There are wins, and then there are WINS®. For Tuukka Rask, this one falls in the latter category.
The Bruins got off to a fast start and Rask helped his own cause with some big saves to earn a huge, “monkey off his back,” 3-2 win over Tampa Bay.
“It’s great,” said Rask of the victory. “It’s awesome. Yeah, I know, I needed that one.”
Told by Bruce Cassidy on Tuesday that he’d get the nod against Tampa, Rask was sharp overall, allowing two goals on 21 shots.
However, the key to this win was what he’s been lacking in recent games: a strong effort from his supporting cast.
The Bruins ran all over Tampa in the first period, outshooting them 19-5 and putting two goals on the board.
Charlie McAvoy got things started with a shot through traffic that beat Andrei Vasilevskiy; the goal was originally waved off due to goalie interference, but was overturned and given to the Bruins after a coach’s challenge.
Riley Nash caught the Bolts flat-footed a few minutes later, gaining space in the offensive zone and beating Vasilevskiy glove side with a snap shot.
The Bruins kept things rolling in the second. With Brad Marchand and Mikhail Sergachev off for matching minors, the Bruins utterly dominated the Lightning 4v4.
Spending nearly a minute in the offensive zone, cycling the puck, Ryan Spooner, returning from injury, found Torey Krug with a beautiful backhand, and Krug wired it to make it 3-0.
The larger story, however, is Rask, earning himself a win and temporarily silencing the chatter about him being replaced by Anton Khudobin.
“He made the big save,” said Cassidy. “He made those big saves and we got him the extra goal and he got the extra saves.”
“Oh man, he was awesome,” added Charlie McAvoy. “We believe in him so much. You ask any guy on this team, we believe in Tuukka.”
- Rask did what he needed to do to get the win; he earned this W. The key momeny in this game: toward the end of the second, Rask made a huge pad save on Nikita Kucherov, going post-to-post to deny a one-timer. It kept the score 3-1, and gave Rask that big, confidence-boosting save fans have been clamoring for. He wasn’t lights out and he didn’t “steal” the game; however, he did enough to get a big win against a good team. This should go a long way toward boosting his confidence.
- Of course, this doesn’t mean the Rask narratives are over. In fact, fans tonight were clamoring about how he gave up a soft goal (he didn’t, he said he never saw Andrej Sustr’s shot) or should have saved Steven Stamkos’ one-timer (lol). Rask is going to need to go on a bit of a run to get fans off his back, but we’ll have to take it one day at a time.
- The other big story in this game: Charlie McAvoy was a monster. He skated 28:11 (!!!!), including nearly 24 minutes at even strength. His CF% was in the low 70s for much of the night before settling back down to 66% while he helped weather the late Tampa flurry. He had a goal and an assist as well, and was dangerous all over the ice. It’s hard to not get hyperbolic when talking about McAvoy, but games like this are what make Bruins fans reach for Drew Doughty comparisons.
- The Patrice Bergeron line, whole again with the return of Brad Marchand, ran all over Steven Stamkos’ line for portions of this game. Tasked with shutting down Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, the line turned the tables, often hemming Tampa’s trio in the defensive zone.
- The refs had a tough night. Calling off McAvoy’s goal was bad. Cedric Paquette getting a minor for a bad boarding penalty on Krug was worse. Marchand getting whistled for embellishment was a major reputation call. These games happen, but they’re frustrating.
- David Backes had a good game, considering he had part of an organ removed a few weeks ago. He looked pretty sharp, getting a few good scoring chances and preventing a few more with some solid defense.
- The Bruins played well, yes; but they were boosted by a sloppy game by Tampa. In the first period alone, it seemed like the Lightning had trouble stringing two passes together. To their credit, the Bruins capitalized on Tampa’s mistakes; however, it’s worth tempering the enthusiasm a bit, especially considering Tampa played on Tuesday night as well.
- An interesting note that came from Cassidy’s press conference: the Bruins ran through a gauntlet of sorts in the past three games, facing three of the league’s premier talents in succession. Going 2-1-0 against Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Steven Stamkos isn’t bad. NOT BAD AT ALL.
- The Bruins, interestingly, went with 7 D and 11 forwards tonight. Cassidy said it gave the coaching staff a little more freedom, allowing them to get more shifts for guys like David Pastrnak, Bergeron and Marchand. It’s not something he’s going to do regularly, especially with a full forward group, but it’s an interesting wrinkle going forward.