Commentary

Rask suffers sins of Bruins' bad D

Updated: June 20, 2013, 3:47 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- With the way Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has played throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs, the idea he would at some point allow six goals in a game was nearly unfathomable.

Prior to the Chicago Blackhawks' 6-5 overtime win over the Bruins in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday night at TD Garden, the most goals Rask had allowed in a game this postseason was four. The last time that happened was in Game 4 of the conference semifinals against the New York Rangers.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Toews
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsJonathan Toews was the second of six Blackhawks to score on Tuukka Rask.

Pucks were finding the net from all directions Wednesday night at both ends of the rink. There were defensive breakdowns from both teams, but it was an especially uncharacteristic effort from the Bruins, who had been playing so consistently for the majority of the postseason.

The loss evened the series at two games apiece with Game 5 Saturday in Chicago. In the Boston locker room, no one was blaming Rask.

"I don't evaluate the players publicly here," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "I look at our whole team and tell you our whole team was average tonight. You can take what you want from that. We can be a lot better. We have an opportunity to be better next game. Hopefully, if anything that makes us even hungrier for the next game."

Unlike the first three games of this series, the Bruins didn't block shots. From what Rask was seeing from behind his mask, the Blackhawks found ways to get shots through and jumped on their second opportunities. All those rebounds ultimately hurt Boston's chances.

"You let six goals in as a goalie, you can't be satisfied, but as a team I thought it wasn't our best defensive game," Rask said.

When Brent Seabrook's game-winning goal went in at 9:51 of overtime, Rask didn't see the shot from the right point.

"I saw it at the last second," the goalie said. "There was some traffic in front, just couldn't stretch."

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The Bruins allowed too many odd-man rushes and Rask couldn't find the rhythm he's been able to maintain through the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"Every game is different," he said. "Sometimes you feel more comfortable than the other nights. We had a lot of breakdowns and they got two-on-ones, breakaways, stuff like that. It's just a battle out there. Sometimes you just feel more comfortable than the others."

The Blackhawks were able to create traffic in front of Rask, and when he did make a save, Chicago pounced all over the rebounds for quality scoring chances. Entering Game 4, Rask had allowed eight rebound goals on 652 shots faced (1.2 percent) during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But on Tuesday night, Rask allowed three rebound goals on 47 shots (6.4 percent). Furthermore, Rask allowed rebounds on 75.6 percent of the shots he faced in Game 4, compared to 53.4 percent during the first three games of the series.

Another issue for the Bruins was Chicago's ability in transition to pick up speed and converge on Boston's defense deep in the zone.

"There were too many breakdowns on our side," said Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. "If there's one positive we can take out of this game is we kept going, and kept scoring.

"They got guys in front of him and shots and they picked up a couple of rebounds and put them in. They did a good job at fronting, working in front of Tuukka.

"And we didn't do a good enough job being in front of him and keeping them from getting in front of him. It wasn't very well done by us."

When a total of 11 goals are scored between the teams, no doubt some of those are the end result of crazy bounces, which there were plenty of those at both ends of the ice, and each team capitalized on those chances. Too many times, however, Rask was left with no help and there were too many white sweaters blinding his sight.

"We could have helped him a little bit more," said Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk, whose sixth goal of the playoffs tied the game at 5-5 at 12:14 of the third period. "You can't be looking back at it right now, so we'll go over video and see what we could've done and bring it into next game. We know he's going to be phenomenal, he always has been and he will continue to be phenomenal. He gives us a chance to win every night and I'm glad to have him back there.

"We have to clean up our own end and limit the turnovers, play our kind of game and when we do that it's usually comes out in a positive way. They do have a lot of speed and when we turn pucks over and give them that opportunity they take advantage of it."

The poor start, similar to the first period of Game 2, really hurt the Bruins and despite their ability to keep coming back, in the end there were too many defensive breakdowns that limited Boston's chance to win Game 4.

"At the end of the day, we have to be sharper and avoid those mistakes," Seidenberg said.

Rask agreed.

If you look at the goals, it wasn't out best defensive game," he said. "That's something we've got to be better at."

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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