March 1, 2014

Defense didn't do Rask many favors in loss to Capitals

By Jesse Connolly

Tuukka Rask took the loss on Saturday against Washington in his first game since returning from the Winter Olympics. (Photo by Sharon Bradley/New England Hockey Journal)

Based simply on the box score, most people would be quick to label Saturday’s matinee against the Capitals as a rough outing for Tuukka Rask.

In his first game between the pipes since backstopping Finland to bronze in Sochi, the Bruins’ netminder allowed four goals on 31 shots in Washington’s 4-2 victory.

Anyone who watched the contest could easily tell you those numbers are deceptive. Boston’s defense simply wasn’t up to snuff, as turnovers, too many odd-man rushes against and an inability to keep the Caps’ lethal power play in check doomed the Black and Gold in the afternoon affair.

“It’s got to be better, it’s going to get better every day,” Rask said when asked about the team’s defensive effort. “It doesn’t matter if we keep talking about it, today was pretty crappy again, just mental mistakes. You talk about certain things in their power play, you just give them those opportunities and breakaways and stuff like that; it’s just not our style. So we just have to be better.”

Washington tallied twice on six power-play opportunities, with captain Alex Ovechkin cashing in both times. The Bruins were guilty of giving the league’s leading goal-scorer too much room to operate.

“If he gets those one-timers with a half-empty net, you're pretty much going to score,” said Rask. “You have to recognize that he’s out there and I don’t think we did a very good job today with that. He had that shot in the first period before he scored and then he gets that goal and the next one I was almost positive he was going short side, but he kind of knuckled and he stalled and it went in. But if you keep giving him those one-timers, he’s going to find the back of the net.”

The Capitals’ other two goals each came on breakaways, with Joel Ward making it a 3-0 game when he came in alone on Rask midway through the third, and Eric Fehr putting the game back out of reach late in the third, as he made it a 4-2 with 9:07 remaining in regulation.

“I don’t know, we kind of go up and down with that I guess,” Rask said when asked if the bevy of defensive breakdowns was a recent development. “The guys haven’t played in a couple of weeks, I guess it shows. But still, there’s no excuses, we have to be better focused and sharper out there.”

After finishing their pre-Olympic schedule on an 8-1-2 run, the B’s have dropped each of their two contests since the break concluded, including a 5-4 loss in overtime to the last-place Sabres on Wednesday in Buffalo.

“We know how good we can be and this definitely is not that,” said Rask, who made a big save right out of the gate on Jason Chimera and afforded the B’s a chance to climb back in the game throughout the afternoon. “It doesn’t matter if we get players or don’t get players, we still play a certain system and this – you saw today, the mental errors cost us again. That’s all. We just have to be better mentally.”

As for his own mental state, the 26-year-old netminder was feeling good after playing in his first NHL game in over three weeks.

“I felt pretty good,” said Rask, who blanked Team USA, 5-0, precisely one week prior in the bronze medal game. “A little rested. Afternoon games are always different, your preparation’s a little bit different, but I felt good.”

The B’s will look to rectify their defensive woes and bounce back with a win on Sunday evening, as they’ll travel to New York to take on the Rangers.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ