RALEIGH, N.C. — Tuukka Rask stops the puck well enough to be one of the league’s better netminders.
Handling the puck, as his coach noted after a 5-3 loss to the Hurricanes, is not his forte.
Rask’s miscues directly led to one goal, and Bruce Cassidy said Boston’s lack of execution on breakouts behind the goal line in Sunday’s setback stemmed in part from “very poor” care of the biscuit by Rask, who allowed five goals on 37 shots.
Asked if Rask gets out over his skis sometimes with the puck on his stick, Cassidy was matter of fact, but blunt in his assessment.
“It’s not his strength, per se, and it’s not something, I don’t think, he puts a lot of time into to correct sometimes,” Cassidy said. “It is what it is. You reap what you sow, right?”
“He concentrates first and foremost on stopping the puck, his technique,” Cassidy said. “He’s never been a guy that’s, I don’t know what word to use, a big . . . some goalies really enjoy playing the puck. I’m not sure he enjoys it, let’s put it that way.”
Rask wasn’t having much fun when his giveaway at his empty post led to a Teuvo Teravainen gift goal in the third period, when Boston was trying to overcome a 4-3 deficit.
Rask wouldn’t say how much time be devotes to stickhandling, in the offseason or otherwise.
“I try to stop it behind the net, or whenever I have a chance, and I try to make the right play,” Rask said. “In that case I didn’t. Made a couple bad backhand passes. Then made plenty of good ones today. So, yeah. Shooting for perfection.”
Rask is not the stickhandling successor to Ron Hextall, Martin Brodeur, or Mike Smith.
“But it’s part of the job requirement, and you have to be sharper than he was today, it’s that simple,” Cassidy said. “I’m sure he will be the next time he’s in there.”
Rask, now 2-4 in his last six starts, had not played since allowing three goals on 26 shots against Buffalo on Dec. 16. Jaroslav Halak won the Bruins’ next three, saving 74 of 77 shots. Before puck drop Sunday, Cassidy gave two reasons why he went with Halak for three in a row: Rask had an upper body injury — he was healthy Sunday — and “Jaro got a shutout [at Montreal Dec. 17], so we kept going with him.”
The Hartford homage brought fond memories for two former Bruins, though they understood the bitter feelings of others.
The halls of red-heavy PNC Arena were decked in green graphics, and the Hurricanes wore the all-green uniforms of their 1980s predecessors, a night promoted as a celebration of the franchise’s history. The 1997 move from Connecticut to Carolina still stings some up north.
“I’m glad they’re honoring them,” said Bob Beers, the Bruins radio analyst on 98.5 The Sports Hub. “But I can see the other side. Maybe do a game up there to honor them. . . . I think they’re trying to do the right thing. I think it’s fine. But I can see how people in Connecticut would be upset.”
Seeing the Whalers logo brings a smile to face of Beers, who scored his first career goal against the franchise.
Down, 2-1, in an 1990 Adams Division semifinal, and down, 5-2, in the third period of Game 4, the Bruins scored four goals in the third to win, 6-5, in regulation. Beers, 22 and fresh out of the University of Maine, was playing in his second career game. He made it 5-4 when he took a pass from Craig Janney and beat Peter Sidorkiewicz in tight.
“My friends took a picture and sent it to me. It was way different back then, right?” Beers said. “They were taping the game, and they stopped the TV at the moment where I’m like . . . he said, raising his arms and mocking a scream, “I mean, emotional.”
NESN color man Andy Brickley reminisced about his teenage years, traveling from Melrose to watch the WHA’s New England Whalers (1972-79). “It was exciting,” he said. “It was accessible. The Bruins were a higher-priced ticket.” Brickley also scored his first goal as a Bruin against Hartford in 1988. He arrived with the Bruins in the waiver draft — New Jersey didn’t protect him — and wasn’t expected to play in the early going. Bobby Joyce got hurt, putting him into the lineup.
“I have video of it,” Brickley said. “Nice cycle play out of the corner. I one-timed it past [Mike] Liut. Nice.”
Like Beers, he noticed his former Bruins teammate (and longtime Whaler/Hurricane) Glen Wesley writing on social media before the game that, “The Whalers jersey belongs in Hartford, not Carolina,” and calling for a Carolina-Boston or Carolina-New York Rangers game in Connecticut. Carolina owner Tom Dundon, without naming Wesley, tweeted afterward that he hoped “fans everywhere” can enjoy the retro night.
“Celebrate the history, that’s what I say,” Brickley said. “I hope it’s a spectacle.”
Full squad in sight
The Bruins will hit the ice Thursday, following a three-day holiday break, and face the Devils at TD Garden. Cassidy said Jake Debrusk, Zdeno Chara, and Kevan Miller could be in the lineup. That means Boston could have a full squad for the first time since October. DeBrusk, in recovery from a concussion, missed his ninth game in a row Sunday. Cassidy said doctors did not clear the second-year winger, but a few extra days of a break is good timing. “I suspect he’ll play [Thursday],” Cassidy said, “but we’ll see.” Chara (out since Nov. 14 with a left MCL injury) is “close,” Cassidy said, but the fact the B’s will not practice before Thursday’s game — and he won’t get to test his wrenched knee once more before a game — makes him something less than probable. Miller, out since Nov. 26 with a fractured larynx, “should play,” Cassidy said . . . The NHL fined Nashville’s Ryan Hartman $1,000 for his post-whistle spear on Chris Wagner in Saturday’s game.
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter @mattyports.