Let me get this out of the way. Tuukka Rask needs to be better.
When you allow 22 goals in your first five games and your team owns a 2-4 record, it’s nearly impossible to not receive some of the blame.
Notice how I said “some” and not “all” of the blame.
You see, the whole “he-needs-to-steal-some-games-for-ya” phrase is one that’s taken out of context perhaps more than any other in the hockey world. And when you have a questionable defensive depth chart like the Bruins do, I get it, you’re asking your goaltender — who won the Vezina Trophy two seasons ago — to steal you some games.
But there’s stealing games, and then there’s attempting to manage pure chaos in your own zone. For the most part this season, the B’s are dealing with the latter.
With Dennis Seidenberg out, and the failure to ever replace Johnny Boychuk or Dougie Hamilton with a top-four defenseman, expectations for Boston’s blue line this season shouldn’t be high. The Bruins are relying on the kids. And so far, the kids must be driving coach Claude Julien crazy.
The latest example came Wednesday night at TD Garden as the B’s blew a 4-2 third-period lead and lost to the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-4, in overtime.
As Patrice Bergeron said after the loss, four goals should be enough to win you a game. Well, it should, if defenseman Kevan Miller didn’t cough up a puck behind his own goal line, leading to a wide-open Claude Giroux - who cut the lead to 4-3 in the third. It gave flashbacks of Miller’s Game-6 turnover behind the net in Montreal two postseasons ago. So, some things haven’t changed.
The Flyers then turned to two snipes by Wayne Simmonds and Giroux to steal the win in Boston, which has led to a whole lot of finger-pointing from us outside of the organization.
I see much of that blame being placed on Rask, whose 4.40 goals-against average and 22 goals against ranks second-worst in the NHL for starting goaltenders. And as I previously mentioned, for that, you can’t possibly just let him off the hook.
But if you want to get crazy, let’s also point the finger at someone like fourth-liner Joonas Kemppainen, who simply got out-worked by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in front of his own net, midway through the first period against the Flyers on Wednesday.
Or let’s point out that Rask made two big saves in the opening minutes of Wednesday’s loss, after two brutal defensive breakdowns by Bruins defensemen. First, when Colin Miller turned the puck over behind his own net, leading to a clean shot from the left point. And then on the ensuing face-off, when a lazy chip out of the zone by winger Tyler Randell led to Flyers possession in the neutral zone and a pass up the middle to Chris VandeVelde, who split the seemingly snoozing Miller and Tommy Cross. Rask made the huge left-pad save.
Stops like that might be easy to forget when you lose the way the Bruins did to the Flyers. That’s somewhat understandable, because there have certainly been some shots that we all wish Rask could have stopped this season.
So again, I’m not letting him off the hook. Not for a second. But as this season plays out, don’t hide from the fact that some of these breakdowns that lead to goals are the very blueprint of failure in the NHL. I don’t care who’s between the pipes.
Rask needs to steal the Bruins some games, for sure. But right now, you’re asking him to rob a bank.
And that never ends well.