Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Oilers 4, Bruins 2: Team continues to struggle in front of Tuukka Rask

Ty Anderson
November 26, 2017 - 9:39 pm

It’s no secret that Tuukka Rask has not lived up to his contract or resume this season.

But at the same time, and as weird as this may sound when talking about a goalie of Rask’s caliber, it’s hard to say that the Bruins have given him a lot to work with thus far. And Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Oilers at TD Garden, one that ended the B’s four-game win streak, provided just another example of the team-wide frustration that’s left the 30-year-old Rask with losses in all but three of his 13 decisions this season.

“We got to do a better job of playing for him and getting that win,” Torey Krug said after the loss. “Tie game, third period, in our home building - a good chance to get him going again. We came out there and let him down. We got to do a better job of making sure that we can come out with this win. He’s a competitive guy, he’s our number one goalie, we got to come out there with a better effort for him and realize how important it is.

“We got to get the result for him, it doesn’t matter how. We just couldn’t do it.”

But the problems began long before the once tied third period.

Consider this: When the Oilers finally broke through on Rask at the 9:50 mark of the second period (and on their 15th shot), the B’s had just eight shots on goal the other way. They had a goal to their name, which helped make that low total somewhat bearable, sure, but that’s still a shot on goal every four minutes or so. In no world was that going to be enough of an offensive effort if Rask was going to have to work with the same wiggle room that the Bruins have frequently gifted de facto No. 1 goaltender Anton Khudobin.

And it got worse when an Adam Larsson shot deflected off Charlie McAvoy’s skate and into the B’s net from five feet out less than five minutes later in the second period.

“There were a lot of shots early on,” Rask admitted, noting the positives before the goals against. “I got right into the game and after that, same film I’ve seen before.”

(Rask noted that ‘the same film’ he referred to was another tough bounce against.)

Even though the Bruins responded from that tough bounce with a David Krejci goal scored 71 seconds after the Larsson tally, this was a massively slanted shot chart through two periods of play, with the Oilers holding a 27-to-11 advantage in shots.

“We turned down a lot of opportunities to try and make a pretty play instead of forcing their D to do the dirty work and box some guys out in front of their net,” Krug, on the ice for two of Edmonton’s three goals scored with Rask in net (including the game-winning goal), acknowledged. “We were passing up shooting opportunities.”

That came back to burn the Bruins just 2:07 into the third when another end-to-end breakdown allowed Ryan Strome to simply rip one up and over Rask’s glove.

“Good shot on the third goal, but again, that’s what it’s come down to lately, that one good shot, and we’re not able to get the goal for [Rask],” Bruce Cassidy said after the defeat. “Or for us too, it’s not just about him, right? It’s about the whole group.

“We lacked energy. Obviously, that was very visible to everyone. I don’t think [Edmonton] had a ton early on either. I think there was an opportunity there to dictate the pace of the game, help with the outcome,” Cassidy continued. “So, we were fortunate there to make a good play [on the power play], but we couldn’t sustain. That couldn’t kick-start us, in terms of energy, to extend the lead. It’s disappointing. You’re at home. We’ve played well of late. We started well Friday, just didn’t have it tonight.”

But why this team consistently fails to find the energy or extra goal for Rask -- although the Bruins put 14 shots on goal against the Oilers’ Cam Talbot in the third -- remains a complete mystery, really. And after the game, Cassidy had no real explanation.

“I don’t think the players, it ever crosses their mind who’s in net,” said Cassidy. “I mean, we got two in New Jersey, two in LA. We just play, and we’re in a lot of close games. It’s just who we are right now. We’d like to extend leads better. I thought we did it against Pittsburgh, a very good team came back and then we got it again. So, I don’t think our players think about that, ‘Well, it’s Tuukka tonight, we owe him run support, or it’s Dobby.’ We just play, and tonight, I just thought we lacked energy, and I don’t know if it would’ve mattered who was in net. We just didn’t have a lot of jump.”

But just like the save percentage results stare you in the face, the offensive support numbers when comparing these goalies do the same. The Bruins are averaging barely two goals per Rask start, while they’ve averaged 3.55 goals per Khudobin start. It’s a massively different margin for error when you’re comparing these two goaltenders, and it’s pretty obvious when it comes to their win-loss record this season.

“When [losses] start to pile up and nothing seems to go your way, it’s frustrating,” Rask admitted after the loss, which saw him stop 32-of-35 shots faced. “Tuesday, [I will] go back to work and start building something new. That’s all you really can control – your work ethic, and attitude, and how you show up to work. That’s what I’m going to do.”

Whether or not that attitude leads to a start on Wednesday, when the Bruins play host to the Atlantic-best Lightning, however, remains completely up in the air for Rask.

The Big Bad Blog is presented by:

 Technology Decisions Aren't Black and White. Think Red. Click here for more.

Comments ()