By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Time for an exhausting exercise that will almost certainly pop up whenever the Boston Bruins lose a hockey game. How many of the seven goals the Bruins allowed in their season-opening 7-0 whipping at the hands of the Washington Capitals can be blamed on their much-maligned, ever-polarizing netminder, Tuukka Rask?
Bright side for Rask is, two of the goals don’t count because they were allowed by backup Jaroslav Halak. And at the same time, when you lose 7-0, you really cannot blame just one guy for that kind of spectacular meltdown. But Rask deserves at least a sliver of the blame pie for Boston’s team-wide catastrophe on Wednesday at Capital One Arena.
Still, Rask is such a lightning rod of a player that there’s a segment of observers who are quick to blame him for pretty much every goal he allows. It really doesn’t work that way. One, hockey is a team sport. Two, if you’re really expecting your goalie to stop every shot and never make mistakes you might be acting just a little draconian.
That said, let’s go through each goal one-by-one and examine whether you can truly blame the goaltender for letting it up…
First period, 0:24: T.J. Oshie rips a one-timer past Rask to open the scoring less than 30 seconds into the season. Not much Rask can do about the fact that Oshie had no defenders near him and that the Bruins let Nicklas Backstrom slip a diagonal cross-ice pass cleanly to the sniper. Rask certainly could’ve come up with a clutch save on Oshie, but primary blame for this goal falls on the Bruins’ weak play along the boards and failure to close passing lanes.
Blame: Bruins defense
First period, 1:47: You could easily chalk this one up to “puck luck”. But Rask looks to get a piece of this puck here. It’s an unfortunate bounce for the puck to flutter right by the front of the net with Evgeny Kuznetsov bearing down on you, but in a spot like this it’s on the goalie to get that puck out of danger. Rask has to freeze it or you’re going to get the result you got. He was the only one there and he couldn’t make the play.
Second period, 4:17: This was simply a case of poor penalty kill coverage, combined with an absolute missile from one of the best shooters in the league. No excuse for the Bruins PK to not only leave Ovechkin wide open in his “office” at the top of the left faceoff dot, but for neither Sean Kuraly nor Bruins newcomer Ryan Wagner to do anything about impeding Backstrom’s pass. This was like the Capitals were running a drill with no defense out there. Hard to demand a save from any goalie in a situation like this.
Blame: Bruins PK
Second period, 6:13 Nic Dowd gathers a loose puck and whirls around with a backhand to make it 3-0 Capitals. This goal stemmed from a giveaway by Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, right in front of the net. This was another spot where you wish Rask came up with the hero save, but Grzelcyk’s turnover was pretty much the last thing you want to do as a defenseman and the worst burden you can put on your goalie to come up with a save.
Second period, 7:28: Kuznetsov barrels down the left side and flips the puck toward the net, and somehow it shimmies between Rask’s pad and the post to extend the Caps’ lead to 5-0 and chase Rask from the game. Rask deserved to get pulled after this one. He needs to seal off that post and guarantee that a shot like that doesn’t go in. It can’t go in. Not from that angle.
Final Tally: 2-of-5 on Rask (40 percent)
“Only” two of the first five goals can be squarely placed on Rask’s shoulders. But in a closer game, those two goals could have mattered a lot more. And it would’ve been great to see a bailout save at some point; five goals is five goals at the end of the day.
Rask appears to lose focus at times, which has led to bouts of inconsistency and untimely mistakes. It appears that issue cropped up again on Wednesday night. He was certainly miles away from stealing a win for the B’s, who came out flat and just flopped as a team. Rask was just as bad as everyone else on the Bruins in this one, and may need to be the one to step up his game if the rest of the team isn’t ready for the start of the regular season. Just don’t blame him for every single goal ever. That’s the point that this exercise is trying to make.
Ultimately, the entire Bruins squad played its worst hockey and needs to rebound quickly with the turnaround to Thursday in Buffalo. Rask was in line to rest in favor of Halak against the Sabres, but after Wednesday’s stinker maybe head coach Bruce Cassidy changes course and throws Rask back out there. It can’t possibly get worse for this team than it did against the Capitals, and Rask was as much a part of that disaster as anyone.
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.