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Bruins Focus on Full 60-Minute Effort as Another Road Trip Begins

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTONTuukka Rask has been here before. There have been times in his life where his numbers have not quite been where he wants them to be.

“I’m sure when I was seven and eight years old, I probably let in five goals every game,” he said with a wry grin. “But not in a while.”

Rask is not worried about how his 2015-16 season will play out. He knows he will be better as the season progresses. He knows his team will be better, too.

He recognizes the need to shore up, but at the same time — as a recent Vezina winner and one of the top goaltenders in the world — he understands that the mistakes that were made in Wednesday night’s 5-4 overtime loss to Philadelphia can and will be corrected.

“You just try to stay positive and believe that as long as you work hard and believe in yourself and your teammates, things are going to turn around,” Rask said following Thursday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “It’s not easy, but I’ve felt good in practice. I felt good yesterday, and a couple more bounces — one more save — would have been a different game [on Wednesday]. We wouldn’t be having this talk.

“But that’s not the case, and we have to stay positive and keep working hard, and it’s going to turn around.”

After the rest of the team stretched post-practice on Thursday morning, Rask, backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson and the seven defensemen present stayed out. They huddled at center ice with the coaching staff. They had a talk.

“We just talked about clearing some things up, communicating and having our gaps and stuff like that,” Rask explained. “Nothing major. We just — goalies and defense — we work together. We’re the last line of defense, so we have to be better at cutting those goals against down, and working toward [being] better tomorrow.”

Like the rest of his teammates, Rask has spent considerable time in the video room over the last couple of weeks. He has noticed that lately, he hasn’t been as square to the puck and square to the shooter as he would like to be. It is one of the things he is working on rectifying.

But Head Coach Claude Julien is not worried about his goalie.

“We know he’s going to be a good goaltender,” Julien said. “There’s no doubt there. He is a good goaltender. Just because he has a bad stretch — I don’t know of any goaltenders who haven’t gone through that. So maybe in his case, he’s been through it before — maybe not to this extent, where we’re giving up that many goals — but he’s a good goaltender and we’ll be relying on him a lot this year.

“That’s no different than anybody else. He’ll be our goaltender that we’re going to lean on a lot down the stretch, and he’s got to work himself out of it. That’s we we’ve got a goalie coach.”

Despite Wednesday night’s results, there were positives, just as there have been positive trends in each of Boston’s games thus far this season.

One of them has been the offensive output. The Bruins have scored 15 goals in their last three games, a big plus for a team that struggled to hit the back of the net in its first few outings.

“We’re scoring a lot of goals,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “For our team, the last few years, our reputation has been [that] it’s tough to score goals, so that’s been good.

“But it’s our defensive foundation that we’re trying to get back to, and being stingy, and not giving so many scoring chances away. If we clean those areas up, we’ll have some good hockey games.”

Another positive trend: Many of the mistakes that cropped up on Wednesday are easily correctable. They are not simply a product of having a young team with a significant number of new players. They are fixable.

“The game is just a game of mistakes,” Krug said. “It’s one team waiting to capitalize on another team’s mistakes. I think with young guys learning new systems, it’s definitely going to happen naturally, but at the same time, a lot of the mistakes that we’ve had have been easily correctable.

“So it’s just about making sure when we go into games, we can break it down into periods or shifts and make sure that we really focus on doing our job.”

Just as Rask is confident his numbers will steadily decrease as the season wears on, the Bruins are confident they will work themselves out of this difficult stretch.

They are certainly aware of the improvements that must be made — soon — but they are confident that they have what it takes to make those improvements. The first step is recognizing them; the next step is executing.

“I don’t think our confidence is shaken,” Julien said. “I think our awareness to how many goals we’re getting is important — you know, you’re second in the league in goals for, and everybody’s been whining about us scoring more — we are.

“But what we have to do is we have to find that balance between scoring a little bit more, but also remembering that we were a real good defensive team [so] that when teams don’t score on you, they get frustrated. We’ve got to find that balance between the two of them, and right now, we haven’t found that. So that’s what we’re working on: knowing when to have the offensive mind and knowing when to have the defensive mind in place when you have to defend.”

On the Road Again

The last time the Bruins headed out on the road, things went well for them. They returned to Boston with their first two wins of the season and renewed confidence.

As they set off for a Friday matchup at Barclays Center against the Islanders, there is certainly a sense that going back out on the road will resurrect those positive vibes.

“We play a really clean game on the road, and [aren’t] trying to be too cute or fancy,” Krug said. “It’s always great to get back out there. It gives us some confidence going into the next game.”

In two games last week against the Avalanche and the Coyotes, the Bruins outscored opponents 11-5. They came closer to playing a full 60 minutes. They capitalized on scoring chances and limited chances against.

That is precisely the type of game they need to get back to as they prepare for Friday’s matchup.

“The road’s always nice for the team,” said forward Jimmy Hayes, who registered a four-point night on the road against Colorado. “That’s the only guys you’re with, so it’s good bonding, and I think that’s where our team is going to continue to develop throughout the year. We’ve been successful so far on the road, and we’ve just got to continue that.”

Particularly in their first road contest in Denver, Boston was able to come out strong, establish its game early on and maintain that tenacity throughout the game. On Wednesday night against the Flyers, the Bruins did that for part of the game, but not all of it.

Playing a sound defensive game with the lead is of top of mind right now for this team.

“I think we’ve got to just continue to stick to our plan offensively,” Hayes said. “We’re getting a lot of chances and we’re capitalizing on the opportunities, but as a group, we just need to be able to play with a lead and shut down teams and make it really difficult, and not sit back on our heels — just be ready to go for a full 60 minutes.”

Beleskey Traveling

There was some good news to report following Thursday’s practice: Matt Beleskey, who sustained an undisclosed upper-body injury before Wednesday’s morning skate, will travel with the team to Brooklyn.

Beleskey was not on the ice for Thursday’s practice and was not available for Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia.

“We said [he’s] day to day,” Julien said. “Making the trip with us means that he’s heading in the right direction, here. I think we’ll know more, again, [Friday]. I’m not writing him off. We’ll see how he is, so he’s coming with us.”

Patrice Bergeron, who welcomed his first child on Wednesday, was also not on the ice for practice, nor was defenseman Tommy Cross.

Thursday’s Practice Lineup

Whites Jerseys: Loui Eriksson, David Krejci, David Pastrnak

Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand, Chris Kelly, Brett Connolly

Gray Jerseys: Jimmy Hayes, Ryan Spooner, Max Talbot

Red Jerseys: Zac Rinaldo, Joonas Kemppainen, Tyler Randell

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Colin Miller, Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman

Goalies: Rask, Gustavsson

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