Defensive Breakdowns In Front Of Bruins’ Net Costly In Loss To Wild

RaskfrontBOSTON — The Bruins normally do a good job of clearing traffic from the front of the net and not allowing opponents to capitalize on scoring chances from the slot.

That wasn’t the case Tuesday night as the Minnesota Wild scored three goals from within 15 feet of Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask in a 4-3 win.

“The way mistakes happen for us, sometimes it’s kind of unacceptable and we really have to be better in front of our net,” Rask said.

“Way too many goals lately have been scored right there and we talked about it but it’s just not good enough right now. Forty shots, I’m not too worried about that, but just the style we give them up, it’s pretty bad sometimes.”

The breakdowns in the low slot started early. Wild winger Nino Niederreiter scored at 4:51 of the first period from five feet out after linemate Thomas Vanek stole the puck from Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski behind the net and made a centering pass.

Minnesota’s second goal was the result of several issues. Boston couldn’t get the puck of its own zone, it lost one-on-one battles along the boards, and Zach Parise — one of the NHL’s best forwards — walked between two Bruins in front of the net and connected on a nice pass from linemate Mikael Granlund.

The Wild’s third goal must have been hard to watch for the Bruins’ coaching staff. Several Boston players were just standing around while Justin Fontaine skated down the slot unimpeded and pounced on a loose puck to tie the score 3-3.

Rask gave up six goals on 28 shots from inside 15 feet for a .786 save percentage (T-19th in the league) over his first seven starts this season, and that number increased to nine goals against after Tuesday. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner led the league with an .881 save percentage on shots from one to 15 feet last season.

“I haven’t felt that it’s been unusual for us, but just I guess we haven’t come up with the puck a lot of times after those scrambles,” Rask said when asked if the amount of scrambles in front of his net is higher than normal. “Usually we do, and that just says we don’t collapse enough and protect the net. We have to find those loose pucks, but some bad bounces too which is deflating kind of from a goalie standpoint, but we definitely have to be a lot better in front of that net because it’s just unacceptable.”

How do the Bruins protect the slot and limit the opponent’s scoring chances in and around the crease? Playing with more structure would be a good start.

“Just tighten up,” Rask said. “Just tighten up and take your man in front of the net and box him out and really be a tight five-man unit and don’t let those passes go through and work hard. That’s how we’ve always been and lately it hasn’t really been that case and it’s been costing us, so that’s just it.”

Photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

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