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Rask’s gaffes put Bruins in too deep a hole vs. Flames

Matt Kalman
October 18, 2018 - 1:20 am

Less than an hour after fan interference denied Mookie Betts a miraculous over-the-wall catch at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was left looking for a stray fan’s hand or any reason for him dropping a catchable puck in the first period in Calgary on Wednesday.

Flames defenseman Juuso Valimaki took a simple shot, Rask wasn’t screened, there was hardly any traffic, yet Rask couldn’t secure the puck in his catching glove and the puck landed in the back of the net. There was no person or thing to blame for the error but Rask.

Valimaki’s goal came 48 seconds after Johnny Gaudreau also scored on a less egregious Rask miscue. Rask failed to hang on to the rebound of a Noah Hanifin shot and Sean Monahan was able to flick the loose puck across the slot to Gaudreau for a layup. Valimaki and Gaudreau’s goals, combined with Michal Frolik’s first of two goals in the game, gave the Flames a 3-0 lead in the first period and the Bruins weren’t able to recover on their way to a 5-2 defeat.

There are plenty of nights when Rask allows an inflated goal total and he’s not solely to blame. And there were certainly breakdowns on the four goals that went past Rask in this defeat. But with the Bruins already down two goals, the muff of Valimaki’s shot was the type of unforced error Rask rarely makes and the type of goal that can break many teams’ backs.

To their credit, the Bruins didn’t roll over in a rerun of their 7-0 opening night loss in Washington. They scored a late goal in the first period that was taken off the board because of an offside video review. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand scored goals that counted to cut the Flames’ lead to 3-1 and 4-2, respectively. Rask finished with 24 saves on 28 shots. He stopped all five shots he saw in the third period, including a Gaudreau breakaway.

But the deficit was too great, and the Bruins made too many mistakes to overcome Rask’s early-game problems. To wit:

*David Pastrnak had an assist but his giveaways led to both of Frolik’s goals.

*Valimaki’s shot should’ve been caught by Rask but the Bruins’ fourth line missed a chance to clear the puck out of the defensive zone seconds before, with all three forwards lined up along the side wall. Chris Wagner, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari made up for that one lost shift by winning most of the rest of their turns on the ice and their ability to wear down the Mikael Backlund line late in the second period allowed Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak to get a favorable matchup on their next shift and Marchand scored to cut the lead to 4-2.

*With a 5-on-3 power play for 58 seconds to start the third period the Bruins not only failed to land a shot on net during the two-man advantage but also during the 1:02 of 5-on-4 that followed. Throughout the power play the Bruins looked uncharacteristically indecisive and the Flames didn’t have to work too hard to get in the passing lanes and clear the puck after gaining possession.

Perhaps Rask’s October demons made him drop that Valimaki shot. After the loss in Calgary, Rask’s career save percentage in October is .911, his worst month.

Now Jaroslav Halak will take his scheduled start in Edmonton on Thursday, continuing to alternate starts with Rask. The Bruins have a plan for the goaltending rotation beyond the Oilers game, but coach Bruce Cassidy didn’t reveal the plan before the Bruins left for their road trip. There are five October games left after the Oilers game.

If Halak stays as hot as he’s been in the early going (.961 save percentage in three games), one has to wonder if Cassidy might consider gearing that goalie plan around fewer October starts for Rask.

Related: Chara not planning for 900 games with Bruins to be last milestone

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