By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Tuukka Rask was not going to post a wire-to-wire .949 save percentage. No one's done that. Not even 2010-11 Tim Thomas, the player everybody demands Rask replicate to be considered a good goaltender, did that during his record-setting campaign.
Everybody even slightly in tune with reality knew a comedown would eventually come, and unfortunately for fans of rivalries longer than your family's American heritage, it came with a 26-of-31 performance against the Canadiens on Tuesday night.
"It was tonight," Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy admitted. "He wasn’t as sharp. We battled back, so it would’ve been nice to get that last save. He’s human. He’s been real good for us, but that’s going to happen to everybody.”
Given the sample size you're dealing with, this was without question Rask's worst performance of the season. It's easy to come to this conclusion when you look at that 26-of-31 stat line, but the eye-test also failed to help Rask in this one, as he allowed three stoppable shots for goals (and all hurt the B's at critical times in their comeback attempts), and seemed to be fighting the puck all night. Rask discussed his difficult tracking the puck following the loss, saying it was like tracking a golf ball out there.
He did not play well. He did not play well. HE DID NOT PLAY WELL. (You see, I'm saying this multiple times because based on my Twitter replies, you're about to have an online meltdown with the following facts that will be thrown your way.)
But trying to play this off as "another letdown in a pressure game against Montreal" is downright goofy.
First of all, this "Rask isn't good against Montreal" stuff is so painfully outdated. In fact, entering tonight's game, Rask had rattled off six straight wins at the Bell Centre, and with a .953 save percentage over that stretch. Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson, and Simon Gagne were the goal-scorers last time Rask lost to the Canadiens on Montreal ice. Eliminate the 'in Montreal' qualifier and Rask is still 7-2-1 with a .932 in his last 10 head-to-heads with the rival Habs, and that's including Tuesday's nightmare. You're clinging to storylines that have been legitimately dead for half a decade now.
And even with the woeful night, which was good for Rask's first regulation loss of the 2019-20 season, Rask's season save percentage remains impressive, at .936, just .004 below Arizona's Darcy Kuemper for the league lead. His high-danger save percentage is still a league-best .933, and his goals saved about average is still top five in the league (7.41).
This all feels worth mentioning before we fire up the DeLorean and travel back to takes we've been waiting to unleash.
But I'm smart enough to know this is going to actually go. The last month of league-best numbers -- which have helped the Bruins survive as a one-line team -- now mean nothing. The second leg of a back-to-back in Montreal (and third game in four nights) is now the most important game of the year. Because Rask lost and it's a talking point that allows us to rehash the past we love to bring up when it favors our argument. We'll forget about his fantastic back-to-back-to-back stretch against Tampa Bay, Toronto, and St. Louis (your real threats both last and this spring) just a couple weeks back, because that doesn't fit the narrative. Rask stopping all but five of 92 shots faced over that three-game stretch (a .946 save percentage) is ruined by surrendering five goals to a team that has qualified for the postseason just once in the last four seasons. Why? I don't know, man, they used to play a lot when Rask was a kid in Finland, so losses needs to be considered Seppuku-worthy offenses.
We'll probably (for some insane reason) use a poor 59 minutes to invalidate nearly 500 stellar minutes when the truth is that this loss in Montreal currently looks like an outlier.
Across all platforms and measurements, too.
Above all else, I know that this additional context and these free facts (sign up for 98.5 The Sports Hub dot com exclusive content using my code 'TUUKKA') will be met with a "Boo-Hoo Tuukka Crew" dismissal. As if being part of the "Woo-Hoo Felger Parrot Crew" is a better look.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 5-4 loss to the Habs...
Zach Senyshyn should get another NHL look
The Bruins were a Charlie Coyle stride away from Zach Senyshyn coming through with the primary helper on the game-winning goal for the Bruins. It may not be exactly what the Bruins envisioned when it came to Senyshyn, playing in just his third NHL game since being drafted with the No. 15 overall pick in 2015, but it should be enough to give the blazin' winger another look.
When you look at what the Bruins are trotting on right wing this year, it's a whole lot of 'maybes' once you get beyond the star power of David Pastrnak. The Bruins currently have Danton Heinen playing on his off-wing to the right of David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, Brett Ritchie has been Coyle's most common linemate to the right, and Chris Wagner is too good of a fit with Sean Kuraly to seriously considering moving him away from the Black and Gold's fourth line.
So why not give Senyshyn an extended look with some capable centers that can elevate his game?
With Coyle and Anders Bjork for over eight minutes of five-on-five action on Tuesday, Senyshyn and the Bruins generated some of their best looks with this group on the ice, as they outshot opponents 7-2 and scored two of the B's four goals. (Again, had Coyle been ruled onside, they would have been on the ice for three goals.)
“They were arguably our most effective line," Cassidy said of the Coyle line with Bjork and Senyshyn on the wings.
Given Boston's record, their desire to figure out what they have for internal options, and Senyshyn's ceiling as an NHL, there's nothing but positives to be gained from giving this trio an extended look.
Why the Bruins didn't challenge for goalie interference on Montreal's fourth goal
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy would have been stupid to challenge Victor Mete's second goal of the night.
“The ref came over and told me our guy knocked him into the goaltender, 'but if you wanna challenge it,'" Cassidy revealed. "So he’s basically telling me that you’re an idiot if you challenge because your guy knocked him into the goalie. Our goalie’s looking at me like I’m crazy, so we have to have a conversation with him [about] the whys of it."
The truth is that nobody knows how a goaltender interference is going to go, but look at the list of things working against the Bruins here and it's easy to see why Cassidy opted not to risk a penalty; the referee told him that the Montreal skater was pushed into Rask, the call on the ice was a good goal, and it was on Montreal ice. No chance that gets overturned.
David Pastrnak has become an Ovechkin-like power-play weapon
You're on the power play and you have to tee up a one-time bomb to tie things up or go ahead. Who do you want taking the shot? The easy answer is Alex Ovechkin. This has been his game for years, and it's a legitimately unstoppable bomb. Teams gameplan for Ovechkin's one-timer and they still can't do a thing about it. Look beyond The Great Eight, though, and where do you land? Gotta be honest, I think it's officially on The Great (Double) Eight, David Pastrnak.
Just look at this bomb off a set play. You know it's coming, and yet, there's nothing you can do about it.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) November 6, 2019
Pastrnak now has 15 goals in 15 games this season.
Chara gets rare ovation from Montreal crowd in 1,500th NHL game
I almost couldn't believe what I was hearing and seeing on Monday night as the Bell Centre crowd gave Zdeno Chara, the same man they wanted arresting for attempted murder on Max Pacioretty in 2011, a standing ovation for his 1,500th NHL game.
Deep down, I suppose it's not horribly shocking. Montreal is a hockey city first, and even though they despise everything about the 6-foot-9 captain, they weren't blind to the historically significance of suiting up for 1,500 games. I'd like to think that Boston would do the same for P.K. Subban if Subban, who still gets booed at Montreal levels in town, hit a milestone at TD Garden.
But it was still a bit of a shock to the system all the same.
Zdeno Chara receives a standing ovation from fans at the Bell Centre in honour of his 1500th game pic.twitter.com/XieM4BklWf
— Heart of NHL (@HeartofNHL) November 6, 2019
“Where I think I got to give most of the credit to is our fans,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien, who coached Chara for nearly a decade, said of the reception. “There’s a guy that I remember when I was on the other side, that incident with [Max] Pacioretty. I know and I can stand here today on the Montreal side saying there was never any intent to injure that player. That’s not his style. It was an unfortunate accident. But he was not a very well-liked player here in Montreal.
"But the class of our fans to do what they did tonight, giving not necessarily a standing ovation but clapping and looking at what he’s accomplished in his career, it just says a lot about our real fans and I was really impressed and I’m glad that they did that. I know him personally and I think what he got tonight from our fans was well deserved.”
It was a moment the 42-year-old Chara, who was booed every time he touched the puck (he wouldn't have it any other way), acknowledged as special following the defeat.