With the Bruins falling to the Flames 5-2 Wednesday night in Calgary, here’s what we learned from the opening defeat on a four-game swing through Western Canada:
1) Tuukka Rask is going to find himself pulled into a goalie controversy if he’s not too careful.
He’s now started four games on the season and has a save percentage under .900 in two of those games after the performance in Calgary. That’s two out of four starts where Rask hasn’t given the Bruins a chance to win, and where he’s been bad against playoff-caliber teams after rolling through a couple of inferior opponents in between.
On Wednesday night, it was the first period where Rask buried his team after playing well for the first few minutes as his teammates tried to get settled in front of him. The Flames scored a pretty good goal where interior passing set up a wide open shot and then the bottom completely dropped out on the B’s No. 1 goalie. He kicked out a juicy rebound after a Noah Hanifin tester and that turned into an open put-back for Johnny Gaudreau to make it a two-goal deficit.
Less than a minute later, Rask completely whiffed on a Juuse Valimaki shot from the point that clanged off his glove hand and trickled over the goal line to put the Bruins down 3-0 before they even knew what had happened.
Rask managed to turn things around and keep the Bruins within striking distance by making a few saves in the final 40 minutes of the game, but that doesn’t really do anybody much good when he’s already buried them after the opening 20 minutes.
Rask now has an .875 save percentage and a goals-against average north of 4.00 while Jaroslav Halak has played lights out between the pipes early in the season. If Halak goes out and dominates against the Oilers tonight, there could be a fairly good chance that he gets the call again on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks.
If that happens then all bets are off and we could already be talking about some kind of goalie controversy or shared duties between the pipes. Nobody could blame Bruce Cassidy if he again has to go there early in the season with Rask once again looking less-than-stellar. Rask even joked about that a few days ahead of the trip saying that “it takes a while to get the old diesel engine going.”
Well, that diesel engine might get stuck on the bench for a bit just as he was last November after being outplayed by Anton Khudobin early in the season. It sure looks like history is repeating itself with a whole different backup this time around.
2) An offside coach’s challenge was used to essentially wipe a good goal off the board.
David Pastrnak was able to score to make it a 3-1 game late in the first period, but a coach’s challenge was used to see if the Bruins had been offsides entering the zone a good 10 seconds before the goal was scored. As it happened, Bergeron did cross over the blue line ahead of John Moore carrying the puck and so technically it was an offsides play. But the zone entry really had nothing to do with the goal itself and wiped out a nice play by Brandon Carlo keeping things alive in the offensive zone until Pastrnak was able to light the lamp.
In a league where they value offense, talent and goal-scoring above all else, it makes zero sense to have something on the books that is going to wipe out potentially good goals. There should be a time limit where you can’t challenge a goal after the puck has been in the zone for a certain amount of time. Maybe it’s 10 seconds or maybe it’s 15 seconds used a limit to challenge offside plays, but a coach’s challenge used to wipe out a goal that had very little to do with the offsides play in the first place makes very little sense to me.
3) The Bruins have 26 goals and Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak have 15 of them.
Only Jake DeBrusk has more than one goal on the Bruins aside from that top line and he has just two goals in the first six games. The Bruins wanted to get away from the top-heavy, one-dimensional offense this season, but there are very few signs that they’re any more diversified than they were last season.
There are also few options they can turn to aside from their current personnel after essentially telling Lee Stempniak they weren’t going to sign him prior to leaving for their four-game road swing through Canada. They look like a pretty good NHL team that’s one skilled top-six veteran short of a complete roster. That they’ll probably be in that situation unless Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork step up and provides something they really haven’t in the first handful of games this season.
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