Bruce Cassidy. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Bruce Cassidy. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

It’s mailbag time!

To submit questions, email letitbleedrearad@gmail.com or Tweet @RearAdBsBlog and include question, name, and city/state. Let’s get after it …

Sidney Crosby has 42 goals in 74 games so he’ll need to finish with a goal a game for the last eight games to hit 50 for the second time. Will he get it? Dan, Stoneham, MA

I learned long ago not to bet against or doubt Sidney Crosby anymore. So yes, I’ll go out on a limb and say, sure. I know he’s not a favorite of Bruins fans (and Philly’s hate for him is actually impressive). As evidenced by his scrotal stick smack on Ryan O’Reilly Tuesday night and his fingertip-lopping slash on Ottawa’s poor Marc Methot Thursday, he’s certainly no choir boy. So when he does the Steve Urkel “Did I do that?” routine, he gets double the hate.

But if you’re a fan of the game, you really have to appreciate just how awesome of a player he is. His otherworldly skills were best exemplified in a spectacular, defense-carving beeline to the net that culminated in a one-handed backhander that went top shelf with some serious mustard on it. It became an instant favorite for Goal of the Year because who the hell else could pull this off? He pulled away from Brad Marchand in the goal-scoring race and has been a dominant force all over the ice.

“Superstar grinder” is what fellow All-Star Taylor Hall called him. You don’t have to like him but you sure have to enjoy him.

What the hell has happened to the Bruins? John, South Boston, MA

That’s the Million Dollar Question. They went from world beaters under Bruce Cassidy, winning 12 of their first 15, to a mistake-prone team on a four game losing streak that can’t defend or get secondary scoring at the absolute worst possible time. Tuukka Rask, who has been an anchor for the vast majority of the season, had a brutal third period Thursday vs. Tampa Bay in a huge spot. A playoff berth looked liked a slam dunk a week or so ago. Today, it’s looks like a three-pointer. With a man in your face.

So did Butch’s magic wear off? Are the Bruins of the last week who the Bruins really are? And if so, why the hell did they play so damn good for that previous stretch? Did I leave the iron on? This team is just so frustrating lately, they have us questioning everything.

If the freefall doesn’t stop and they miss the post-season, I wonder if the front office reconsiders bringing him back for 2017-18, especially if better options become available in the interim. It was something that seemed like a guarantee two weeks ago but another choke job will certainly make it a question worth asking. That is, of course, if the current iteration of the front office is still making that call. There’s an awful lot at stake for this franchise over the last eight games.

Beggars can’t be choosers but should they get in the playoffs, who would be the best match-up for the Bruins? Ricky, Fall River, MA

Now that they pissed away their Atlantic Division standing, the Bs are most likely going to be the #8 seed/2nd Wild Card team should they get in. So the Pittsburgh Penguins would be the best series for them, by far. For whatever reason, the Bruins have had pretty good success against the Pens in the last few years so they’d be a much better draw than the Braden Holtby-led Washington Capitals and perhaps even both Ontario teams (Toronto and Ottawa).

Blog Author: 
Rear Admiral
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask missed Friday's practice. (Walter Tychnowicz/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask missed Friday’s practice. (Walter Tychnowicz/USA TODAY Sports)

Just 12 hours after he was called out for his poor performance (something he did not deny in his postgame media availability), Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was missing from Friday’s practice in Brighton.

“Tuukka had a maintenance day,” Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy said after the skate. “He’s getting a little work done.”

And though he wasn’t on the ice for Friday’s practice, and with the Bruins mired in a four-game slump, the fix starts with the goaltender stepping up with a massive showing, according to Cassidy.

“A shutout usually works best to be honest with you,” Cassidy said when asked how the club can get their minds and focus back where they need to be. “If we could pitch one of those, [we] get back on track, but that’s putting all your eggs in one basket on one person.”

It’s a seemingly tall task to ask of the 30-year-old Rask, who has started the third-most games in the NHL this season and looks every bit of that mark, and without a shutout to his name since Feb. 12 against the Canadiens, which came 14 games ago.

But a strong finish in the crease is what this team needs to stay afloat right now, especially if their even-strength scoring — or lack thereof — continues to be a source of frustration for the B’s during this season-high losing streak.

“I think if you look at any team, that’s the first thing that comes to mind,” Cassidy said of the team’s need for solid netminding. “Are we getting the saves? Is our goaltending solid? Are we defending well? We’re no different.”

Although the Bruins have allowed the 12th-fewest goals in the NHL since Cassidy took over for Claude Julien, the B’s five-on-five save percentage ranks 22nd in the league over that same span, at just .916. The Bruins, quite simply, need more.

“It’s important for us. No matter who’s in net. If it’s Khudobin or Rask, we need goaltending,” Cassidy admitted. “Timely saves. I’m joking about a shutout — timely saves is more of what it’s about. The right time when the team has lost its way a little bit, or had a breakdown or something go against them, and that’s what we’d like to have as well.”

After a day off the ice today, the Bruins are unsure as to whether or not Rask will be good to play in tomorrow’s must-win against the Islanders, who enter tonight’s action just two points behind the Bruins for the second wild card spot in the East, too.

“That will be determined tomorrow,” Cassidy said.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins have signed Ryan Fitzgerald to an entry-level contract. (Ty Anderson/WEEI)

The Bruins have signed Ryan Fitzgerald to an entry-level contract. (Ty Anderson/WEEI)

Let the college signing spree begin.

With most NCAA seasons wrapped up, and with Bruins general manager Don Sweeney expected to make decisions on many of the club’s college prospects (or for the prospect to make his own decision), the Bruins made their first move on Friday and officially inked their first college standout with the signing of forward Ryan Fitzgerald.

Inked to a two-year entry-level deal that will begin in 2017-18, Fitzgerald, a fourth-round draft pick (120th overall) of the club in 2013, makes his jump to the pro game after a solid four-year run with the Boston College Eagles. In four years under the legendary Jerry York’s watch, Fitzgerald scored 66 goals and 132 points in 152 games.

An alternate captain for his senior season, the North Reading, Mass. native chipped in with 12 goals and 31 points in 34 games played.

Fitzgerald is the son of former NHL player and Billerica, Mass. native Tom Fitzgerald, who skated in over 1,000 games in the NHL, including 71 for the Bruins in 2005-06. Often seen around TD Garden, Tom is currently serves as the assistant general manager of the Devils.

Ryan’s cousins include Bruins winger Jimmy Hayes, Rangers forward Kevin Hayes, and the Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk (and his dad Keith).

Up next for the Bruins: Boston University’s Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson or Charlie McAvoy, and/or Notre Dame’s Anders Bjork.

The club also signed defenseman Emil Johansson, a seventh rounder (206th overall) in 2014, to a three-year entry-level deal.

The 20-year-old Johansson most recently suited up for Djurgardens IF of the Swedish League, where he posted seven goals (tied for the team lead among defensemen) and 17 points (the second-most among team blueliners) in 47 games played. And much like Fitzgerald’s deal, Johansson’s contract will not kick into the mix until the start of the 2017-18 season.

Fitzgerald will report to the P-Bruins and finish his season on an amateur tryout agreement, while Johansson will report to Providence on a professional tryout agreement.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins saw three leads rapidly evaporate before their eyes on Thursday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins saw three leads rapidly evaporate before their eyes on Thursday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

When the Bruins blew their first lead of the night on Thursday, it was far from ideal, but it was acceptable at that stage of the game. It was fair to expect some pushback from a Lightning club that’s even closer to death’s door than the Bruins. When the B’s blew their second lead of the night, it became annoying and cause for concern in what should have been a mismatch considering the Bolts’ poor health and inconsistent play. And when the Bruins blew their third and final lead of a night that finished as a 6-3 loss for the club, it became downright unacceptable for a team that’s worked themselves into as much trouble as the Bruins have over the course of their four-game losing skid.

How does this happen to this team with so much on the line in this game, not once, not twice, but three times. In the same period, no less.

“I think if there was an easy answer, we would’ve solved it after the first or second time to be quite honest,” Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy said after the loss, the club’s fourth in a row, a new season high (and longest since the five-game slide around this time a year ago). “It happened the other night against Ottawa, as well.”

It actually goes beyond Ottawa, too.

When you take a look at the B’s four-game slide, allowing the team to come back at them with a counterstrike has been a constant theme of their downfall. Opponents have scored within five minutes of a Boston goal on six different occasions throughout this losing streak (the Bruins have only scored 11 goals over that span). And it’s really only been able to happen 10 times, too, if you exclude Dominic Moore’s garbage time goal scored with mere seconds left in the game against the Maple Leafs. So, more than half the time the B’s have scored, they’ve blown it and found themselves back even or back in the same hole just moments later.

That inability to build off goals and also keep the opposition off the board with immediate responses played a major factor in their thwarted comeback attempt in Edmonton, and turned a three-goal period into a six-goal period — and not the good kind — on Thursday night at TD Garden. You could make the case that those nights cost the Bruins about three points, at the very least.

“At the end of the day, it is a focus, and it’s urgency, and it’s understanding time and score. We did not have a good comprehension of that tonight, I don’t think, and of late,” admitted Cassidy, who has been let down across the board by his team during this free fall. “We’ve let games get away, and you can look back, even this year, we’ve had some goals scored against us late throughout the course of the year, so it’s been built in this year, and we’re still fighting through it, to be perfectly honest.”

“Not being focused, not being sharp, and obviously that’s, at this time of the year, unacceptable, and it’s up on us to be better,” echoed team captain Zdeno Chara. “I mean, those kinds of situations shouldn’t happen.”

The manner in which the situations developed before the B’s very eyes were almost impossibly bad, too.

On the Lightning’s first goal, which came 44 seconds after David Pastrnak’s power-play goal to open up the game’s scoring, Brayden Point was allowed multiple chances against Tuukka Rask and did it with the Bruins’ most responsible three-man unit — Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand — around him. Skilled rookie or not, that should never happen.

Tampa Bay’s second goal, which came just 24 seconds after Chara scored his second shorthanded goal of the season to put the Bruins back up by one, was a rocket by Nikita Kucherov scored on the power play. And while you expect Kucherov to get his chances (he entered the game tied for the league lead in power-play goals and left the game in sole possession of the most power-play goals in the NHL), it came on a play that the Bruins openly talked about taking away from the Lightning before the game.

The third Lightning goal came just 1:35 after Riley Nash banked a puck in off Victor Hedman to put the Bruins up by one for a third time in the period, and was the direct result of a flimsy three-on-two at the other end that did nothing for the Bruins. It was on that play that Rask seemed to anticipate a dropback pass, which didn’t come, as the puck was instead shoveled to Anton Stralman, who was able to activate into the attacking zone with numbers — it was a four-on-two — to beat Rask shortside.

And by the time the Lightning took the lead in the third period — first seized on a bad goal allowed by Rask on a Jonathan Drouin shot, and then extended by Kucherov’s second power-play goal of the night, a pinball-style goal that bounced off two B’s and into the net for their fifth of six goals — the Bruins were long resigned to defeat and the idea of going out with a whimper.

What’s concerning, beyond allowing three separate leads slip away in a combined 2:43 of hockey of course, is that the shifts that came after goals scored were probably some of the least energetic put forth by the Black and Gold all night long. It wasn’t that same bury ’em type of fire you saw the team roll with early in the Cassidy Era, which started off with four straight victories and pucks just pummeled on net all night long, but rather the same malaise that led to Claude Julien’s dismissal in February.

“Those follow up shifts need to be our best shifts of the game. They’re when you can either bury a team, or when you get scored on to have a great response and to show that you’re not going away. I don’t think they were our best shifts,” B’s forward David Backes admitted after the loss. “They were probably some of our least form of execution, least form of desperation and fortitude to just impose what we’re going to do on the other team. They certainly made good on their chances, there’s no question about that. But, I think we led into them way too much and the result is the result that we don’t get points again.”

If there’s one thing these Bruins know, too, it’s that the combination of not getting points while also leading into your competition — two ‘accomplishments’ noted by Backes — is one that’s not fit for a season that goes beyond 82 contests.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Hey, so this is gross. No, like, this is really gross.

I’m warning you.

(Please don’t say that I didn’t warn you.)

Late in the first period of Thursday’s head-to-head between the Senators and visiting Penguins, Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby hacked at Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot as Methot entered into the Pittsburgh zone on a four-on-four sequence.

Methot let out a scream, played stopped, and it was obvious to why he was in pain as soon as his glove came off.

Oh, God. I knew it was coming and it was still gross.

The dude legitimately lost part of his fingertip because of a Crosby slash. While these slashes are far from uncommon, rarely do you ever see a player with as much damage to their hand or finger as Methot did when he left the game.

“His finger is destroyed,” Sens coach Guy Boucher said of Methot after the game. “It’s shattered and he’s out for weeks.”

Crosby, who was not penalized for the slash on the play, tried to plead his case after the game.

“I was just trying to get his stick and I think I caught his finger judging by his reaction and their reaction,” said Crosby, who also got away with a vicious spear to Ryan O’Reilly’s midsection the other day. “I’ve gotten those before. They don’t feel good.”

Groin shots, finger removals, and zero penalties. All in a week for the game’s best player. Curious to see if Crosby picks up a minor for actually beheading somebody on the ice this weekend. Matching minors at the very best for the beheaded, maybe.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Zdeno Chara hit a milestone with his second shorthanded goal of the season. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara hit a milestone with his second shorthanded goal of the season. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

On a night of few positives as the club’s losing streak reached a season-worst four games, this one by a 6-3 final at the hands of the Lightning, the Bruins found just one as the 40-year-old Zdeno Chara accomplished something not seen in over two decades.

With the Bruins on the penalty kill in the second period, and with Chara’s go-to pairing partner in the box, the Bruins started a rush up ice and loose puck found its way to a storming Chara. And with a slight assist from the Lightning’s Victor Hedman, who helped steer the puck Chara’s with a botched clearing attempt, Chara sniped the B’s second goal of the night home against the Bolts’ Peter Budaj for a 2-1 lead.

In what was Chara’s eighth goal of the season, the shorthanded marker stood as Big Z’s second shortie of the season, which makes him the first Bruins defenseman to record multiple shorthanded goals in a season since Ray Bourque accomplished the feat in 1995-96 (two goals).

It also makes Chara just the seventh defenseman in team history to hit that milestone — Bourque did it three times, Bobby Orr accomplished it a franchise-best four times, while Don Sweeney, Glen Wesley, Dick Redmond, and Dallas Smith each score multiple shorties one time during their respective Bruins tenures — and just the 17th NHL defender to do it since 2005.

Still, the shorthanded goal could not save a B’s penalty kill that surrendered two power-play goals in the loss, both from Nikita Kucherov, and finished the night with just three kills on five stints down a skater.

“We had obviously some bad bounces. It’s going to happen, the last one. We need to be better. Starts obviously with us, who are out on the ice,” Chara said of the team’s penalty kill, which has allowed seven goals on their last 19 times shorthanded. “We need to take away other team’s top plays, give them as little as possible, and be willing to do whatever it takes to kill those, and yeah, we need to be better. I mean, it’s been working for us the whole year. We know we can do the job. Obviously, it’s slipped the past few games. We need to go back, and bounce back and be on a roll, and kill those penalties.”

Chara has played a league-high 250:16 of shorthanded time on ice this season.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

A broken skate blade turned out to be the least of Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask’s worries in a 6-3 loss to the Lightning on Thursday.

Bruce Cassidy thinks the Bruins needed more from Tuukka Rask in their loss to the Lightning. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy thought the team needed more from Tuukka Rask in their loss to the Lightning. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

A broken skate blade turned out to be the least of Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask’s worries in a 6-3 loss to the Lightning on Thursday.

In the club’s fourth straight regulation defeat (their longest such streak this season, as a four-game slide from Jan. 16 to Jan. 22 featured one shootout loss), the 30-year-old Rask struggled with five goals allowed on just 28 Tampa Bay shots thrown his way on the night.

If those numbers weren’t bad enough for Rask, the manner in which the Bolts scored against Rask was nothing short of straight-up backbreaking, with counterattack goals scored immediately after each of the B’s goals scored, and with none taking longer than 1:35 of game time to end up in the back of Rask’s net.

“Well he’s played a lot, but I don’t have the answer,” Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy said when asked if Rask’s struggles were a product of fatigue or lack of focus.

“He needed to be better tonight.”

It was on a two-shot flurry in front of Rask that Brayden Point scored the game’s first goal. A Nikita Kucherov power-play bomb accounted for their second goal, Anton Stralman activated — apparently to the surprise of the B’s defense, who did not match him in any possible way — and was in all alone short side for the third goal of the night. As mentioned, all of those goals came right after B’s goals, too, including two under 44 seconds following Black and Gold goals, and sucked the life out of the reeling Bruins.

“That’s the last thing you need honestly. Everybody knows that,” Rask said of the quick Lightning strikes. “You try to address it I guess – that’s the last mistake you need to do – but sometimes those things just happen. When it happens three times in one game it’s kind of inexcusable. It’s something that we should be better at and today it was a tough night for all of us.”

An inexcusable lapse came on the Bolts’ fourth goal of the night, too, where Rask did not make the save that the club desperately needed, as he was beat with a Jonathan Drouin shot that he would have liked to have back, 4:12 into the third period.

“He just – I don’t know,” Rask began. “It was a bad goal.”

“We need to be better in front of him, he needed to be better on some of those goals,” Cassidy acknowledged. “It’s March 24, I mean really, our focus needs to be there, so you hope it’s more fatigue than focus this time of year, but I can only speculate.”

In his third start in four nights (and his 59th of the season, the third-most in the NHL), this game was without question the worst of the three, and there was no attempt to deflect the blame of his showing or use his fatigue as an excuse. In his third season of having the pressure of the B’s world on his shoulders, Rask knows that the team is counting on him for quality starts.

“A lot of the time that’s the case, the goalie has to make a couple extra stops there and today I didn’t,” a visibly upset Rask admitted after the loss. “That’s part of my job to accept the fact that sometimes it’s your fault.”

In what was a double-whammy, additional frustrations for Rask had to come from the fact that Rask was perhaps the only positive constant that the Bruins had for the first half of this game, with numerous timely saves on some of the Lightning’s top talents.

“There was a couple of times I should’ve made the save but it happens sometimes,” Rask said.

Just at the complete wrong time for the officially slumping Bruins.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Present slump aside, in-game leads have been more than safe in 18 games under Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.