By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
If you don’t want to put any blame on Tuukka Rask for the Bruins’ frustrating 4-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, someone on the Bruins would disagree with you. Tuukka Rask.
One game after turning in one of the most clutch playoff performances of his career, Rask could not bail out the Bruins defense this time, allowing four goals on just 13 shots before being pulled with 11:55 left in the second period.
Asked for a “summary” of his performance in the game, Rask didn’t pull any punches on himself.
“Summary? (laughs) Probably could have stopped more pucks with my eyes closed,” said Rask. “That’s about it. It’s on me, but we’re moving on to the next one.”
Rask faced the music and held himself accountable, which was a minuscule positive on a night peppered with negatives for the Bruins. It’s probably too harsh of an assessment on his own performance, considering the ugly defensive breakdowns that led to Toronto’s goals. But by the same token, Rask didn’t stand tall in this one like he did in Game 4 on Thursday.
Take the first Leafs goal. Torey Krug couldn’t clear Connor Brown from the front of the net, but Rask was also slow to shift to his left on Auston Matthews’ wraparound attempt.
There wasn’t a ton that Rask could do on the second goal, either. Nazem Kadri showed his skill and offensive creativity for a change, as he threaded the puck over Charlie McAvoy’s stick to the front of the net. Andreas Johnsson did the rest, as he whipped around McAvoy and went to his backhand. A save here would’ve been a hero play that nobody should seriously expect.
The one goal that Rask likely knows he should’ve stopped was the third goal by Tyler Bozak. The Bruins’ gassed forwards and complete defensive breakdown on the Toronto rush certainly had nothing to do with the goalie. But Rask also had a wide-open look at Bozak and got flat-out beat on the shot.
Especially when you consider the situation at the time – the Bruins had scored to make it 2-1 just 51 seconds earlier – this was a moment where Rask needed to make up for everyone else. Game 4 Rask would’ve had this one:
It’s unfair to pin the loss entirely, or even mostly, on Rask. The B’s had a laundry list of issues. Much like Game 3, they couldn’t finish on a litany of legit opportunities, and many of their 45 shots on goal presented relatively easy saves for Frederik Andersen. Everybody on the defense, save for maybe Matt Grzelcyk, had their worst games of the series. The Bruins went 1-for-6 on the power play and 45 of their 90 shot attempts were either blocked or missed the net.
But on Saturday, Rask is also on that list. Still, it was a disappointing all-around effort for a team that was in position to step on the Leafs’ throats and move on to the next round. Instead, they need to fly back to Toronto for a Game 6 that shouldn’t be taking place.
Another prominent Bruin didn’t like what he saw from Rask, either: head coach Bruce Cassidy.
“I didn’t think he had it tonight, so we went with Anton [Khudobin], who has been very good for us,” said Cassidy. “And then there’s always that part, gets the rest of the team’s attention as well. So, it’s both. I don’t want to measure, quantify what percentage of each, but clearly if I thought he was on, then he wouldn’t have got pulled. I guess I’ll put it that way.”
It goes without saying that the Bruins will need a far better effort out of their skaters in Game 6 on Monday. And if they don’t get that, they’ll need a far better effort out of their goalie. Ideally, for their sake, everyone wakes up in time. Because Saturday’s effort was not good enough, all the way around.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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