By: Andrew Thompson Twitter: @Godwentwhoops
Tuukka Rask. Among fans of the Boston Bruins, the Finnish netminder is the most polarizing player on the roster. Fans love him or hate him. While some fans love the 30-year old goaltender, there are others that are desperate to see him run out of town. Not since Tim Thomas sat in net has there been a player to invoke such strong feelings among the B’s fan base.
The first three games haven’t done Rask any favors. He’s gone 1-2-0 with an ugly 3.75 goals against average and a .870 save percentage. He was pulled at the end of the second period after giving up four goals to the Avalanche on Wednesday. These numbers are ‘Malcolm Subban against the Blues’ bad, and it has given the ‘Trade Tuukka’ team a reason to spew vitriol at the rest of the fan base.
So, how much of this is Rask’s fault? How much blame does he deserve, and what are the other reasons why the Bruins are having (another) a slow start out of the gate? For those of you who are already rolling your eyes and formulating an ad hominem response to the article, let us start with Rask. In the two games against the Avalanche, Rask let in two soft goals on Monday and misplayed a puck allowing Nail Yakupov an easy open-net goal.
Rask is certainly a streaky goaltender. He’s capable of putting up Vezina numbers for a good 10 game period, only to have one or two games like we saw against Colorado. Thankfully, it’s still mid-October and we (hopefully) won’t be seeing this kind of play in early March.
“I should have watched closely that it was Yakupov,” said Rask after Monday’s 4-0 loss. “He’s pretty quick. I just couldn’t beat him, that’s all. It’s a split-second decision. You see you have a chance for the puck and you go for it. You’re just trying to make a play and give the puck to your own team. I didn’t do it, obviously, so that’s all you can really say about that.”
While Rask certainly isn’t blameless, there is an awful lot of guilt that can be found on the team’s entire roster.
“We hung Tuukka out to dry,” said B’s bench boss Bruce Cassidy to the media following Wednesday’s 6-3 drubbing. The Bruins played sloppy hockey in those two games. There were breakdowns across the board, and bad shifts led to Colorado opening up a shooting gallery on the Bruins net.
The B’s were without Patrice Bergeron and David Backes. With the B’s bereft of their leadership, the remaining core of Bruins letterman looked a little lost on the ice. In all honesty, Riley Nash and Matt Beleskey aren’t great substitutes for Backes and Bergy. While it wasn’t ‘herding cats’ bad, the mistakes made by the younger players were obvious against Colorado.
The youth movement showed its green in Colorado. To be fair, that was expected. Only a small percentage of Bruins fans are expecting to see the 2018 Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals. Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, and Charlie McAvoy looked a little lost in the two games against the Avalanche. If the B’s have a couple of more rough games like that, Bjork and DeBrusk could find their top-six time in jeopardy.
Zdeno Chara looked like a 40-year old on the ice as well. While he was making good plays, he was consistently being outrun by the much younger and faster Avalanche team. Chara even stated it was a full-team failure after Wednesday’s debacle.
There is plenty of blame to spread around folks. Besides, we still have 79 games left in the season. It’s still way too early to write off the Bruins. It’s also way to early to start up the ‘Trade Tuukka’ talk in Boston (despite what certain members of the Boston media would say).