.

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15. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, rank last week: 4) – Three goals in three games for Brayden Point, who has to be one of the most underrated stars in the NHL right now.

16. Buffalo Sabres (3-2-0, rank last week: 15) – So far it’s been a decent start for the Sabres, and that’s something that Buffalo will gladly settle for at this point.  

17.  Minnesota Wild (1-1-2, rank last week: 24) – A perfectly “meh” start for the Minnesota Wild that’s at least seen Devan Dubnyk off to a really good start with the Wild.

18.  Vancouver Canucks (3-2-0, rank last week: 27) – It’s a darn shame to see Elias Pettersson concussed after getting off to such a brilliant start for the Canucks. Vancouver may not be headed anywhere special this season, but they’re definitely building something.

19. Los Angeles Kings (2-2-1, rank last week: 12) – It’s a good thing for the Kings that Jack Campbell is off to a strong start in the wake of the injury to Jonathan Quick.

20. San Jose Sharks (2-3-1, rank last week: 13) – Everybody’s preseason pick to win the Stanley Cup has won only two of their first five games. So much for the preseason picks, but I’ll reserve final judgment until I see what they become once they get their footing under them.  

21. Montreal Canadiens (2-1-1, rank last week: 25) – A modestly good start for the Habs up in Montreal, who have allowed a solid 10 goals in their first four games and seem to be playing Claude Julien’s brand of hockey up there.    

22. Ottawa Senators (2-2-1, rank last week: 26) – The Senators certainly haven’t been terrible as was thought prior to the season, and Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk have both been pretty awesome as young players.  

23. New York Islanders (2-2-0, rank last week: 14) – It’s early yet, but it looks like Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss might turn out to be a pretty strong goalie tandem on the Island…or in Brooklyn…or wherever they are at any point this season.   

24. Vegas Golden Knights (2-4-0, rank last week: 10) – No goals in six games for offensive big gun William Karlsson, who might be the epitome of that was then this is now for a Golden Knights team that looks a lot different than last year’s magical group.   

25. Philadelphia Flyers (2-3-0, rank last week: 19) – Slow start for Nolan Patrick with the Flyers as he’s pointless in four games with a minus-5 rating after ending so strongly for the Flyers last season.

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26. St. Louis Blues (1-2-2, rank last week: 30) – The Blues look like a team that might fall behind in the Central Division, especially if they continue to get shaky goaltending from Jake Allen.

27. Edmonton Oilers (1-2-0, rank last week: 22) – Connor McDavid was ready to go at the starting bell for the Oilers this season, but it looks like many of his teammates didn’t get the memo. It could be another tough start for the Oil.

28. Arizona Coyotes (1-3-0, rank last week: 29) – Three goals scored in four games for the Coyotes thus far this season. You can’t win hockey games if you can’t score goals.

29. New York Rangers (1-4-0, rank last week: 31) – King Henrik has been brilliant for the Blueshirts early in this season, but clearly not enough of his teammates are on Hank’s level on Broadway.  

30. Detroit Red Wings (0-3-2, rank last week: 30) – Nobody has allowed more goals than the 23 goals allowed by the Red Wings, and it’s reflected in the zero wins thus far this season.  

31. Florida Panthers (0-2-1, rank last week: 16) – A disappointing start for a Panthers team that many are expecting will compete for a playoff spot in the Atlantic division behind the Lightning, Maple Leafs and Bruins.

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Bruins admit that Red Sox playoff run had made them ‘screaming fans’

Bruins admit that Red Sox playoff run had made them ‘screaming fans’

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins are no different than everybody else around New England. They’re getting caught up in the Red Sox playoff run while attending games at Fenway Park, filling up their social media accounts with selfies from the Lyric Little Bandbox, and rooting on the Sox and Patriots after a couple of big wins on Sunday night.

No doubt the Bruins will be expecting the same from their buddies at the Fens and in Foxboro when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin this spring, but now, they’re every bit the Boston sports fanboys just like the rest of us.

Bruce Cassidy attended ALCS Game 2 at Fenway with his son on Sunday night, and Zdeno Chara admitted that he was glued to his TV watching all the action on Sunday after he’d made it out to the Fens for Saturday night’s series-opener.

“It’s a privilege. It’s special that we have all four major pro sports, and they are consistently in the playoffs and competing for trophies and championships,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “It’s nice to be following and being a fan. They do the same for us as we do for them. It’s very special. We wear the hats, we wear the T-shirts and we go to the games if we can.

“We are athletes, but at the same time we’re just like any other kid watching them on TV and screaming when they score. We celebrate when they win, so it’s nice.”

Cassidy went as far a couple of weeks ago to openly laud the Bruins crowd at TD Garden for breaking into a “Yankees Suck!” chant in the third period of a blowout win, and it’s clear those who have been around Boston for a while have turned into diehard fans. So, when the Sox evened the series against Houston on Sunday night, everybody has a spring in their step at a regular Monday morning practice.

“I’ve been here for a while and you’re drawn to it,” Chara said. “The fans and the people of Boston are so passionate about sports that you kind of have to get on the wagon and cheer for the Sox, Pats and Celtics and so on. It’s great and it seems like they’re always going great as well, so it’s fun to watch. It’s fun to follow.

“We’ve said it often that Boston is a great sports town and all of the teams have been good basically since I got here. It’s been a lot of fun to be part of a great challenge as an athlete to always be at your best.”

The challenge right now is for the Red Sox to topple the favored Astros for a chance at their fourth World Series berth in the past 14 years. It’s clear the members of the Bruins will be cheering them all the way. 

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