Sluggish Bruins are taught a lesson by Red Wings
The plan remains the same. Tim Thomas is the NHL’s best goalie, but the 36-year-old will need breathers down the stretch, which will require Tuukka Rask to assume some of the starts before the playoffs begin.
Reality, however, might dictate otherwise. Last night before 17,565 at TD Garden, Rask looked more like the first-year pro in Providence in 2007-08 — far too many soft goals to offset occasional brilliance — than last season’s puck-stopping ace.
In a 6-1 loss to the Red Wings, Rask didn’t make it to the third period. In fact, he was lucky not to be pulled before then. Rask let in goals on Detroit’s first two shots. To conclude arguably his worst start as an NHLer, Rask saw Todd Bertuzzi, from behind the goal line, bank a shot that first bounced off his left pad, deflect off his mask, and bobble into the net at 16:38 of the second period.
“I thought I deserved to get pulled,’’ said Rask (14 saves on 19 shots). “I didn’t play to my level today.’’
Like he does in most of his appearances, Rask made several top-shelf stops. Midway through the first, after Pavel Datsyuk connected with Danny Cleary for a partial breakaway, Rask flashed out his blocker to steer away the forward’s bid. Late in the second, Darren Helm sprinted past Mark Recchi on a Boston power play, shook off the veteran’s hook, and careened toward the goal. Rask held his ground and kicked out Helm’s attempt.
The saves, however, did little to wash away any ill feelings about the rest of Rask’s night — one Claude Julien believed he did not deserve to finish.
“We keep saying it over and over,’’ said the Bruins coach. “We need Tuukka to come in and give Timmy some rest. We need Tuukka to play well because we know he can play well. Tonight was a tough night for him. The last time he played, he was very good for us. He’s capable of it. We’ll just chalk that up to a tough night like the rest of the team in front of him and move on.’’
Rask got little help from his teammates, who played the doornail-dead sundial to Detroit’s precise Patek Philippe. For most of the night, the puck-possession Red Wings played a different game than the JV Bruins. The Wings used their speed, skill, and smarts to turn the Bruins, explosive the previous game against Montreal, into slugs.
In Wednesday’s 8-6 win over the Canadiens, the Bruins employed intimidation as part of their tool kit. Last night, they weren’t even close enough to the fast-moving Wings to connect with any checks, to say nothing of fights.
Prior to the opening goal, Zdeno Chara strayed deep in the offensive zone. Johan Franzen had little trouble eluding Chara by banking the puck off the wall to an in-stride Bertuzzi, who pulled away for a two-on-one rush against Steven Kampfer. Bertuzzi whistled an off-wing shot over Rask at 1:10.
Before Detroit’s next shot, Dennis Seidenberg floated high up the left wall in the defensive zone, then couldn’t get back in time to cover the slot. Cleary blew past Seidenberg, took a pass from Jiri Hudler, and flicked the puck past Rask at 3:10.
“They’re a good team, but for whatever reason, we weren’t ready at all,’’ said Recchi. “We weren’t sharp from the get-go, and that hurt us. We know they’re gifted and they control the puck, and they did. We weren’t ready to match it. We’ll have to be a lot better on Sunday. It’s a good eye-opener for us. We haven’t had one of these for a while, so let’s hope that’s it for a long time.’’
David Krejci scored a power-play goal at 17:53 of the first to make it 2-1. But Hudler, after taking a perfect backhand seam pass from Henrik Zetterberg, roofed a sharp-angle shot over Rask at 1:09 of the second. At 16:14, Zetterberg tapped a short-range backhander past Rask for a power-play goal. Twenty-four seconds later, Bertuzzi gave Detroit a 5-1 lead. The sequence started when Rask left his crease and tried to rim the puck away. Instead, he whiffed and coughed up the puck to Bertuzzi.
Thomas took over the crease in the third, stopping 14 of 15 shots. With Rask proving to be unreliable, Thomas may have to assume a greater workload than the Bruins had hoped.
“I would like to give Tuukka some games and give Timmy some rest and utilize both in a way that works for our hockey club,’’ Julien said. “But I can’t tell you right now that I’ve got the blueprint. Because the blueprint changes every day, as you saw today.’’
If there is any grace about last night’s flameout, it’s that the Bruins need only wait until tomorrow to get a shot at redemption. When they play the Wings tomorrow at Joe Louis Arena, the Bruins are guaranteed to submit a better performance. It would be nearly impossible to play worse than they did last night.
“We don’t like to sit around too much,’’ said Recchi. “Sunday at 12:30, we’ve got to be ready. We’ve got to be a lot different team, show them what the Boston Bruins are really made of, and make a good game of it.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.