Bruins

Bruins snap four-game losing streak with 2-1 win over Kings

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Bruins snap four-game losing streak with 2-1 win over Kings

LOS ANGELES -- The Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings were two teams going in the wrong direction, the losses suddenly piling up for both of them.

Something had to change when they met Thursday night and it did for the Bruins, who made Zdeno Chara's tiebreaking goal in the second period stand up for a 2-1 victory over the Kings.

"Our guys were sick of losing," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said after his team snapped a four-game skid.

The Kings, however, continued their unexpected spiral. After starting the season 11-2-2 for the best record in the Western Conference, they have dropped four in a row.

"We're going to have to dig down," coach John Stevens said. "You can't have part of your lineup going. You need your whole lineup going if you're going to win. It doesn't matter who you're playing."

The Kings won in Boston on Oct. 28 in the last second of overtime off a faceoff. This time, the Bruins returned the favor.

Patrice Bergeron won a faceoff for Boston in the first period and the puck went to Charlie McAvoy, who skated across the crease and lifted a backhand over the shoulder of goalie Jonathan Quick.

"I thought we played a much more complete game," McAvoy said. "We really wanted to get a win. It's been a while. We put together a complete 60 minutes."

Los Angeles tied it 1-all at 4:33 of the second on a power play. Jussi Jokinen found Drew Doughty open in the middle and the defenseman flicked in his fourth of the season.

Boston regained the lead at 13:16 when Chara fired a slap shot from outside the lower part of the circle that deflected off the stick of Los Angeles' Trevor Lewis a few feet in front of the net. The puck nicked the back of Quick's jersey and went in for Chara's second goal this season.

"I'm real happy with the way we played," Chara said. "We battled and deserved to win."

But the Bruins still had to hang on to preserve the victory, with almost 27 minutes yet to play.

"It's been an issue for us, closing out games," Cassidy said. "We did it well, comfortable. We didn't look scrambly. We didn't look like we lost our composure or poise."

The Kings never got another puck past backup goalie Anton Khudobin, who stopped 27 shots and improved to 4-0-2.

Quick made 28 saves for Los Angeles.

"You had that sense we did not want to let it go," Chara said. "You had that feel on the bench."

The Kings aren't sure what to feel after getting off to such an impressive start and now suddenly reeling.

"I don't think we're playing a 60-minute game," Anze Kopitar said. "Parts of the games, we play like we need to be, where we're in their zone making plays, creating chances.

"And in parts of the games, we're just pretty much non-existent out there. That's got to change. We have to have a better effort from everybody for a full game."

NOTES: Boston center David Krejci returned after missing 11 games with an upper-body injury. He played 18 minutes. "I felt pretty good for my first game back," Krejci said. . Kopitar assisted on Doughty's goal, extending his point streak to a career-best nine games. . The Kings had one four-game losing streak all last season. . The Bruins earned their second road win of the season.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Head to San Jose to play the Sharks on Saturday.

Kings: Stay home Saturday to host the Florida Panthers.

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Morning Skate: Kovalchuk thinks there's still plenty left in the tank

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Morning Skate: Kovalchuk thinks there's still plenty left in the tank

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while heading into late July where nothing at all happens in the hockey world. 
 
-- Ilya Kovalchuk thinks he’s still got some prime NHL years ahead as he readies for his return with the Los Angeles Kings. Maybe so, but would he ever admit he thinks he’s lost a step and won’t be a game-breaker in his late 30s?

 -- Larry Brooks says history shows the Rangers have picked the wrong man for their enforcer role in Cody MacLeod. 
 
-- A couple of pieces memorializing retired NHL goalie Ray Emery, who tragically lost his life at age 35 in a drowning accident last weekend. He was one of the toughest goaltenders in the history of the NHL.  
 
-- Pro Hockey Talk asks what the right contract extension is going to be for Washington Capitals rabble-rouser Tom Wilson. 
 
-- A nearly 20-minute video of NHL players mic’d up during the Stanley Cup playoffs, which is always high entertainment. 
 
-- For something completely different: This teaser for Stranger Things season 3 shows it was inevitable they were going to the mall
 

Haggerty: With Jaroslav Halak in place, dealing Tuukka Rask shouldn't be out of the question

Haggerty: With Jaroslav Halak in place, dealing Tuukka Rask shouldn't be out of the question

There are a couple of inalienable facts about next year’s goaltending situation with the Boston Bruins.

The first is that the B’s have most definitely upgraded in that area with 33-year-old Jaroslav Halak as the backup to Tuukka Rask. Halak is a flat-out better goalie than Anton Khudobin, and should be a little more consistent than the Russian backup, who was admittedly excellent last season while racking up a 16-6-7 record as Tuukka Rask’s understudy.

Halak, on the other hand, has won less than 18 games in a season only twice in his 10 full seasons at the NHL level, and has been a starter with the Canadiens, Blues, Capitals and Islanders with a career .916 save percentage over his NHL career. In case anybody hadn’t noticed that’s also been Tuukka Rask’s save percentage over the last three seasons for the Bruins.

Which brings us to inalienable goaltending fact No. 2: Halak is going to push Rask like he hasn’t been challenged since truly taking over as the top goalie in Boston.

The last truly competitive situation with Rask between the B’s pipes was in 2011-12 in Tim Thomas’ last season with the Bruins when the Finnish goaltender was backing up a reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Rask had temporarily taken Thomas’ job away from him two years prior during the 2009-10 season when he was a rookie goalie, and that sparked the best season of Thomas’ NHL career where he led the Black and Gold to a Stanley Cup victory.

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Since then Rask has had “just another guys” like Chad Johnson, Niklas Svedberg, Jonas Gustavsson and Anton Khudobin backing him up, and none of those backups had the kind of juice to truly take Rask’s job away from him. The best Khudobin could do was start four straight games for the Bruins back in November of last season, and that turned out to be one of the turning points in a 112-point campaign where Rask was significantly motivated from that point onward.

Halak could legitimately get on a hot streak in the regular season and force the Bruins coaching staff to sit Rask for weeks, or even a month, at a time, and that’s something no backup has ever been able to do behind Boston’s Franchise Finn. That should be a good thing and that is something the B’s are already counting on to happen for next season.

“We’ve talked about internal competition. Maybe it puts Tuukka in a better mindset. There were nights when Tuukka [played] back-to-backs. That’s a lot of stress on the goaltender knowing… I think two years ago we didn’t have a win by our backup at Christmas time,” said Don Sweeney, on July 1 after signing Halak to a two-year contract. “I’m not sure you guys wrote about it, but I did, and I lost sleep about it.

“I think we have two guys that have carried the ball for their teams, [and] that will push each other, that will complement each other, and we feel good that now going in every night. That is an area we aren’t going to be concerned about, hopefully. Obviously, it’s [about] the performance now.”

Now here’s the fork in the road where the inalienable Bruins goaltending facts and some good, old-fashioned speculation go their separate ways.

It doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen, but the addition of Halak for multiple years also opens up the possibility of trading away Rask if the right deal comes across Sweeney’s desk. The $2.75 million per season that the Bruins are paying Halak is the going rate for a top-of-the-line goalie, but it now also means the B’s are paying just under $10 million per season over the next two years for their goaltending tandem. That’s a whopping 12.5 percent of the $79.5 million in salary cap space, which is much less than either of the teams in this spring’s Stanley Cup Final (Vegas paid $6.4 million for their goalies and Washington paid $7.6 million for the Braden Holtby/Philipp Grubauer combo) shelled out for their goaltending.

In fact, only Montreal is spending more money on goaltending than the Bruins this season thanks to the awful Carey Price contract, and – along with the Bruins -- only the Panthers, Canadiens and Avalanche are paying north of $9 million in cap space for their goalies next season. For a Bruins team that was just barely in the NHL’s top-10 in save percentage and where the goaltending wasn’t really a demonstrable strength in the playoffs, that feels like a lot.  

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Rask has a limited trade clause for this upcoming season where he can be traded to eight NHL teams, and that “can be traded to” list gets bumped up to 15 teams in the following season. The Bruins did everything possible last season to make sure that Rask was mentally and physically rested with the 54 appearances, which was right around the targeted 55-60 games the Bruins had him penciled in for at the start of last season.

But even after all that rest and being given the high maintenance treatment, Rask still responded with a shaky postseason that was the worst statistically of his career. The 2.88 goals against average and .903 save percentage were the worst playoff marks of his NHL career, and Rask was an absolute disaster in their Game 7 showdown with the Maple Leafs. If the Bruins hadn’t completely shut down Toronto in the first half of the third period where they didn’t allow a shot on net (and didn’t allow Rask to even be a factor in the balance of that game), they probably wouldn’t have even advanced beyond the first round prior to their second round smack-down at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Rask was better in the second round vs. Tampa and added to his career highlight reel when he angrily fired a broken skate blade at the boards, but there are still some of the very same, nagging questions about Boston’s top goalie when it comes to big games.   

So why not start to explore what Rask could yield in a hockey trade, and even pull the trigger if the price is right given that Halak is there as a proven starting goaltender? There has been plenty of talk about Torey Krug being on the move if the right trade comes up to fit Boston’s needs, and there’s no reason why Boston’s All-Star, $7 million a year goaltender shouldn’t be part of that roster improvement conversation as well.

Nobody is saying to ship Rask simply for the sake of doing it, and clearly the Bruins would need to find themselves a young goalie they could groom as the eventual No. 1 guy to go along with the older, declining Halak. But the signing of Halak officially opened the door for the Bruins to at least toy with the idea of moving Rask in a good hockey trade to a team desperate for goaltending help (Carolina, the Islanders and the Flyers immediately come to mind), and that might not be such a bad thing for the Black and Gold.  

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