February 26, 2013

Moulson, Tavares pose quite a challenge for Rask, Bruins

By Jesse Connolly

Linemates John Tavares (left) and Matt Moulson have been lethal for the Islanders. (Getty Images)

What happens when an unstoppable force collides with an immovable object? Well, you may want to tune in for tonight’s game between the Bruins and Islanders to find out.

Boston will head into the battle at Nassau Coliseum led by first-year full-time starter Tuukka Rask. The Finnish netminder has been lights out for Boston this season.

Through his first 12 starts, the 25-year-old goalie owns a 9-1-2 record to go along with a dazzling 1.97 goals-against average. He enters the game with a 5-0-1 record in the month of February, during which he’s allowed more than two goals just once in six starts.

Rask will look to give the Bruins their fourth victory in the final tilt of a five-game road trip, but the dynamic duo of Matt Moulson and John Tavares will be standing directly in his way.

The two first-line forwards have more than carried the load thus far for the Islanders, accounting for 23 of their goals and combining for 48 points through 19 games. They’ve racked up 11 of those in the last three games.

“John Tavares is an elite player in this league already at a young age,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of the Isles’ 22-year-old center. “What I see from this team is it’s slowly rounding itself out. Every year it becomes a tougher and tougher opponent. To me, they’re definitely on the right track, they’ve got a core of good players and right now, they’re showing that they’re capable of doing damage.”

Tavares and Moulson have done quite a bit of damage against Boston in their careers. Tavares boasts 5-7-12 totals in 13 contests against the Black and Gold, while Moulson has been even better, notching seven goals and seven assists for a total of 14 points in 13 games against the B’s.

The Islanders’ franchise cornerstone believes he and his teammates need to be aggressive against a stout defense like Boston’s.

“Yeah, you can’t try and do too much and you can’t do it by yourself,” Tavares said. “So, I think it’s just not forcing things. I think we still have to be aggressive, we have to come with speed, we have to try to get pucks in deep and we have to forecheck, try to make those parts of the game really tough on them and create some opportunities.”

Dan Paille, one of the Bruins’ key cogs on the penalty kill, recognizes what a challenge the Islanders present, especially with the tandem of Moulson and Tavares working together on the man advantage.

“They have a couple of guys that score consistently every night, and it’s definitely tough to shut that down, and we’re going to be challenged on the penalty kill tonight with the talent that they have,” said Paille. “We’ve just got to be aware when they’re out there because they make really smart plays.”

Rask and Co. will look to keep the good times rolling and head home with a successful lengthy road swing behind them, while Tavares and Moulson will look to remain red-hot and help the Isles keep climbing in the standings. No one needs to be a physics wiz to figure out only one will get the outcome they’re hoping for.   

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ
Email: jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com