Is it time to start getting worried about Tuukka Rask again?

Is it time to start getting worried about Tuukka Rask again?

BOSTON – Is it time to start getting worried about Tuukka Rask?

The Bruins goaltender had a rough first period Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins where he allowed three goals on seven shots on net in the opening 20 minutes, and hasn’t been all that outstanding lately for the Black and Gold. In his last six games Rask is sporting a below average .888 save percentage, and has allowed three or more goals in four of the six games played while falling far away from a hot streak in the middle of the season.

To his credit, Rask pulled himself together after a couple of soft goals allowed in the first period against the Penguins and finished with 24 saves while allowing just one more for the rest of the game against Pittsburgh. It was an instance where Rask probably could have been yanked if he’d allowed any more goals in the second period, but instead he was able to hang in there while Pittsburgh made a first period goaltending change with their backups.

Bruce Cassidy said following the game that he didn’t consider pulling Rask after allowing three in the first period, but it certainly could have been a reality if it continued in the final 40 minutes.

“No. Zero. Tuukka has to play through some of these games. If he was fatigued in terms of his workload of late, we would look at that. But it’s just, right now, he had a stretch there where everything was like a beach ball to him, I think. Now, there are some goofy ones from odd angles,” said Bruce Cassidy. “The last goal, I don’t think any goalie is stopping that, it’s ping-ponging around. So, he’s just going to have to fight his way through it a little bit here and find his game.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to score four the other night and eight tonight, and that’s just part of it for him, too. If there was an injury or something there, we would talk to him and give him some rest, but it’s just a part of the year where he’ll have to find his focus, find his game, work with Goalie Bob

[Essensa], and hopefully he comes out of it. The good news is we’re winning.”

To be fair to Rask, it was probably two of the first three goals allowed in the first period that weren’t ideal for the Bruins No. 1 goalie. One would hope that Rask might have been able to stop Pittsburgh’s third goal scored by Riley Sheahan with just 3.2 seconds in the first period, and certainly he should have stopped Phil Kessel’s bad angle goal that beat him short side midway through the first period. Rask joked about it after the game because it had ended up well for the Bruins, but there’s no question he was fighting the puck in the first period.

“The first period I thought we were playing with white pucks there. The only time I saw the puck was when I dug it out of the net. Had some red bull in the intermission there and I actually made a couple saves after that,” said Rask. “The first one, I reacted like it was going high and it was kind of a wobbly puck. The second one [was a] bad angle shot and the third one, I mean I could have had a couple of those.

“But at least, you know, I battled back, and made a couple saves. We played a heck of a game. Everybody was going. It was fun to watch. Too bad I was playing goal, I wish I was in the stands having a beer.”

Clearly it’s a good thing that didn’t happen as Rask stopped 18-of-19 shots in the final two periods after getting his game together, and he really settled into things along with the rest of the team in front of him. Perhaps that will push the Bruins No. 1 back into a good stretch between the pipes, and his recent inconsistencies can be a thing of the past.

Right now Rask is tied for 17th in the NHL with the .919 save percentage and third in the NHL with a 2.23 goals against average, a pair of decent numbers that have fallen back to Earth a bit from where they were six weeks ago during his long, personal winning streak.

But another poor performance from Rask as of late will continue the nagging questions that the Bruins top goalie can’t consistently play well when the pressure is on, and serve as a reminder that the No. 1 goalie still has plenty to prove when it comes to big time performances in the kind of big games that the B’s will have in their near future.


Bruins trade target Tyler Toffoli dealt to Canucks

File photo

Bruins trade target Tyler Toffoli dealt to Canucks

If the Boston Bruins are planning on making a big move before the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 24, their options are dwindling.

One of their rumored trade targets, Tyler Toffoli, was dealt by the Los Angeles Kings to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday, according to TSN's Darren Dreger.

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Ex-Bruin Tim Schaller is headed to L.A. in the deal along with prospect Tyler Madden and a second-round pick, per TSN's Bob McKenzie.

Back in January, it was reported by Sportsnet NHL insider Elliotte Friedman the Bruins "could do a deal for Toffoli almost at any time" and "have that in their hip pocket." Now, Boston is forced to look in another direction. New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider is another player linked to the B's in trade rumors.

Toffoli, who had spent all of his eight-year career with the Kings, has 18 goals and 16 assists in 58 games this season.

The Bruins will see Toffoli and the Canucks on Saturday when they face off in Vancouver.

All things considered, the Bruins are in a pretty good cap situation

All things considered, the Bruins are in a pretty good cap situation

Ahead of the 2020 NHL trade deadline, the Bruins have ample cap space to make a deal without requiring much in the way of roster gymnastics.

The Bruins hold roughly $3.1 million in salary cap space according to the invaluable, and that’s with a full roster utilizing all 23 spots along with a couple B’s players currently on long-term injured reserve as well.

Some of that is thanks to the $2.5 million cap hit for the injured Kevan Miller that’s never been on the Bruins books at any point this season. And some of that is thanks to the Bruins burying David Backes’ contract in the AHL more than a month ago.

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What it means is that the Bruins can make a decent deadline deal without being forced to dump salary, and would only be pushed into making moves to free up cap space if it were for an impact player with a substantial cap hit in the $5 plus million range.

The Bruins’ cap situation gives the Bruins some room to work while also boasting a roster that’s put up the most points in the NHL midway through the month of February.

That’s a pretty darn good situation to be in for Sweeney and Co. at the deadline coming off a Stanley Cup Final-worthy season.

For example, the Bruins were interested in Blake Coleman’s services prior to the New Jersey forward getting dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning and it would have required zero in cap-clearing moves to bring the speedy, feisty Coleman into the fold. That’s part of the reason the Bruins had a keen interest in Coleman in the first place as a low-cost option for the next couple of seasons.

Miller (fractured kneecap) has been skating on his own for weeks, but isn’t close to returning with legitimate question marks as to whether or not he’ll ever be healthy enough to play this season. That gives the Bruins cap space to play with ahead of next week’s trade deadline and potentially allows them to go over the cap if Miller were to somehow be healthy enough to return just ahead of Boston’s playoff run.  

There is, after all, no salary cap in the Stanley Cup playoffs and a crafty salary cap manager can use that to their advantage over the final few months of the season if the timing of an injured player’s return works out perfectly.

If the Bruins were to bring in a player like Chris Kreider or Tyler Toffoli (both in the $4.6 million range), for instance, they’d need to clear about $1.5 million in cap space ahead of the deal. The Bruins could achieve that by shipping depth guys like Anton Blidh and Jeremy Lauzon to the minors provided everybody else was healthy.

If it’s a more expensive cap acquisition like Mike Hoffman or Wayne Simmonds, then the Bruins would be forced to deal away a roster player with bottom-pairing defenseman John Moore as the most likely candidate to be shipped out of town.

The 29-year-old Moore ($2.75 million cap hit) has toggled between bottom-pairing defenseman and healthy scratch when he hasn’t been injured in his first two seasons with the Bruins. And the Black and Gold have cheaper in-house alternatives in Lauzon and Connor Clifton.

It’s never prudent for a team like the Bruins with Stanley Cup aspirations to trade away defensemen depth down the stretch. But they might not have a choice if they’re forced to go with Plan C or Plan D when the hours start counting down to next Monday’s trade deadline.