The Boston Bruins entered Tuesday’s tilt in Columbus less than 24 hours removed from what Bruce Cassidy described as an “unprofessional” loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia. Cassidy’s squad encountered another moment of adversity a mere 1:12 in when Tuukka Rask exited the game with a concussion after taking a questionable hit to the head from Blue Jackets forward Emil Bemstrom.
Slowly but surely, things went from bad to worse without Rask.
The effort wasn’t poor by any means, but the Bruins had nothing to show for their outing against an opportunistic Blue Jackets bunch. The Bruins, facing their third game in four nights, played from behind as Alex Wennberg, Kevin Stenlund, and old friend Riley Nash each netted their fourth goals of the season for Columbus.
Elvis Merzlikins stole the show with his second straight shutout as the Bruins suffered their first blanking of the 2019-20 season. Here’s what we learned from Boston’s 3-0 loss.
Bemstrom’s hit on Rask is suspension-worthy.
Tuukka Rask takes an elbow from Emil Bemstrom to the head.
He heads to the quiet room. Halak in.
Not good. pic.twitter.com/2bY4Xv0Mja
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 15, 2020
Bemstrom escaped punishment after hitting Rask in the head in the game’s opening moments. Quite frankly, he should’ve received some sort of penalty for his actions.
Yes, Bemstrom battled for inside positioning with Brandon Carlo in front of Rask. And Carlo slightly nudged the young Swede into Rask, but Bemstrom easily could’ve avoided jabbing Boston’s all-time winningest goalie in the head.
Carlo discussed the incident with one of the on-ice officials afterward. His quote on that exchange was rather interesting, to say the least.
“After [Rask] went down, I was kind of asking the ref what happened and he said it was an accident and it was a stick to the face,” Carlo said to the media inside the visiting locker room at Nationwide Arena.
The officials blew the play dead immediately after Rask fell down as the Bruins began their transition into the neutral zone. They continued with 5-on-5 play after Jaroslav Halak made his way to the Boston crease.
Bemstrom, who claimed that his hit to Rask’s head was unintentional during his postgame interview, didn’t serve any time in the penalty box. Now it’s in Player Safety’s hands whether or not they’ll hand out supplemental discipline to Columbus’ rookie forward.
Where was the response?
Yes, the league has transitioned from a rough-and-tough brand of hockey into a more dynamic and finesse style of play over the last decade. Rarely do we see any Old Time Hockey moments on any given night.
The Bruins could’ve lived up to the classic ‘big and bad’ moniker following Bemstrom’s hit. They tried to make Bemstrom answer for his punch to Rask’s head in the second period. Bemstrom didn’t show any interest engaging in a lengthy bout with Carlo, Nordstrom, or any other Bruin that came after him.
Joakim Nordstrom exchanges pleasantries with Emil Bemstrom. He heads to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct. pic.twitter.com/pf6lG9TXgT
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 15, 2020
Aside from those second-period exchanges, the Bruins didn’t show enough fire following Bemstrom’s shot on Rask. Several players didn’t have a good look at the hit and had to resort to second-hand accounts of the play from either the officials or the coaching staff.
“Should have our guys had a better response? I think there could have been. It was pointed out after the first period, that our goaltender got bumped,” Cassidy told reporters postgame. “But listen, it’s a little late then. You can’t take the law into your own hands.”
The Bruins showed a competitive spirit in spurts, but they couldn’t sustain that same intensity when it mattered following Bemstrom’s punch to Rask. Cassidy’s squad won’t go far if they fail to back one another up following a controversial hit.
The potential ramifications of Rask’s concussion
The Bruins may find themselves in a goaltending conundrum depending on Rask’s status. The timing couldn’t have been any worse with Halak going through his roughest stretch of the 2019-20 campaign.
Halak would likely start the remaining three games, including Thursday’s matchup against a returning Sidney Crosby and the red-hot Penguins, before the Bruins embark on their bye week if Rask doesn’t suit up. The Providence Bruins only have two healthy options between the pipes right now for a potential callup: Dan Vladar and Maxime Lagace.
Rask, who sustained a concussion around the same time last year, already planned on skipping the All-Star Game in St. Louis. His time off may come sooner than expected. Now he’s hoping that he won’t be out for an extended period.