Tuukka Rask did his part in Game 4 win for Bruins
TORONTO — Thoughts and shots from downtown T.O., where the high-skill, high-entertainment Bruins-Maple Leafs series will return for a Game 6:
■ Discussed in this space Wednesday night: how Boston’s three premier forwards rose to the challenge, and how the bottom three lines were caved in. Not discussed enough: Tuukka Rask.
On a night when the Leafs dominated possession, the Bruins netminder made 38 saves on 42 shots. His best was a left toe stop on Connor Brown, who could have cut the Bruins’ lead to one late in the second period. With Brown ready to jam home a follow-up, Rask kicked the puck out of trouble.
Earlier, he shouldered a William Nylander bid with the Bruins up, 2-0. During Toronto’s push — when Auston Matthews and Travis Dermott scored to cut Boston’s lead to 5-4 — Rask made five big saves in a 70-second span.
After the game, the first questions he was asked were about Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak.
“They want to be difference-makers,” Rask said. “Today they were.”
As was he.
Lest we forget, the Leafs are one of the better offensive teams in these playoffs — arguably the best, now that Tampa Bay is out. Rask allowing four goals hardly means he’s struggling, though he did have a few harrowing moments in the face of Toronto’s attack.
The Leafs are not, say, the Islanders. They will get their chances, whether flinging it out of their zone, flying through the neutral zone, or working it low-to-high in the Bruins’ end.
“It doesn’t matter, a win is a win in the playoffs,” Rask said. “That’s all you’ve got to worry about.
“I’ve seen enough of their games, late in the year, to know they don’t have quit in them. They’ll keep coming and coming. I was ready for that. A couple unfortunate bounces, and they made a great play on the power play, but we hung in there.”
Rask earned playoff win No. 37, passing Andy Moog (36) for second in Bruins history. Gerry Cheevers (53) holds the record. If the Bruins win the Stanley Cup this spring, Boston’s winningest regular-season goalie (265) could get to 51 playoff wins.
Since Rask made his playoff debut (2010), only two netminders with 50 or more games have a better save percentage than Rask’s .924: Braden Holtby (.928) and Henrik Lundqvist (.926).
Tim Thomas (.936 in 32 starts) is remembered as the Bruins’ hottest goalie since Cheevers, his otherworldly puck-stopping in 2011 delivering a Cup to Causeway Street.
Wherever this ride ends, Rask is doing his part. Game 4 was his best of the series. Game 5, in Boston Friday, is a chance for him to steal another one.
■ Former Bruin Marc Savard, now living outside Toronto and working for Sportsnet, is chipper these days. He’ll be at TD Garden for Game 5. There’s no better choice to be the Bruins’ “banner captain” than Savard, whose brilliant career ended far too soon. If he wasn’t asked to participate, it’s a missed opportunity.
■ The Bruins arrived in Boston around 2 a.m. Thursday and had the day off from practice. Sean Kuraly will be a game-time decision for Game 5, according to coach Bruce Cassidy. Kuraly would be a major boost to the bottom half of the forward lineup, likely skating the left wing spot on the fourth line with Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner.
That unit hasn’t been its typical grinding, puck-possessing self, and it seems likely that neither Acciari nor Wagner is 100 percent. Wagner, who was kept out of the lineup down the stretch with a lower-body injury, and Acciari were among the two most physical Bruins in Game 2. Wonder how much of a toll that took.
Adding Kuraly, who had hand surgery March 22, would at minimum add a fresh set of powerful legs. Kuraly is one of the Bruins’ biggest, strongest, and fastest forwards. He and Charlie Coyle have the energy to transport pucks out of the defensive zone, and make it tough for Toronto to get it back at the other end.
■ David Backes, who could be a candidate to get a rest day if Kuraly returns, nearly scored on a breakaway set up by Joakim Nordstrom. Other than that, he wasn’t very noticeable in 12:29 of ice time.
■ Good stat for Acciari, on a night the fourth line got it handed to them: He went 7 of 10 at the dot.
■ Jake DeBrusk was on the ice for two goals against and ceded his spot on the first power-play unit to Marcus Johansson. He has yet to score in this series, but Cassidy feels the same way about him as he did David Pastrnak, before No. 88’s pair of goals in Game 4: He doesn’t want DeBrusk to get down on himself. He believes he’ll be fine.
■ Bergeron (assist, three shots) played 14:37, finishing third among Bruins centers. Coyle (18:57) and David Krejci (17:46) had greater workloads. The reason for that, at present, is unclear. Bergeron has a well-documented history of playing through injuries.
■ Hard-luck Kevan Miller, whose knee injury has kept him out of the playoffs to this point, is still unavailable. John Moore, who played a team-low 11:36 in his Bruins playoff debut Wednesday, will have to get his legs under him. He was on the ice for two goals against. He was directly involved in Zach Hyman’s tip-in, when he hacked and whacked Hyman in front but didn’t tie up his stick.
■ Cassidy, 53, has come a long way from the 38-year-old who had trouble communicating with a veteran, Jaromir Jagr-led Capitals roster. He’s still trying to build his playoff legacy. Wednesday’s win boosted his postseason record to 11-17. Fun fact: His first two wins, with the Capitals in 2003, came against John Tortorella’s Lightning. Next round will either be Cassidy or Mike Babcock vs. Torts’s Blue Jackets.
■ Coyle (2-1—3 in four games) is feeling it this series. His strong puck movement set up the game’s first goal (from Charlie McAvoy, who had his best offensive game Wednesday, his vision and mobility on full display). Coyle also forced Toronto goalie Freddy Andersen to make a killer glove save off a spinning dish from Johansson.
Like Johansson — who may have played his best game as a Bruin Wednesday — Cassidy didn’t know much about Coyle’s game when he arrived here at the trade deadline. He was encouraged by the intel he got.
“I was told by reliable sources he was very good in the playoffs for Minnesota,” Cassidy said. “He could be a guy who elevates at this time of year.”