Red Wings look to finally win in Boston
BOSTON — So often in the NHL, it comes down to goaltending.
Especially when your defense is banged up and missing so many key parts.
The Boston Bruins, hampered by a lengthy injury list on defense (as many as six at one time), are getting outstanding goaltending from Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask as they head into Saturday night’s home game against the Detroit Red Wings.
It is already the third meeting of the season between the Original Six foes and the Wings come in trying to end an 11-game TD Garden losing streak.
Asked after Thursday night’s 2-1 shootout victory over the New York Islanders about his team’s emphasis on defense, coach Bruce Cassidy said, “I think they’re working hard as a group, but at the end of the day, we have to give credit where it’s due and that’s the goaltending.
“It’s been rock-solid for us, and I think they understand as much as anything that listen, we’re having trouble scoring goals. If we want to win games, we have to be dialed in and can’t really afford to have a night off until we get our offense going. I guess it’s spread around.”
The Bruins (14-7-4) are 4-2-2 since Rask returned from his three-day personal-issue absence. They have allowed 19 goals in the eight games, but six of those came in the first of those games — and they have yielded 12 goals in seven games since.
“It’s been tight games, I don’t know, the past five or six of them, but it builds character,” said Rask, who was outstanding Thursday and added, “and it’s good that we’ve been able to grind those games out and come out on top for the most part. You’ve got to learn to win every different kind of way, and it’s just kind of part of the process.”
The Red Wings opened the season by going 0-5-2, then went 10-3-1, lost three straight and ended that streak with a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues Wednesday night. They blew a 3-0 lead in that game but won it on Tyler Bertuzzi’s second goal of the game, with 6:53 left.
Bertuzzi was the hero on his bobblehead night.
“He goes to the hard areas. He wins all the little stick battles,” said teammate Niklas Kronwall. “He doesn’t lose a lot of 50-50 battles on any given night. It’s nice to see him get rewarded. He always goes to the dirty areas. It’s great to see him get rewarded. There’s definitely more in there than we’ve seen so far. It’s great to see him get a couple tonight, a few big goals for us.”
The Bruins gave Detroit its fifth straight loss to start the season when David Pastrnak had a hat trick and cleared the 100-goal career mark Oct. 13. But the Wings got some revenge with a 3-2 overtime win in Detroit on Nov. 21.
If Cassidy continued his goalie rotation, it would be Halak (8-3-2, 2.06 goals against and .936 save percentage on the season), in goal Saturday. But Halak is just 7-6-2 with 3.51/.878 numbers lifetime against Detroit, so Rask gets his second straight start for the first time since Oct. 13 and 17.
Rask, who appears to have cleared himself of his early season woes, is 13-5-3 with 2.57/.905 in the regular season against the Wings. He also went 4-1 against them in a 2014 playoff series, allowing six goals in five games. Rask was in goal for his team taking three of a possible four points from Detroit this season.
Jimmy Howard, whose name has popped up in trade rumors, has been alternating with Jonathan Bernier and was the winner against St. Louis. Neither has a winning career record against Boston, but Howard’s 2.52 goals against is much better than Bernier’s 3.74. Howard is 6-6-3, Bernier 5-6-0.
The Bruins expect to get Brandon Carlo (shoulder, eight games) back Saturday, shoring up a defense that changes by the game (Charlie McAvoy, out with a concussion, is also close). Wings d-man Trevor Daley suffered a lower body injury Wednesday night and is expected to miss both games this weekend — the Wings hosting the Colorado Avalanche Sunday.
David Krejci, who lost a tooth in Thursday night’s game — former teammate Johnny Boychuk returned one to him on the bench — was missing from practice Friday. He was apparently at the dentist.
“I love Johnny. He’s a good guy. But that’s just weird,” Cassidy said.
Ryan Donato, recalled from Providence for that game, had the shootout winning for the Bruins.