Florida Panthers

Rask knows he 'can't be too satisfied' with the way his game his taken a slide

Rask knows he 'can't be too satisfied' with the way his game his taken a slide

BOSTON – There’s no denying the single biggest common thread through the Bruins' four-game losing streak.

The same Tuukka Rask that was brilliant in the first month of the season has hit a rough patch in November and that tough stretch continued as he coughed up four goals in the third period of a 5-4 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

Rask is 1-2-1 with a 3.45 goals-against average and .886 save percentage in four November starts and played a starring role as a liability in losses to Montreal and Florida the past week. It was Rask who was beaten in the first minute of the third period on a long-distance Aaron Ekblad shot where the goaltender admitted he was too deep in the net and it was Rask who didn’t shut off the post on Florida’s third goal scored by Mike Hoffman as Florida was storming back in the final 20 minutes.

“I should have been sharper in that third period,” lamented Rask. “There were a couple of soft goals and I let [the Panthers] kind of get some momentum. It’s a 60-minute game and we’ve been on the other side of it.”

It wasn’t quite as bad as the three soft goals he gave up that all clanged off his glove hand last week in Montreal, but it was far from vintage Rask at a time when a few different things are going wrong for the Bruins. Rask is still top five with a 2.16 GAA and eighth in the league with a .926 save percentage, but it’s a far cry from the .951 save percentage he racked up in 10 games in a red-hot October.

Clearly, Rask is going through the same kind of tough stretch that used to greet him the first month of the season, but this time, it’s hitting him after a brief, dominant stretch out of the starting gate. Perhaps the Bruins coaching staff will get a quicker hook with Rask the next time he shows signs of trouble as in the losses against Montreal and Florida, or Jaroslav Halak will be used with a little more frequency until Rask works out the kinks in his game.

At least the B’s No. 1 goaltender isn’t under any illusions about the way he’s played the past few games.

“In Montreal, I sucked. In Detroit, I felt okay. Today, in the last period there were a couple of soft goals, so I can’t be too satisfied,” said Rask. “But, hey, there’s a lot of hockey left.”

While it’s refreshing to hear the kind of accountability  Rask is putting out there, the Bruins aren’t going to go very far if Rask is talking too much about sucking and giving up soft goals. The B’s better hope that their top goalie gets locked back in pretty quickly so both the team and Rask can leave their early-season mini-slumps behind in the rear-view mirror.

 

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Why it's time to start worrying about the Bruins after epic third-period collapse

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AP Photo

Why it's time to start worrying about the Bruins after epic third-period collapse

BOSTON — It’s officially time to start getting worried about the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins extended their losing streak to four games with a historically bad loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night where they blew a four-goal lead in the third period and lost a home game for the first time in the history of the Original Six organization.

It all led to a 5-4 shootout loss to a Panthers team that’s chasing them in the standings and a longer losing streak than the Black and Gold endured all of last season. The Bruins were loath to talk about the “Stanley Cup Final hangover” in training camp or at the beginning of the year when things were going so well, but it sure looks like they are going through one of those kinds of bumps in the road here at the start of November.

It was even more stunning because the B’s had looked like they had turned it around in the first 40 minutes of the game while building a 4-0 lead and limiting the Panthers to just 12 shots on net. But it all fell apart in the third period on the back of goaltending gaffes, penalties taken when the Bruins were in the driver’s seat, and an inability to finish off scoring plays around the net after Florida pulled Sergei Bobrovsky from the game.

Those separate things had plagued the B’s at different times in the first three losses of the streak, but all of them conspired to sink this year’s edition of the Bruins to a new low in a season that had been all highs until very, very recently.

The Bruins were an amazing 194-1-4 since 2010 in games where they held a three-goal lead through the first 40 minutes of the game, a stat that underscores just horrendous and uncharacteristic the third period choke was against the Panthers.

“This is a team that’s closed out games for years, and the last goal to me — put everything else aside — is disappointing. We get beat one-on-one off the rush, winger circling out of the scoring area knowing the game is on the line. You could sit here and argue that the guy’s holding Bergy’s [Patrice Bergeron] stick and can’t clear the puck at the end, but structurally we were bad on that last goal,” said Bruce Cassidy. “That’s the disappointing part to me. That’s when we’re usually rock solid.

"It’s a strength of our team to close out games. I think we had a perfect record of, you know, we had a lead going into the third period. It’s a trademark of this team. Yeah, it is a concern. Part of it is goaltending, part of it is staying out of the [penalty box]. You mismanage pucks by giving them odd-man rushes, you take penalties by putting them on the power play — we did a little bit of both. You don’t tighten up and protect the slot because typically D are activating, so if you take care of that, you’re going back the other way and you have a chance to sort of finish the job. We didn’t do any of those things very well.”

It was easier to discount losses to Detroit and Philadelphia as instances where the Bruins were disengaged against teams they aren’t really competing head-to-head with for playoff spots, but that is not the case with a Panthers club just three points behind Boston in the Atlantic Division standings.

Certainly, the Bruins at this point seem to understand that there is a problem and that it needs to be straightened out.  

“We all realize that was not our 60-minute game. We lost a point and it’s on us,” said Chara. “At this point we have to be able to defend [a lead] and play strong to the end. We’ve got to realize that teams are ready to play and we’ve got to elevate our game. A few games before, we were a little bit late to the start of our game and I thought we were good with our start tonight. But our finish was not there. We’re looking to complete three strong periods of hockey and play strong for the full time of the game.”

The leaky goaltending, the lack of discipline when it comes to penalties and the inconsistent period-to-period play all point toward a hockey team that’s experiencing difficulty maintaining focus, and doesn’t have the same sharpness in execution as they did in the first month of the season. Some of that is about injuries subtracting players like Jake DeBrusk, Torey Krug and David Backes from the lineup, but some of it feels like it’s the first wall that the Bruins have run headlong into this season after playing 106 hockey games last season into mid-June.

The concern now is how long this funk is going to last. This Friday night's showdown against the Maple Leafs will be a good barometer as to which direction the Bruins are headed after Tuesday night’s slap to the face.

The good news is that the Bruins built up quite a cushion with their 11-1-2 start to the season, but everybody can see that they are going to need it in a season that isn’t going to be anywhere near as easy as it seemed in the first month.

Bruins roasted on Twitter after brutal defeat>>>>>

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Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from Bruins' 5-4 shootout loss to the Panthers: Rough night for Tuukka Rask

Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from Bruins' 5-4 shootout loss to the Panthers: Rough night for Tuukka Rask

GOLD STAR: Keith Yandle has enjoyed games at both ends of the spectrum against his hometown Bruins team and he had a spectacular effort against the Black and Gold on Tuesday night. Yandle jumped up to score the tying goal with 1:29 left in the third period and finished with a goal and three points along with a plus-1 rating in a team-leading 25:48 of ice time while spearheading the third-period comeback for Florida. Yandle also finished with five shot attempts and four blocked shots in a gutsy win for Florida. His celebration after his tying goal said it all for a kid playing with a group of local hockey players on the Panthers roster.

BLACK EYE: Tuukka Rask coughed up four goals on 12 shots in the third period and was one of the main culprits behind a collapse of epic proportions. The first goal allowed came less than a minute into the third and that allowed the Panthers to start gathering some momentum. Rask then allowed a third goal that was as leaky as they come. Mike Hoffman tucked it inside the short-side post when he was late covering the crease. That makes two rough games for Rask in his past three and a big, big role for the Bruins goaltender in a pair of bad divisional losses to the Canadiens and the Panthers.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were up by four goals and had limited the Panthers to just 12 shots on net in the first two periods, so nobody could have predicted what was going to happen to them in the final 20 minutes. The Bruins totally caved in while allowing four unanswered goals and were outshot 12-9 while taking a pair of penalties that allowed the Panthers to get some life on the power play. The entire third period was a problem for the Black and Gold where Florida kept gathering momentum and the Bruins could do little to stop things whether by scoring another goal or by Rask stepping up and making some key saves. Instead, the Bruins folded and then predictably lost in the shootout as they have a couple of times this season. The result was a fourth consecutive loss. 

HONORABLE MENTION: David Pastrnak brought his A-game to the table on Tuesday night even if many of his teammates didn’t. The 23-year-old scored his 16th goal of the season as part of a four-goal barrage in the second period. He also registered a game-high eight shots on net in his 21:55 of ice time. Pastrnak finished with 11 shot attempts and was okay even after he got clocked with a careless elbow from Vincent Trocheck that elicited a quick response from Brad Marchand sticking up for his linemate in the third period. Unfortunately for Pastrnak and the Bruins, the B’s explosive winger was never chosen to take part in the shootout after. Bruce Cassidy opted for Chris Wagner and Charlie McAvoy among his four shooters instead of No. 88.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 – The number of road teams that have come back from a four-goal deficit in the third period in NHL history. Home or road, it's only happened 19 times. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's on us. We played solid hockey in the first two periods and made some strong plays. Obviously, in the third period, we gave them too much space and time. We need to look at it and we need to play the same way for 60 minutes.” –Zdeno Chara, on the Bruins blowing a four-goal lead in the third period en route to the 5-4 shootout loss.

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