Tuukka Rask carrying the Bruins into the postseason

Rask3.jpgWashington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins
Noon EST – Sunday, April 11, 2010
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You have to wonder how the Boston Bruins’ season might have gone had they known what they had in Tuukka Rask just six months ago. He has always been decent in the AHL, but never exactly dominant. In fact, a few years back I would have told you his success in Providence was a direct result of playing for an incredibly efficient defensive team.

Now the Bruins are paying a 35-year old goaltender $5 million a season for the next three years (four including this season), and he’s already been passed up by younger a much cheaper goaltender who has held this team together through an insane amount of late-season adversity.

It’s tough to exactly fault the Bruins, however. Here they have a goaltender who was coming off an incredible, Vezina-winning season who did everything he possibly could to carry his team in the playoffs. Sure, the warning signs were there — yet, the Bruins finally had some solid goaltending on a team that was ready to contend once more.

So they give Thomas the big contract, and gave Rask the modest two-year extension after just nine total NHL games.

Rask has since taken the starting goaltender’s spot from Thomas, and will be starting for the Bruins once the playoffs begin. With just 45 games under his belt this season, it’s tough to directly compare him with the other goaltenders in the NHL — but Thomas won the Vezina with just 54 games last season, so what the heck.

Rask leads the NHL in both goals-against average (1.97) and save percentage (0.931), but more importantly he’s winning more than losing. Thomas wasn’t exactly putting up bad numbers this season; he just couldn’t win. For a team that had high playoff hopes after last season, it was a tough pill to swallow that their champion goaltender was seemingly unable to win any games.

So now we have Rask, with two shutouts and a 8-5-1 record since the Olympic break as the Bruins lost some their most important player (Marc Savard) and faced a drought of  scoring. The Bruins will be the least-offensive team in the playoffs and Rask will be called upon to be the savior for the Bruins as he’s been all season long.

And the $5 million goaltender who can’t win any longer? He’ll be on the bench, ready to jump in if needed and watching his much cheaper counterpart in net.

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    Flames keep showing life, Stars stumble once again

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    If you think the Dallas Stars are struggling because of defense more than anything else, then you’ll make sure to keep the video above “on file.”

    There Kari Lehtonen was, helpless on a 2-on-0 rush for the Calgary Flames, which Johnny Gaudreau finished with calm and ease. For some, that goal is the symbol of the Stars’ season.

    Either way, it was a painful goal in the Flames’ 2-1 win against the Stars. Calgary won despite Dallas firing 30 shots on goal versus the Flames’ 20.

    One team climbing, the other stumbling

    With that, the Flames are now on a four-game winning streak. Since falling to 5-10-1 on Nov. 12, the Flames have gone 9-3-1 in their last 13 games, pushing them to 14-13-2 overall. Gaudreau coming back is the icing on the cake after Chad Johnson really took charge of the Flames’ top job.

    During a similar span, the Stars can’t seem to get it together. Dallas stood at 6-6-3 after beating the Oilers 3-2 on Nov. 11. They’re now 10-11-6, essentially standing in place as a .500 team.

    Dallas can’t seem to get momentum going, a thought that might have left them envious of the team on the other end of the ice on Tuesday.

    Canadiens are facing some turbulence (and mostly passing the test)

    ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 6: Patrik Berglund #21 of the St. Louis Blues checks Tomas Plekanec #14 of the Montreal Canadiens at the Scottrade Center on December 6, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/ Getty Images)
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    The Montreal Canadiens aren’t in crisis mode, but as far as this so-far outstanding 2016-17 season goes, they are finally facing some adversity.

    Alex Galchenyuk, one of their most promising young players, is out indefinitely. There are murmurs that captain Max Pacioretty isn’t getting along with head coach Michel Therrien.* Tuesday presented a body blow or two to boot.

    For one thing, the Canadiens gave up a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to the St. Louis Blues in overtime. Jaden Schwartz grabbed an assist and scored the game’s last two goals, including the OT-winner:

    Losing to a contender like the Blues, especially while still grabbing a “charity point,” isn’t that big of a deal. A possible David Desharnais injury makes things a little dicey, however:

    Really, though, it’s not all that bad for Montreal. They managed a 2-2-1 mark during a five-game road trip heavy on quality opponents.

    Also: six of their next seven games come at home, where they’re 12-1-1. So things will look brighter soon enough.

    Still, with some injuries and a big road trip to end 2016 and start 2017, there may be some moments where Montreal looks vulnerable.

    Ultimately, fighting through stretches like these could very well benefit the Habs later on.

    * – Ah, the old standby: “Player X isn’t seeing eye-to-eye with Therrien.”

    From the Blues’ side:

    Ristolainen, Kane, O’Reilly push Sabres past McDavid and the Oilers

    EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 16:  Rasmus Ristolainen #55, Matt Moulson #26, Sam Reinhart #23, Kyle Okposo #21 and Ryan OÕReilly #90 of the Buffalo Sabres celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers on October 16, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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    On Tuesday, it wasn’t just about Jack Eichel vs. Connor McDavid. Instead, it was a clash between a fleet of young scorers who were in their prime, with the Buffalo Sabres coming up on top against the Edmonton Oilers.

    In particular, high-scoring defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, power forward Evander Kane and two-way center Ryan O'Reilly made the difference in Buffalo’s 4-3 overtime win.

    Ristolainen’s first goal of 2016-17 was a big one, as it clinched the contest in OT:

    Evander Kane scored two goals of his own, including one in the dying seconds of regulation to allow Buffalo to get a standings point (and then a second) in the first place.

    Kane finished with two goals, O’Reilly generated two assists and Ristolainen managed a one-goal, two-assist performance.

    It would be wrong to say that the marquee names didn’t show up at all. McDavid generated two assists and Eichel also nabbed a helper.

    You’d be correct in saying that other young players stole the show, though, and the Sabres were the biggest beneficiaries.

    Video: Brent Seabrook shaken up after awkward fall

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    It wasn’t nearly as scary as the falls suffered by Travis Zajac or Philip Larsen, but the Chicago Blackhawks are still holding their breath when it comes to defenseman Brent Seabrook.

    As you can see from the video above, Seabrook was tripped up by Jordan Martinook of the Arizona Coyotes during a simple puck battle. Seabrook was shaken up after falling awkwardly on that play.

    At the moment, it’s unclear if this will be an ongoing issue or if the Blackhawks avoided a costly injury.

    Martinook was not penalized.

    CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers notes that Seabrook wasn’t out to begin the third period. So far, not so good.

    The Blackhawks beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-0, so the silver lining for Chicago is that they won.