In this week’s edition of Bruins Weekly, Tuukka Rask is injured again and it might be time to start to worry about his health, the New Jersey Devils continue to frustrate the Bruins and more.
Time to Worry About Rask’s Health?
When the Bruins lost to the Devils on March 7, Rask was skating to the bench late in the third period with his team trailing 1-0 for an extra skater when he grabbed his back. He would go on to miss the next five Bruins games with an upper-body injury, before returning last Thursday night against the New York Islanders. His return lasted only 20 minutes as he left the game after the first period after making six saves after he reaggravated his injury. Jaroslav Halak replaced Rask in what turned out to be a 4-3 overtime loss. On Monday, coach Bruce Cassidy said that he is expecting Rask would be out the rest of this week.
Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres and with the Bruins facing a back-to-back with the Devils on Sunday, rookie Dan Vladar made his second career start and stopped 25 shots in a 3-2 Bruins’ victory. Vladar, who beat the Pittsburgh Penguins for his first career win on March 16, became the ninth goalie in franchise history to win each of his first two career starts. Both Vladar and Halak have played well this season when Rask has been out.
Rask is in the final year of an eight-year contract, with plenty of questions as to whether he returns next season or retires. At 34 years old, he is 8-4-2 this season with a 2.40 goals-against average (GAA) and a .907 save percentage (SV%). If the Bruins are going to hold off the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers for the fourth playoff spot in the MassMutual East Division, getting Rask back healthy is a key going forward.
New Jersey Continues to Frustrate the Bruins
What the Devils have done to the Bruins this season is nothing short of stunning. In six games, New Jersey has won four, but it’s how the Devils have been able to shut down the Black and Gold. The Bruins went scoreless in the first five games 5-on-5 before Nick Ritchie scored Boston’s first even strength goal Tuesday night in the 16th period of the season against the Devils. The Bruins have only scored nine goals total in 18 periods, with five on the power play and one shorthanded. The two wins Boston does have are shootout victories in the first game of the season on Jan. 14 and Tuesday night. Otherwise, it’s been a goaltending clinic by New Jersey.
Whether it’s been Mackenzie Blackwood or Scott Wedgewood, the Bruins have simply not been able to score much this season against the Devils. It’s not for lack of shots either. On March 7, Boston had 40 shots on Wedgewood, who stopped every one of them in a 1-0 win, courtesy of a Kyle Palmieri goal late in the third period. Sunday, it was Blackwood’s turn to make 40 saves in another 1-0 New Jersey win. Once again, it was Palmieri scoring the game’s only goal, this time in the first period. Of course, to get two shutouts with 80 combined saves in two games, you have to be a little lucky and good.
With just over a minute left in Sunday’s game, David Krejci knocked the puck away from Blackwood in the crease to Patrice Bergeron, who appeared to tie the game when he stuffed home a loose puck. Devils coach Lindy Ruff challenged the play for goaltender interference and was successful. With 8.2 seconds left in the game, Blackwood made a save, but the rebound popped up in the air, hit the back of a defenseman, and was rolling toward the goal line when he kicked the puck off the line to preserve the win.
Boston has collected just five out of possible 12 points against New Jersey and if the Bruins end up on the outside of the playoffs come early May, they won’t have to look far to see why their season ends sooner than anyone expected.
More Milestones Reached
In Sunday’s loss to the Devils, Bruins center Charlie Coyle played in his 600th career regular-season game. Acquired at the trade deadline in February of 2019 from the Minnesota Wild, Coyle has played in 122 games for the Bruins with 23 goals and 29 assists. He played in 479 games for Minnesota over seven seasons. There are still plenty of games in his future with the Bruins, after the Boston native signed a six-year, $31.5 million extension in November of 2019.
Two weeks after collecting his 700th career point, Krejci passed Rick Middleton for sixth on the Bruins all-time list for assists in franchise history with 499 with three assists in Tuesday’s win over th . Wayne Cashman is next with 516, while Bergeron is fifth with 533. Catching Cashman and Bergeron will depend on what happens this offseason with Krejci as he is a free agent. He will be one of many decisions the front office will have to make for next season.
The Week Ahead
- Thursday: vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m.
- Saturday: vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, 1 p.m.
- Monday: vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 7 p.m.
- Tuesday: at Philadelphia Flyers, 7 p.m.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.