Bruins

Rask blowing up his reputation as a slow starter with dominant October for B's

Rask blowing up his reputation as a slow starter with dominant October for B's

BRIGHTON, Mass – While so much of this first encouraging couple of weeks has been familiar for the Boston Bruins, one thing is a little different when it comes to the start of the season.

For the first time in a while, goalie Tuukka Rask is getting off to a strong start in the month of October. Last season Rask, of course, battled through a rough first month that ended with a personal leave of absence at the start of November. The numbers over the last five seasons of Octobers for Rask have been pretty brutal.

Whether it was last season’s 3.15 goals and against and .902 save percentage, or a 1-3-2 start with a 2.93 goals against average and .896 save percentage in 2017-18, or a 3.29 goals against average and .889 save percentage in 2015-16, it’s pretty clearly the worst month of the season for him. Over the course of his career, October features his highest career goals against average (2.49) and his lowest career save percentage (.915) of any month in the NHL regular season.

Even Rask has admitted in the past that it takes a while to get the engine going, particularly as a 32-year-old goalie preparing for the rigors of an entire regular season.

But that is not the case this time around.

Rask has been excellent in the first two weeks of the regular season and sits fourth in the entire NHL in both goals against average (1.33) and save percentage (.957) at this early juncture of the year. It’s something that has not gone unnoticed by the Bruins with Boston up at the top of all the defensive and goaltending categories along with the Anaheim Ducks team they will face on Monday afternoon.

“We’re still working on our game like every other team, and I thought that’s where Tuukka [Rask] really stepped up,” said Bruce Cassidy of Rask, who stopped all 31 of the shots he faced for his first shutout of the season Saturday night in a 3-0 win over the Devils. “That’s when he should get the credit. In a game like this, I thought that’s when he earned his paycheck tonight. We broke down a lot there, trying to break pucks out and had some loose play. He was really good.

“Our goaltending has been solid. We knew that coming in [with] two veteran, professional guys.”

Is there anything that Rask himself attributes it to after traditionally struggling so much to get going early in the season?

“I don’t know. We’re playing good,” said Rask. “When you finish your season in June it helps everybody to give you that feeling in the back of your head that you want to play this game. System-wise I think we’ve been pretty solid, so I’m just tagging along there.”

Certainly there is more there than Rask casually saying that he’s “tagging along” with the rest of the Bruins off to a 4-1-0 start. The real question now is just how good can Rask be this season if he doesn’t have that traditional subpar month of October to drag him down as he’s well on his way to blowing up that well-worn narrative about him during his time in Boston. 

Now he just needs to keep going for a few more weeks until the calendar turns to November and December, which have always been among his months as an NHL goaltender. 

HAGGS: Bruins will need every bit of their great start>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Bobby Orr calls Don Cherry's firing 'disgraceful' says his former coach is 'not a racist'

Bobby Orr calls Don Cherry's firing 'disgraceful' says his former coach is 'not a racist'

Days later, the argument over Don Cherry’s comments on Hockey Night in Canada that sparked his dismissal is still going strong. Now, the NHL’s greatest player has weighed in. 

Bruins legend and Hall of Famer Bobby Orr stood up for Grapes when chatting with the Toronto Sun and WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria" show in separate interviews Thursday and called his former coach's firing “disgusting” and “definitely unfair.”

Cherry was fired on Monday by Rogers Sportsnet in Canada after his comments over the weekend on his "Coach’s Corner" segment on "Hockey Night in Canada" when he went on a diatribe about people not buying poppies to support Canadian military veterans.

The former Bruins coach - Orr played for him in the 1974-75 and '75-76 seasons - didn’t just stop with a statement supporting the military, and regrettably segued into singling out immigrants to Canada as a group not supporting the military enough publicly. Cherry, 85, started it all off by saying “you people that come here” and that set off a firestorm of criticism in the US and Canada against the analyst who has been part of Hockey Night in Canada telecasts for almost 40 years.

Cherry said on the Nov. 9 telecast: “You people … you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

Orr’s words carry a lot of weight in the hockey world in Boston, where he won a pair of Stanley Cups while revolutionizing the game, and all over Canada, where he’s still revered as the greatest hockey player of all time.

And he’s sticking by his buddy, nicknamed Grapes, which is admirable.

“He got fired on Remembrance Day. That is just wrong,” said Orr to the Sun. “The whole thing is unbelievable. Don Cherry is a good man and to do this to him is disgusting. I know what he was saying. We all know what he was saying. He was saying we should buy a poppy. All of us. You can take it any way you want, but he isn’t a bigot.

“Yes, he’s my friend. But I have known him a long time and I know he is not a bigot or a racist. He is the most honest and generous guy there is. He’s very good to the veterans, the police, the firefighters, minor hockey players and fans. They all know what he meant and I know what he meant.”

Orr told WEEI: "What they’ve done to him up there is disgraceful, it really is. It's a new world, I guess. Freedom of speech doesn't matter." He added that Cherry is "hurt, but he's going to be fine. He's getting some nice calls from his friends here in Boston. He is getting some wonderful support."

It’s still unknown exactly what awaits Cherry after his departure from Hockey Night in Canada, and it remains to be seen what Sportsnet will do to replace him with Brian Burke, Ray Ferraro and Mike Milbury mentioned as possible replacements for the bombastic analyst. 

While it was probably never going to matter when it comes to his ultimate fate with a corporate entity such as Rogers Sportsnet after Cherry's divisive, offensive language, it’s good to see that No. 4 still has Cherry’s back.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Bruins call up Trent Frederic, hope move to wing can let him tap into his inner power forward

trent_frederic_pic.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Photo

Bruins call up Trent Frederic, hope move to wing can let him tap into his inner power forward

BRIGHTON, Mass. — Trent Frederic has largely been a bottom-6 center for the Boston Bruins when he’s received his shots at the NHL level in Boston.

So it will be a little different for the 2016 first-round pick when the 21-year-old Frederic gets back into the B’s lineup on Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs as a physical left winger based on Boston’s need for healthy bodies up front. Frederic skated on the left side with Par Lindholm and Danton Heinen on a makeshift third line at Thursday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

Frederic has just five points in 15 games for the P-Bruins this season and went scoreless in 15 games with Boston last season while mostly in the middle and admitted he hasn’t exactly hit his stride in the AHL as of yet this year.

“I’ve been playing hard and I’ve been playing well,” said Frederic. “It hasn’t exactly gone my way the whole year, but I keep battling through it and playing hard every game.”

Bruce Cassidy is interested to see if plugging the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder on the wing can free him up for some needed physicality and more offense. Those are a couple things the B’s are certainly a little light on up front with David Backes and Brett Ritchie both injured and out for Friday night’s tilt against the Maple Leafs. 

The move to left wing might be just the thing to allow the big, physical forward to tap into his inner power forward, though he did have a whopping 40 penalty minutes in his 15 AHL games this year. 

“We'll see if that frees him up to go out and be physical and play more his style, just straight-line game instead of overthinking it as a centerman," said Cassidy. "We're not going to bring him up as a left shot and throw him on the right wing, I think that's a little unfair. We're already kind of moving him to begin with to see where he's at."

Certainly the Bruins are getting a good look at their organizational depth with all of these call-ups to Boston this early in the season, and that could help them down the line when it gets closer to potentially dealing some of those young forward assets for more NHL help à la Marcus Johansson last spring. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings for Friday's game based on Thursday’s practice:

FORWARD LINES

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Anders Bjork David Krejci Charlie Coyle
Trent Frederic Par Lindholm Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom Sean Kuraly Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk Brandon Carlo
Urho Vaakanainen Connor Clifton

STARTING GOALIE

Tuukka Rask

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.