Bruins

Talking Points: Pastrnak leads insane five-goal outburst

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Talking Points: Pastrnak leads insane five-goal outburst

GOLD STAR: David Pastrnak went nuts in the third period with a hat trick to help spearhead the Bruins to a five-goal outburst that allowed them to erase a three-goal deficit, and win a very unlikely game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Pastrnak finished with three goals and four points along with a plus-1 rating, but it was his turnover that led to a shorthanded goal at the start of the third period that might just have sparked the 21-year-old. From there he scored on a couple of lethal, sizzling shots from the face-off dot and then iced the game with an empty net goal from center ice to cinch the hat trick. Pastrnak finished with a game-high six shots on net in his 17:36 of ice time, and for the first time in a while really looked like the electric, game-breaking performer that we saw on a regular basis earlier in the year.  

BLACK EYE: Brett Pesce was picked on in the third period when the Bruins began making their comeback, and he along with the rest of the Hurricanes had no answer for a B’s team that absolutely stampeded them. Pesce finished a game-worst minus-3 for the evening, had just one shot on net in his 16:23 of ice time and finished without a hit or a blocked shot in the kind of performance where you wonder if he was even on the ice. He wasn’t noticeable much at all in the first 40 minutes of the game, but he was on the ice for both the game-tying goal for Danton Heinen and the power play game-winner for David Pastrnak. Pesce had a rough, rough final 10 minutes of the game.

TURNING POINT: It was Matt Grzelcyk scoring Boston’s second goal of the game at nearly the exact midway point of the third period, and from that point on it was just all Bruins as they completely dominated possession, chances and everything else. They outshot the Canes by a 15-8 margin in the final 20 minutes and continued a variation on a season-long theme of completely dominating their opponents in that final period. Credit Grzelcyk, though, for stepping up and helping make the rest of it happen by scoring, and then Brad Marchand did the rest on the bench telling everybody else that they were still in the game down by two goals.

HONORABLE MENTION: Matt Grzelcyk needed to step up in the third period once Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug both went down, and he did exactly that at a time when the Bruins needed the mother of all sparks. Grzelcyk did it by scoring Boston’s second goal of the game, and the first of five unanswered scores to close out the game for the Black and Gold. That led them on their way to an unlikely comeback win, and it capped off a really strong night for the rookie defenseman. Grzelcyk finished with a goal, two points and a plus-2 rating in 19:26 of ice time, had two shots on net, two hits and four big blocked shots while absorbing a lot of minutes in the third period amid injuries. Grizz has had some very quiet games as of late with the Bruins working through an abundance of D-men, but he truly stepped up when the B’s really needed him.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 – the number of consecutive thirty goal seasons for Brad Marchand after scoring his 30th in the first period against Carolina. Marchand becomes the first B’s player to score 30 three straight seasons since fellow Nova Scotia native Glenn Murray did it for the Black and Gold way back in 2001-04.

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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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