Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is open to playing on both Monday and Tuesday. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is open to playing on both Monday and Tuesday. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

This is one big, massive, gigantic week for the Bruins. And it starts with a back-to-back beginning with Monday against the Maple Leafs up in Toronto and then Tuesday night against the Senators in Boston.

The Leafs are just three points back of the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division, have a in game in hand over the Black and Gold, and are 3-0-0 against the Bruins this season. The Sens are ahead of the B’s by four points for second place in the division, and have beat the Bruins in both of their prior meetings this season.

These are the games that the Bruins need Tuukka Rask to show up and stand on his head as he’s done so many times this season.

On back-to-back nights.

A challenge that the 30-year-old would be ready for if given the call.

“Of course,” Rask, who has made the fourth-most starts in the NHL this season (56), said when asked if he could play both Monday and Tuesday. “I don’t think, especially this time of year, you want to take time off just because.”

The Bruins have put a serious, almost Belichickian emphasis on taking everything one day, one practice, one game at a time, and while that’s true, this week is huge beyond just Monday and Tuesday, as the Bruins will skate against the Lightning on Thursday and a road game against the Islanders on Saturday. The Bolts are currently two points out of a playoff spot and have won six of their last 10 games while the Isles are a single point out of postseason contention and have won 20 of 37 home games this year.

With the exception of last week’s loss in Edmonton, which saw Rask lifted after he allowed five goals on 17 shots in just over 22 minutes of time on ice, Rask has been solid under B’s interim coach Bruce Cassidy, with eight wins and a .914 save percentage in 12 games. But he has yet to play in back-to-back games since the Bruins made the switch from Claude Julien to Cassidy.

“I’ve tried to be upfront with who we’re gonna play in net and Tuukka’s gonna play [Monday], but that’s as far as I’m gonna go,” Cassidy said following Sunday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “Generally in back-to-backs we’ve used both goalies. Because we just had a couple of days off and Tuukka’s workload wasn’t [bad] — he didn’t play in Calgary, he only played a period and change in Edmonton — so we might change [the goaltending schedule] this week.”

Rask has skated in the second leg of a back-to-back just twice this season, with one win and an .884 save percentage in those situations. His last ‘zero days rest’ day came back on Feb. 1, when he allowed five goals on 22 shots against the Capitals.

Cassidy did add that it was unlikely that the club would suit Rask up for all four games of the club’s games in the next six days.

But that won’t change how Rask changes his mindset in yet another week of unofficial playoff hockey.

“Every game matters and you have to be ready to play,” said Rask.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron was nowhere to be found on the ice at practice at Warrior Ice Arena on Sunday morning.

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron will travel to Toronto with the team. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron will travel to Toronto with the team. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron was nowhere to be found on the ice at practice at Warrior Ice Arena on Sunday morning.

But fear not: it was a mere maintenance day for the do-it-all Bergeron according to B’s interim head coach Bruce Cassidy. And it has since been confirmed that Bergeron will travel with the team to Toronto in anticipation of Monday’s pivotal head-to-head with the Maple Leafs.

“I’m expecting him to play,” Cassidy, who gave the team both Friday and Saturday off, said after practice when asked of Bergeron’s official status for tomorrow. “But we’ll know more in a couple of hours.”

In preparation for the unknown, the Bruins have recalled forwards Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly from Providence on an emergency basis.

And with the Leafs behind the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division by just three points and with a game in hand, the Bruins will undoubtedly need Bergeron against a Toronto team that’s smacked them around in the season series so far, with the Maple Leafs outscoring the Bruins 14-to-7 and having won all three prior showdowns.

The 31-year-old Bergeron is on a four-game point streak, with five assists over that stretch, and has totaled 17 goals and 48 points in 68 games this season, including one goal and three points in two games against the Leafs.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly have been recalled from the P-Bruins. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly have been recalled from the P-Bruins. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

After two days of rest away from the rink following their three-game road swing, the Bruins returned to the ice for a Sunday practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and with two reinforcements from Providence.

Down forwards Patrice Bergeron, Drew Stafford, and Tim Schaller (lower-body injury), both Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly have been recalled from the P-Bruins on an emergency basis.

The 25-year-old Acciari has appeared in 19 games with the Big B’s this season, with two assists and four penalty minutes along with 52 hits. Acciari has recorded six goals and eight assists with 11 penalty minutes and a plus-8 rating in 30 games with the P-Bruins this season.

Kuraly has skated in five games with Boston this year, and made his NHL debut on Nov. 3. The 24-year-old forward has appeared in 50 games with Providence, and has scored 13 goals and 11 assists for 24 points and 31 penalty minutes and a plus-8 rating.

Both Acciari and Kuraly skated on the fourth line with B’s center Dominic Moore.

The Bruins are in action Monday night against the Leafs.  

 

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Highlights
Highlights

[0:09:41] ... on burns told possession of first place in the east. Division the National Hockey League leading New York Rangers 51 point. And Darren do. Knew then that they have had. Negative. And that is if you and you. Can be. Ordered ...
[0:24:27] ... an all star Norris trophy winner and hall of Famer for the Montreal Canadiens. Valley's leading his team into the big series. The fight for the cup this is what pro hockey is all about. And ...
[0:31:07] ... tougher for the French it's the only thing. I always. Okay. Yeah. Brett Clark recovered the vehicle lines parks to golf and had a few little left wins. It's got broken up I want ball quite ...





Milan Lucic (far right) celebrates a goal with the Oilers last night.</p>
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Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask allowed five goals on 17 shots on Thursday. ( Walter Tychnowicz/USA Today Sports)

Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask allowed five goals on 17 shots on Thursday. (Walter Tychnowicz/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins lost — and lost badly — for just the fourth time in their last 16 games on Thursday night. So naturally, there had to be a scapegoat.

No, this couldn’t just be a tired team losing on the second leg of a traveling back-to-back. The Bruins played in Calgary and ended the Flames’ 10-game win streak on Wednesday while the Oilers have been in Edmonton since Mar. 1 and were playing in just their sixth game in the last 16 days. Irrelevant. We need a scapegoat, dammit. This couldn’t be giving the Oilers’ man advantage — which came into action ranked as the 7th-best power play in the NHL with a 21.3 percent success rate — six power-play opportunities, including four in the first 32 minutes of action. I’ve told you already, a scapegoat must be found!

So as it almost always does when this team loses, the ire of B’s fans landed on their goaltender, Tuukka Rask, who allowed five goals on 17 shots and was given the early hook from Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy in what finished as a 7-4 loss for the Black and Gold.

But let’s be real: This loss does not fall on the 30-year-old Rask.

Not if you have a clue as to what you watched happen in front of him on Thursday, anyways.

For 60 minutes, the Oilers took advantage of a gassed B’s club and further winded them with a relentless forecheck that straight-up battered the Boston defensive corps around, and routinely outworked the Bruins to put themselves in prime scoring areas.

On the first Oil goal of the night (scored on the power play), Jordan Eberle did a stellar job of drawing two B’s penalty-killers towards him as he ventured down the half-wall. The B’s were fooled by Eberle (typically a shoot-first guy), Eberle found the perfect seam between Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid. That hit Maroon — who was comfortably behind both Marchand and McQuaid — and gave him a clear look on slide post-to-post Rask. His bid came up short and the Oilers were on the board.

Just moments later, the Bruins made the mistake (if you want to call it that) of devoting their resources towards covering Connor McDavid on Maroon’s second goal of the night, with three skaters on McDavid and nobody in the lane to block his chip-down-and-center pass to Maroon, who had inside positioning on McQuaid for an easy goal against No. 40. Too easy.

This was just the start of Edmonton’s fun in the slot.

The Yakety Sax routine in the defensive zone continued when David Desharnais blasted into the Boston zone with speed, when around the net, and then dished it to a Benoit Pouliot, who had fallen down in front of the net on the sequence, and scored a goal while being surrounded by five — yes, five — Bruins skaters. It was a seemingly impossible finish to a low-risk look from the Oil.

I didn’t think it could get worse than Pouliot’s goal. But to quote pop-punk favorites Modern Baseball, “Yeah, about that…”

The Oilers added their fourth of the period on an insane deflection from Anton Slepyshev, but the play really started when Darnell Nurse’s decision to pinch in and attack the net took Torey Krug away from his side and in pursuit behind the net. That allowed Connor McDavid, tied for the league lead in points, all the time and space needed to put a shot on Rask without a single defense from the Bruins, and it was Slepyshev that finished the play off as Frank Vatrano just watched with one hand on his stick.

That wasn’t the first or the last time that puck-watching hurt the Bruins and led to a goal against Rask.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins kicked the second period off with a power-play goal banked off Riley Nash’s skate and into the B’s net.

Like that, and in just 22 minutes, Rask’s night was finished with five goals 17 shots against.

But the proof that it wasn’t necessarily his fault came just minutes later.

In an attempt to become the aggressors in search of a successful comeback, McQuaid made a straight-up horrid pass attempt from blue line to blue line but was intercepted by Edmonton forward Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl then stormed into the B’s zone without much resistance from the Bruins — seriously, Draisaitl must have taken about three strides and had about three seconds of puck-dancing towards Anton Khudobin, on in relief of Rask, without a single Bruins skater in sight — and began the assault on Khudobin, who allowed two goals on 19 shots in what was by all means garbage time mop-up duty.

“It was just an awful game by everyone,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said after the defeat. “Too many breakdowns defensively. You get down by three goals probably before the 10-minute mark (of the first period) and it’s tough to catch up from there. I think our d-zone coverage was nowhere to be found and they took advantage of that.”

So why is this Rask’s fault? Well, this was another ‘big game’ for the Bruins and Rask didn’t stand on his head.

The short version of what I think about that theory can be found here.

The slightly longer version: There’s a cabal of fans out there that hold two specific incidents against Rask. And no, they will never let it go for as long as they’re fans of the team or as long as Rask is this team’s goaltender. One: Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against Chicago, when he and the Bruins had a nuclear meltdown in the final moments of a must-win game and allowed the Blackhawks to win the Cup on Garden ice. To hold that incident against him and say that he’s not a big game goalie because of that is straight-up silly, as the Bruins do not advance to the fourth round without Rask’s utterly ridiculous third-round series against the Penguins, where he posted a .985 save percentage in the four-game sweep and held both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to a combined zero points in the series. Two: Rask bailing out of last year’s must-win season finale with a stomach virus. This one is truly weird. People actually wanted to see a grown man vomit on the playing surface a la Donovan McNabb because even though he would have been completely useless (as all sick people are), that would’ve meant that he cared.

Was Thursday night in Edmonton a big game? Sure. But here’s a secret: They’re all big games this time of year. Saying that Rask didn’t show up for this one big game also conveniently ignores the fact that he had for the first 11 games under Cassidy, with eight wins and a .926 save percentage to his name before this start. And the Bruins skated in far bigger games at the start of the Cassidy tenure, too, namely in their first game against the Sharks, and in their pre-bye finale against the Canadiens. Those were big games for Rask given the competition he was up against and the desperate need for points given the B’s place in the standings back then.

To hell with that though, ’cause any and every loss needs a scapegoat. And Rask is still the easiest one for some.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

It was at the 8:23 mark of the first period that the Bruins found themselves down three goals to the Oilers.

The Oilers scored seven goals against the Bruins. (Walter Tychnowicz/USA Today Sports)

The Oilers scored seven goals against the Bruins. (Walter Tychnowicz/USA Today Sports)

It was at the 8:23 mark of the first period that the Bruins found themselves down three goals to the Oilers.

Patrick Maroon had the first two goals, the first of which came on the power play and the second scored just 59 seconds after that, and Benoit Pouliot had the third. That spelled trouble for a number of reasons, chief of which being that the damage did not come from Connor McDavid (although he came through with the primary assist on Maroon’s second goal) or any of the Oilers’ go-to scorers, the second reason being that their defensive play was straight-up abysmal, and the third biggest reason being… well.. it’s three goals in eight minutes.

But Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy did not hit the panic button. Instead, he relied on his best players to come through and make a game out of it the best they could, which turned out to be the case, for about five minutes anyways, in what finished as an ugly 7-4 loss in Edmonton.

The Bruins’ improbable comeback began with a David Pastrnak power-play goal scored 12:29 into the first period. It was the product of a tremendous cycling effort from a Black and Gold power play that’s clicked for what’s felt like months now, as Torey Krug fed Ryan Spooner, who moved the puck to Brad Marchand, and then Pastrnak for No. 88’s 31st goal of the year.

As is tradition, it was Marchand that followed Pastrnak’s lead with a goal of his own scored 5:15 later for Marchand’s 37th goal of the season, which tied the career-high the 28-year-old set during last season’s (somehow less impressive) run.

On the backs of their most potent scorers, the Bruins made this a game.

But it wouldn’t last.

Crushed by their porous defensive zone coverage throughout the night, the B’s fourth and final gaffe of the opening frame saw McDavid force Torey Krug down to the ice with a speedy move that shook Krug, and a lucky tip from Anton Slepyshev to beat Tuukka Rask high for his fourth goal of the year and a goal that put the Oil back up by two with just 51 seconds left in the period.

It was the sign that this was not going to the Black and Gold’s night, and it only got worse in the second period.

A power-play goal from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins once again brought out some negatives heavily feature from the Bruins in this game — with puck-watching, bad bounces, and blown assignments in front of their netminder — extended Edmonton’s lead back to three, and this game seemed all but over. Even when the Bruins brought themselves back within two behind a Dominic Moore shorthanded goal, they gave it right back when a brutal Adam McQuaid turnover and team failure to chase the skater down on a partial breakaway allowed Leon Draisaitl to score an unassisted goal just 2:29 after the Moore goal.

That put an end to Rask’s night, but not the home team’s scoring, as a Milan Lucic power-play goal on Anton Khudobin made it seven for the Oilers while David Krejci’s late-period power-play goal brought the Bruins back within three.

It failed to matter — even as the Bruins peppered Cam Talbot’s net with high-quality chances — as their hole in their own zone was dug too deep and the Bruins failed to muster the monster comeback needed to swipe a point from the Oilers.

This game epitomized frustration for the Bruins.

After the third goal against Rask, you would have figured that the Bruins would have put a greater emphasis on denying the Oilers those high-quality looks between the circles. They didn’t. You would have figured that their forwards would have provided stronger d-zone support when the Oilers hemmed they into their own zone. They did not. And at some point, you expected to see the Bruins keep Edmonton off the board immediately after they brought themselves back within striking distance. Instead, the Bruins allowed the Oilers to score within three minutes of one of their tallies on two different occasions, which when you dig yourself an 0-3 hole like the Bruins did before mounting a comeback, is certain death.

“It was just an awful game by everyone,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron admitted after the losing effort. “Too many breakdowns defensively. You get down by three goals probably before the 10-minute mark (of the first period) and it’s tough to catch up from there. I think our d-zone coverage was nowhere to be found and they took advantage of that.”

While you understand the honesty, this had to be expected — or considered as a potential result — going into this game. Playing their third game in four nights, the Oilers came at the Bruins with speed and a relentless forecheck that straight-up winded the Bruins by the middle of the second period. With players like Maroon, Pouliot, Lucic, and Zack Kassian on the wings, it’s a forecheck that will do their damage no matter the legs you’re skating on, too, but adding fatigue into the mix is a nightmare.

This game was exactly that.

Still, this end result can’t sully a road trip that saw the Bruins grab four of a possible six points which was likely the best case scenario given the troubles that have come with this road trip in the past. And this loss, which came on the second leg of a back-to-back (which have not been kind to the Bruins to begin with this season) definitely cannot define a road swing that saw the Bruins end a team’s 10-game winning streak like the club did in Calgary on Wednesday night.

The Bruins will get some much needed rest before it’s time for a Monday night head-to-head with the Maple Leafs.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson