Tuukka Rask blamed himself after the Bruins lost to Pittsburgh, 3-2, Saturday.
“Yeah, well it doesn’t matter. It was 5-hole, I guess, so it’s my bad,” Rask said in response to a question about the Penguins’ go-ahead goal by Jarome Iginla in the third period. “No question about that, so not too often I cost a game. Today I did. That’s just how it is sometimes.”
While Rask was probably being too hard on himself considering the Chris Kunitz eclipse-sized screen right in front of him that none of the other Bruins bothered to move, he also took blame for Kris Letang’s insurance goal.
“Short-side, no matter if there’s a screen or not I should stop that,” Rask said. “No question about that, but it happens.”
So Rask was beating himself up. Coach Claude Julien, while claiming he wasn’t pointing a finger at his prized netminder, spent a lot of time lamenting a lack of “timely saves” and said Rask has “to be better.”
So let me go ahead and remove the blame from Rask. Sure, it would be nice if he would one night summon his inner Tim Thomas and steal a game for the Bruins. But the way Boston has played the last month or so, do they really deserve to have a goaltender bail them out?
In Rask’s last 11 starts, including today and dating back to a loss in Pittsburgh March 17, Rask has posted a pedestrian 2.52 goals-against average, which has dropped him to fifth in the NHL with a 2.02 GAA on the season. Of course, over that time the Bruins have provided Rask with just 23 goals of support. That’s right, two goals a game, which includes a six-goal outburst against the reeling Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden April 8.
The bottom line is the Bruins just don’t score enough for Rask or Anton Khudobin. Both netminders know each night that if they allow two goals that might not be enough puck-stopping to earn two points. When the power play was the only weakness, the Bruins always seemed to score enough in other situations. Now they seem to score as much shorthanded as they do at even strength and on the power play – which is very little.
There’s no doubt they get their chances. But they don’t bury them. It might be a lack of skill. Considering the track record of many of these players like, like Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley, however, it’s more likely a lack of focus. Their heads aren’t in the game at the right times. They’re playing tentative, with a lack of confidence and only their decision to finally play like champions is going to change that. Things have gone stale, and even Julien’s line juggling can’t seems to solve that.
It would also help if the Bruins could find a consistent transition game, which would mean better play on the back end from Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk and even the usually-above-criticism Zdeno Chara.
Fretting over the goaltending is a favorite pastime in Boston and other major NHL cities. Right now, it’s unwarranted. With just a little more offensive support, Rask will be fine. Of course, those goals might not come his way until next season after general manager Peter Chiarelli reworks his roster in the offseason. If the offensive support comes soon, though, the Bruins will be fine in the playoffs.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.