On Monday night, the Boston Bruins encountered a night full of hiccups in their 5-3 loss to the young and exciting Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden.
Very little went right for the Bruins aside from David Pastrnak potting his 20th goal of the season and Taylor Hall’s power-play marker in the middle stanza. Tuukka Rask had a rough night tracking the puck, allowing five goals on 27 Anaheim shots. The frequent turnovers dug them into a deeper hole. They rarely sustained a healthy attacking zone rhythm, losing puck battles more often than not.
The opportunistic Ducks pounced even as Oskar Steen’s initial boarding major on Nicolas Deslasuires was downgraded to a minor penalty. They scored on that power play attempt with Derek Grant tipping Ryan Getzlaf’s shot past Rask to give Anaheim the 1-0 lead midway through the opening stanza.
A rough sequence with Nick Foligno’s neutral turnover on an early second-period power-play led directly to Rask whiffing on Isac Lundestrom’s poking home his ninth goal of the season with Pastrnak backchecking.
The Bruins twice cut the Anaheim deficit to one on Pastrnak’s blast and Hall’s tip-in on the man advantage. They showed some fight late in the third as a nifty feed from Mike Reilly to Tomas Nosek cut the Anaheim lead to two with 3:32 left in regulation. But they hardly found their second gear on this night.
A downtrodden Rask allowed a pair of routine goals from Getzlaf and Troy Terry in their respective answers to Pastrnak and Hall’s markers. A Greg Patryn blast that deflected off of Charlie McAvoy moments after Kevin Shattenkirk broke up another Hall tip attempt provided the dagger.
Here’s what we learned following a flat performance from Bruce Cassidy’s club.
Rask is “not where he needs to be”
The Bruins didn’t expect Rask to perform at an elite level upon his return.
Adrenaline carried him through his first start of the season nearly two weeks ago against the slumping Philadelphia Flyers. But Rask hardly looked like “old Tuukka” in his three starts since.
Monday marked his second rough outing of the season. The Bruins pulled Rask after allowing five goals in the opening 20 minutes during last Tuesday’s 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes. He didn’t return to the bench against the Ducks until the Bruins pulled him or the extra attacker following Nosek’s tally.
The Bruins want to get Rask on a run at some point. They sensed a decent time to give him his consecutive starts for the first time this season with an off day sandwiched between Saturday’s win over Winnipeg and Monday. Yet, Cassidy and the coaching staff essentially had to throw Rask into action amid an important stretch of the season.
“He’s not where he needs to be. I think that’s evident, and I’m not sure we thought he would be this soon either,” Cassidy said of a still rusty Rask. “We certainly needed more saves if we were going to win tonight. But again, he’ll need more starts, and then we’ll have to evaluate it [further], right?”
Rask’s technical concerns aren’t pinpointed to a specific nuance. He cited difficulties tracking shots, playing pucks and staying too deep in the crease among the areas he needs to improve.
The Bruins hope to have a better idea of Rask’s progression within his seventh or eighth appearance of the season. If the concerns become more profound, the calls for Jeremy Swayman’s return will only intensify further than the paltry “We want Swayman” chants from Monday atop the Garden balcony.
“Obviously, I haven’t been good enough,” Rask said after falling to 1-7-1 in his career against the Ducks. “The inconsistency within the game — game in and game out — has been there. But yeah, [I’m] not satisfied obviously.”
Rask heads west, waiting his turn to solidify his crease with Cassidy tabbing Linus Ullmark for a scheduled start against the Avalanche. Regardless of who’s in net, the Bruins need to arrive on time against Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and company.
The slow starts are becoming a concern
The Bruins have allowed the first goal in each of their last four outings. They responded well in half of those tilts en route to thrilling wins over the Capitals and Jets.
The slow starts aren’t a sustainable formula for success over the long run. At some point, the early deficits will come back to haunt any of the NHL’s 32 teams.
Cassidy witnessed that firsthand from his club against the Ducks. The Bruins preached on coming out with a bang beforehand. Instead, they chased the game from the get-go.
Anaheim’s aggressive counterattack frustrated a Bruins squad caught in proverbial quicksand. The Bruins did themselves no favors with their self-inflicted wounds from Steen’s boarding minor to the costly turnovers at neutral ice and Rask’s slowness between the pipes.
“We just have to be ready for teams to be ultra prepared for us. We’ve had a really good run here, and teams know that,” Hall said. “For us, it’s not some special way of playing that we have to do. It’s just a simplified mindset and a way of playing that lets us feel good about our legs and about our game right off the bat…”
The Bruins will need all hands on deck from puck drop against the Avalanche. And they may remain without another veteran presence after his exit from Monday’s contest.
Foligno’s rough time with injuries continued
The veteran winger tried to make up for his turnover on Ludenstrom’s shorthanded tally just 88 seconds into the middle stanza. He returned from the locker room only to head back down the hallway following an incident with Ducks netminder John Gibson in front of the Anaheim bench and his subsequent fight with Sam Carrick.
Bruce Cassidy provided no further update on Foligno after he exited with an upper-body injury. He already missed significant time to injury on numerous occasions, including his recent five-game absence from a lower-body ailment he sustained in Tampa on Jan. 8.
The Bruins don’t have many options up front to replace Foligno internally. Anton Blidh and Trent Frederic remain on the injured list. The Bruins added Stephen Fogarty to the taxi squad ahead of Saturday’s contest. He becomes the likely option to replace Foligno barring any improved prognosis with Blidh and/or Frederic.
The Bruins established good habits following their COVID-19 break. Foligno, however, may have to watch the potential bounce-back effort from afar during Boston’s swing through Colorado, Arizona and Dallas.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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