Bruins Weekly: Rask’s up and Down Return, Haula, Ullmark & More

It was a busy last seven days for the Boston Bruins with four games that generated plenty of storylines. In this edition of Bruins Weekly, Tuukka Rask continues his dominance over a familiar opponent, Erik Haula continues to thrive, the rookie defensemen continue to impress, and more.

Rask Continues Dominace Over Flyers

During his 15 career seasons, Rask has played against some opponents more than others, but the Philadelphia Flyers is one team that would not be upset not to see the former Vezina Trophy winner ever again. Just as luck would have it, it was Philadelphia that was in Boston on Jan. 13 when Rask made his season debut after signing a free agent contract just two days earlier.

Tuukka Rask Boston Bruins
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Rask stopped 25 of the 27 shots the Flyers fired at him, including some timely second and third-period saves that allowed the Bruins to escape with a 3-2 victory. For his career, he is 20-2-4 against Philadelphia with a 2.06 goals-against average (GAA) and a .927 save percentage (SV%). The only team that the 2014 Vezina Trophy winner has more wins against is the Florida Panthers with 22.

Things did not go as well for Rask in his second outing of the season Tuesday night as he lasted just one period after allowing five goals in a 7-1 Carolina Hurricanes rout of the Bruins.

Ullmark Continues Impressive Run

There might not be a hotter goalie in the NHL right now than Linus Ullmark. Signed as a free agent last summer, after a tough start to his career with the Black and Gold, the former Buffalo Sabres netminder is playing with a lot of confidence right now.

Following the Bruins 4-3 overtime win over the Nashville Predators on Jan. 15, Ullmark improved to 6-0-0 with a 2.48 GAA and a .908 SV%. Like Rask did against the Flyers, Ullmark came up with some timely saves against the Predators to help get the game to overtime and allow his teammates to pull out the win.

Haula Getting Better and Better on the Second Line

When coach Bruce Cassidy moved around his lines following the COVID-19 shutdown, several Bruins have benefited from the changes. One player that is quietly benefitting is Haula, who was moved from the third line center to the second between Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak, replacing Charlie Coyle.

Erik Haula Boston Bruins
Erik Haula, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Haula has two goals and five assists since the changes. His best assist happened in Saturday’s overtime win over Nashville in the first period on Mike Reilly’s goal. Settling the puck along the half-wall in the Predators zone, he patiently waited for Reilly off the bench to join the play and made a cross-ice pass where the left-shot Boston defensemen broke in alone and beat Just Saros on a backhander.

“Erik Halua has been a nice surprise,” said Cassidy. “It does take three to form a line…Erik’s doing some of the little things, the dirty work and complementing them well. So, he’s letting those guys play and try and get the puck to him as quick as they can to let them do their thing…it’s a real positive.”

Not only has Haula’s play important, but so is Hall and Pastrnak. The new line combinations are a big reason for the Bruins winning eight of 10 games since Jan. 1 and there is no reason to break them up anytime soon.

Marchand Continues Torrid Pace Despite All-Star Snub

Brad Marchand was snubbed when the NHL announced the All-Stars Rosters for the upcoming All-Star game on Feb. 5 in Las Vegas. That has not stopped Boston’s first-line left-wing from slowing down his torrid start since the New Year.

Related: Bruins News & Rumors: Klingberg, Kuhlman, Rask & More

In three games in the last week, he had three goals and three assists in wins over the Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, and the Predators. He has points in six of his last seven games and is what is driving the Bruins offense recently. He is also killing penalties on the top pairing with Patrice Bergeron. He’s doing it all right now.

Propsects Continue to Make Impact on Defense

When the Bruins returned from their two-game trip against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals, they were without defensemen Connor Clifton and Derek Forbort who were left in their respective hotel rooms because of COVID-19 protocols. Forbort was stuck in Tampa Bay, while Clifton was in a hotel room in Washington.

In their place, Cassidy kept Urho Vaakanainen in the lineup, Tyler Lewington and eventually, Jack Ahcan were inserted into the lineup. The trio did more than they were asked, playing key minutes during the games, including a key penalty kill for Vaakanainen and Lewington against the Predators. With Forbort back in the lineup, but serving a five-minute fighting major, Brandon Carlo was called for a cross-check, which took both of the Black and Gold’s top penalty killers off the ice. Vakkanainen and Lewington ended up killing the penalty and against at the time, the NHL’s fourth-ranked power play.

Urho Vaakanainen Boston Bruins
Urho Vaakanainen, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Ahcan was returned to Providence, on Jan. 15, and Lewington was moved to the Bruins taxi squad Sunday night, after Clifton cleared COVID-19 protocols and returned against the Hurricanes. Vaakanainen remained in the lineup against Carolina as Reilly ended up in protocols before the game. It might have been a short-lived stint for the defensemen in Boston, but Vaakanainen continues to impress and prove he’s more than capable of being a full-time NHL player.

The Week Ahead

  • Thursday: vs. Washington Capitals, 7 p.m.
  • Saturday: vs. Winnipeg Jets, 3 p.m.
  • Monday: vs. Anaheim Ducks, 7 p.m.

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