Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask started the first year of his shiny new contract pretty well, posting impressive stats that had him near the top of the NHL. However, as the calendar year turned to 2014, we began to see an entirely different performance from Boston’s starter.
Rask only has two wins to his name this month, and he’s given up at least four goals in three of his last six starts. He was yanked after just over one period of work in last Thursday’s loss to the Los Angeles Kings, and he let up a few softies last night as the Bruins were defeated by the Toronto Maple Leafs. His monthly save percentage this season hasn’t been any lower than .927 coming into January, but so far he’s at .898 this month.
Last week, I made the suggestion that perhaps Rask has been seeing too much work as of late, as the Bruins’ backups have been stapled to the bench for the most part. However, if you ask coach Claude Julien, Rask isn’t low on stamina, but still has issues to work out.
“Right now [Rask] feels great. He doesn’t feel tired,” Julien said. “He just doesn’t feel his game is where it should be. We all agree on that.”
While noting he’s not getting the very best from his franchise netminder, Julien also said the team as a whole has been very mistake prone.
“You’ve seen a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes from our end — mismanaging the puck and turnovers and our penalty kill running around and giving guys good opportunities. There’s lot of blame to go around.”
He does have a point. Ever since losing defenseman Dennis Seidenberg for the season, Boston’s penalty kill has been putrid. They’ve given up at least one power play goal in three of their past four games, including two last night against the Leafs and three against the Anaheim Ducks in a 5-2 loss last week.
The Bruins do indeed need to get their penalty kill shored up, but there still does seem to be a vibe that Rask is a bit worn down at the moment. He’s currently two starts short of his career high for a season (39), and he’ll have definitely eclipsed that total by a large margin at the end of this year’s campaign.
Boston has viable options to spell Rask, it’s just a matter of utilizing them. However, it looks like the strategy now is to keep riding their starter and hope he eventually works his way out of his funk.