The unvarnished truth is that the 2014-15 Bruins are basically locked into either the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference or they’ll miss the postseason entirely. Boston (29-22-9) has lost seven of its last eight games after they returned home with a 2-1 loss to Vancouver (35-22-3). Seventh-place Washington has nine more points than them (76) while Florida is two points behind the Bruins and Philadelphia is four points back. On a team full of underachieving players, goaltender Tuukka Rask (24-16-9, .919 save percentage, 2.37 goals against average, 2 shutouts) will not repeat as the Vezina Trophy winner but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he personally is having a poor season.
The difference between Sunday’s shocking 6-2 win in Chicago and the loss to the Canucks was a perfect juxtaposition of the up-and-down nature of this edition of the Bruins. There is no consistency in their game and just when you think they are done, they pull that Blackhawks out of nowhere or they flop the next time out against a team that just lost it’s top goaltender and playing its fourth game in six nights on the road. “You can never accept losing,” noted Rask on Tuesday after he made 26 saves but still lost to the Canucks. “Against Chicago and Vancouver, our game is going in the right direction. We looked good and we controlled the puck, I guess that we used up all our goals vs. Blackhawks.”
Boston’s lack of a legitimate backup goaltender has been an underrated aspect of their undoing so far this campaign. Niklas Svedberg last started on February 10 vs. Dallas and he was pulled after one ugly period where he allowed three goals. Malcolm Subban is supposed to be one of the Bruins’ top prospects but his performance in last Friday’s 5-1 loss at St. Louis (3 soft goals in basically half a game) was pitiful. Svedberg is back in Boston after a short stint in Providence to get his confidence back while Subban was sent there following his disastrous debut. All this means that Rask has now played in a mind-numbing 18 straight games (16 starts) and 27 out of the last 28. Goaltender pads are better than ever and rules in the NHL cater to a more low-scoring game but nobody can withstand that type of insane workload without some signs of fatigue-both mental and physical.
So far, Rask hasn’t complained at least publicly about this unreasonable workload. “I don’t feel that bad, the point hasn’t come yet to ask out of a game (that he would have started).” He won’t make excuses about injuries to his defensemen (Zdeno Chara, Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller), unexpected trades (Johnny Boychuk) or poor performance (Dennis Seidenberg) but I believe that Rask should get a mulligan on this frustrating season for the B’s.