Bruins

One more win for Tuukka Rask to lock down his legacy with the Bruins

One more win for Tuukka Rask to lock down his legacy with the Bruins

Tuukka Rask is one game away from permanently changing his reputation that of a big game goaltender and Stanley Cup winner.

Rask is also one game away from perhaps earning the rare distinction of being a Conn Smythe winner whether his teams win or loses the Stanley Cup Final. He’s been that good and that dominant throughout the postseason, he’s outplayed his counterpart Jordan Binnington to this point in the Cup Final series and he had a signature “in the zone” performance in Boston’s 5-1 win over the St. Louis Blues at the Enterprise Center on Sunday night.

“Good for Tuukka,” said Bruce Cassidy. "[Rask] has allowed us an opportunity to play in a Game 7. I think the whole hockey world loves a Game 7, so it should be a great night in Boston, and may the best team win.”

Certainly, Rask has his iconic Stanley Cup Final save after an Alex Pietrangelo backhander deflected off the post, forced the B’s goaltender into a behind-the-back save and then Charlie McAvoy swatted the puck away from harm in the second period with the B’s holding a slim 1-0 lead.

"I think [McAvoy] hit it with his stick and I kind of heard it," said Rask. "I didn't know where it was and I figured it might be somewhere behind me, so I just tried to corral it with my hand behind my back, and then it stuck in my pants and then it fell somewhere. But I think [McAvoy] made a great play to keep it out of the net."

But it’s about much more than a single game when you start stacking up the numbers for the B’s No. 1 goaltender. Rask is 5-0 with a .973 save percentage in elimination games during these playoffs where a team’s hockey life is on the line and did it again while stopping 28-of-29 shots in the Sunday night road win that got Boston to a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night.

Rask was excellent in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs in the first round, he outplayed the outstanding Sergei Bobrovsky in the second round vs. Columbus and he singlehandedly destroyed Carolina’s will to compete when he made 20 saves in the first period of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final.

The stage is set for him to be otherworldly one more time because he was so good in a do-or-die situation Sunday night.

Rask was at his best in the first couple of periods when the Blues were still exerting heavy pressure on the Bruins and seemed to control puck possession for long stretches of time despite the B’s holding the slim 1-0 lead. Then Jordan Binnington cracked in the third period with the B’s scoring three goals on 11 shots to send things out of reach, and once again left little doubt which goalie is better in this Stanley Cup Final series.

There’s no doubt in the mind of his Bruins teammates after watching him post a .938 save percentage in this postseason while sitting just a single win away from being a Cup champ, a Conn Smythe winner and whatever he wants to be for the rest of his career with the Black and Gold.

“He’s our best player,” said McAvoy. “He’s been our best player all through the playoffs, and in the regular season. When we know that he’s playing to the best of his ability like this and we go to help him out, that he is going to be there [at the end]. He steps up when it matters and we have all the faith in the world in him. We believe in him so much. He’s our rock.”

Now all Rask needs to do is close the deal just like his former tandem partner Tim Thomas did back in 2011 when he locked down the Canucks with a 38-save shutout. Thomas was brilliant in the last handful of games in the 2011 Cup Final and Rask is on his way to doing the exact same thing while penning the most important chapter in his professional hockey career.

All that’s standing between Rask and the answer to every question that’s ever been asked of him is one more 60-minute effort of postseason brilliance with all the trends pointing toward the B’s goaltender ready to take over in Boston on Wednesday night. But he’s got to close the deal and finish with the Cup triumphantly raised over his head if he wants to forever vanquish the criticism and the doubters, and fully realize the massive talent that’s always been there with Rask just waiting to be fully realized as it’s been this spring.

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Jaroslav Halak makes amazing save in Bruins' preseason game vs. Flyers

Jaroslav Halak makes amazing save in Bruins' preseason game vs. Flyers

Hockey is officially back, folks.

The Bruins and Flyers faced off in a preseason matchup on Thursday night, and it was Jaroslav Halak providing the most notable highlight. The veteran B's goaltender made an absolutely ridiculous save on Philadelphia's Morgan Frost in the first period.

Watch below:

Frost's reaction pretty much says it all.

The Bruins have four preseason games remaining, then they'll begin their 2019-20 campaign on Oct. 3 when they visit the Dallas Stars.

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Bruce Cassidy's message to Jakub Zboril, Zach Senyshyn: 'It's time to separate yourself'

Bruce Cassidy's message to Jakub Zboril, Zach Senyshyn: 'It's time to separate yourself'

BRIGHTON, Mass – With Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo now signed and in training camp, the news is overwhelmingly positive for the Black and Gold with a full camp roster highlighted by players returning from last year’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

“The band is back together now, eh?” said a smiling Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy when asked about it on Wednesday afternoon with everybody on the ice and Patrice Bergeron seemingly healthy with no restrictions, either.

But a slew of returning players and avoided contract snafus also means few open spots on the NHL roster with the start of the regular season just a couple of weeks away. For some players, the clock is running short on their time to make an impact and become part of a Bruins group expected to once again compete and go deep in the playoffs this season.

Bruins prospects like 23-year-old Anders Bjork, 22-year-old Zach Senyshyn and 22-year-old Jakub Zboril are at a major crossroads with the Black and Gold entering this season. All three enter the final year of their entry level deals, as do Jeremy Lauzon, Ryan Fitzgerald and Karson Kuhlman, and need to begin making a bigger impact if they want to remain within the organization.

“Those guys are in the last year of their entry deals. It is important. You’re playing for your spot here in Boston, but also for your livelihood. You want to earn that next contract, and for some guys it takes a little bit longer,” said Cassidy. “They should be farther down the line than a guy like [Oskar] Steen that’s just coming in here and it’s all new to them. You’d expect those guys to push through.

“It’s just the circle of life so to speak. You have guys turning pro every year and we’ve got to make room for them. It’s kind of time to separate yourself. You should be the first call-up if you’re in that situation, and that should be your goal.”

Certainly Bjork is in a bit of a different category since he’s already played 50 NHL games, and a pair of shoulder surgeries have played a big role in holding back his development. But for Zboril and Senyshyn, former first round picks in the 2015 NHL Draft, it’s getting to become now or never time after a couple of “just okay” seasons at the AHL level.

Zboril has put identical four goal, 19-point seasons at the AHL over the last two seasons in Providence, and did so last year while playing in 12 fewer games for the P-Bruins. Senyshyn finished with 14 goals and 24 points last season for Providence, a pair of points less than he scored in his first pro season while playing in 66 games both seasons.

Zboril hasn’t really tapped into the offensive end of his game that many projected for him when he was in junior hockey, and Senyshyn hasn’t much resembled the guy that scored 40-plus goals in the OHL during his junior career. The Bruins are still searching for a top-6 right wing to play with David Krejci, and that should be Senyshyn based on his age and where he was drafted.

It just hasn’t happened to this point as the undrafted Kuhlman took that spot in the Bruins lineup during the Stanley Cup Final, and open auditions are once again there for the spot this fall in training camp.

Each now has some NHL games under their belt, but both were also surpassed organizationally by Connor Clifton and Kuhlman last season when injuries hit the Black and Gold at the NHL level. That’s a pretty telling statement about where both Zboril and Senyshyn are currently at in the organization, and an indicator that they both need to step up their games. If not, the bust term is going to be applied to two of the three first round picks from the 2015 NHL draft where the Bruins became the first team in history to make three consecutive first round selections.

“I’m just trying to show my details and show my work ethic and use my speed to take pucks to the net,” said Senyshyn, who said that playing a couple of games in the NHL last season has ‘lit a fire under me.’ “I think doing the little details that I’ve done the last couple of years in Providence is going to be big. I just have to trust my game and play with confidence.”

At this point, Zboril and Senyshyn are never going to be able to make people forget that players like Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot and Brock Boeser were selected shortly after them in that infamous first round of the 2015 NHL Draft. But they can make sure they are of use to the B’s organization and still attempt to develop into the impact players that Bruins scouts once clearly envisioned them to be four years ago.

If it doesn’t happen this season then it probably won’t be long before either of them, or both, might be facing an uphill battle in another NHL organization that doesn’t have as much invested in them.

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