If New Jersey Devils and former Boston College forward Miles Wood or any other East Division player or team think it’s going to be open season on Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask for eight games this season, they may want to think again.
“Clearly that will be talked about tomorrow; that part of it because that’s not something we want to be a trend and we have plenty of guys in our lineup that can take care of business in that regard,” Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy acknowledged after Rask came up huge in the final minutes, overtime and in the shootout for a 3-2 Bruins win.
As for Rask, when asked what he thought of the seemingly concerted effort not just by Wood but the entire Devils forward corps to get under his skin, he gave a veiled warning.
“I hope not because we’re going to play them seven more times so I don’t know,” Rask said with a sarcastic chuckle. “It seems to be what. …every single time but [Wood] does that every single game anyway because he’s so fast. So, I dunno; you gotta ask them, I doubt it. But. …I dunno. Not a fan obviously.”
Wood ran into Rask twice Thursday night, seemingly making no effort to avoid the Bruins netminder. He was called for goalie interference the first time and Bruins winger Brad Marchand made him pay with his first goal of the season on the powerplay. Wood also spent two more minutes in the sin bin for the same penalty at 11:13 of the second period and Boston Bruins winger Nick Ritchie potted his first of the season on the man advantage.
Miles Wood barreling into Tuukka Rask for the 359th time tonight: pic.twitter.com/MZBIbIzECy
— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) January 15, 2021
So the Bruins were able to make Wood and the Devils pay the price on the scoreboard twice but Cassidy knows that with another game against the Devils on Saturday, and six more regular season bouts after that, the Bruins need to not just send a message this won’t happen again but prevent it from happening. Cassidy understands that due to his blazing speed and the hard-nosed style Wood plays, there will be incidental contact involving him. But there’s a fine line forwards must play when rushing the net, and Wood crossed that line twice.
“But that’s how [Wood] plays a little bit so it’s typically him; it’s the one guy going to the net hard. I think there was one late but that was more of a breakaway, a guy chasing an angle that I think is a hockey play,” said Cassidy. “Like I said, Wood tends to go to the net hard, and first of all, we gotta get in his way, and second of all, we gotta discourage that.”
As far as Wood was concerned, like Cassidy acknowledged, that’s just the way he plays and ‘stuff happens’ as he told the media following the game.
“Yeah just self-awareness, know where you are,” Wood said. “I thought I had Grzelcyk beat there but obviously I didn’t. That was just my thought process, obviously just to cut in front of him and you know. …stuff happens. That was not my intention to take him out. That’s never my intention, but in a fast-paced game, stuff happens.”
That clearly may be true, but Rask’s teammates don’t want that stuff happening to their star goalie and their meal ticket to another shot in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy made sure to make that message clear to Wood after his first hit on Rask and fellow rearguard Kevan Miller challenged the Devils’ roadrunner to a fight more than once in the final 40 minutes but Wood did not oblige.
Another big hit from Charlie McAvoy – this time on Miles Wood. pic.twitter.com/EouIMBSTb7
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 15, 2021
When the NHL realigned their divisions for this COVID-shortened 56-game season and limited teams to divisional play, the media and fans alike got excited for the rivalries that would build from teams playing each other 8-10 times a season. Familiarity breeds contempt and it appears that by the end of the Bruins-Devils 1 PM matinee Saturday, those are sentiments these new division rivals could be feeling.