|11.17.11 at 12:22 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask is among the most relaxed and courteous players you’ll find on the Bruins, so on the rare occasion that he gets upset, it’s a must-see moment.
The Finnish goaltender provided one of those moments in Wednesday’s practice, when Patrice Bergeron scored on him during a special teams drill. A suddenly furious Rask swung his stick four times over his head as he attempted to break it over the crossbar. When he had no luck doing so, he skated over to the gate, forced it open, and threw his stick off the ice.
“We were just joking around, or I was just joking around,” Rask explained to WEEI.com Thursday. “I was half-mad. It was a penalty-killing [drill], so I was just joking around, trying to break my stick. I couldn’t break it.”
Rask, who became a YouTube sensation when he threw milk crates onto the ice after a shootout in Providence back in 2009, knew his mini-meltdown would get plenty of attention. As such, he wasn’t surprised when it became the biggest story of Wednesday’s practice.
“Obviously you guys [expletive] jump on it right away,” he said with a laugh.
Coach Claude Julien said after the practice Wednesday that “Tuukka has a temper,” but that the B’s don’t mind it. In fact, Rask’s teammates have had fun on the rare occasions that the mild-mannered Rask gets frustrated. Last season, Rask stormed off the ice late in practice, with Michael Ryder firing a slapshot through the door that hit him in the rear end as he left the ice. Wednesday saw more of that, as players got a kick out of his attempt to break his stick.
“We were practicing the power play and Tuuks couldn’t stop a beach ball. He decided to take it out on his stick,” Brad Marchand said Wednesday on Mut and Merloni. “It was funny, though, because he couldn’t break it. So, he ended up getting madder and madder. He was breaking his stick over the post and it wouldn’t break. The boys just kept laughing at him. It was pretty funny.”
Rask said Thursday that he didn’t mind the laughter, and that it establishes that such tirades are nothing too serious.
“We were just [joking] around. Guys were laughing,” he said. “It was real good.”
Who knows if and Rask will lose his cool again. Whenever it is, he can bet on it being both a big deal and a good source of light-hearted amusement for his teammates.
|11.17.11 at 11:58 am ET|
The Bruins may be down a defenseman Thursday, but they might get one back quicker than they thought.
Johnny Boychuk is considered questionable for Thursday night’s game against the Blue Jackets after he missed the team’s morning skate with flu-like symptoms.
With Boychuk potentially out, Andrew Ference may make a quicker return to the lineup than initially expected. If Ference is unable to go, the Bruins would need to make a call-up in order to ice six defensemen.
“Right now [Ference] is fine, and unless that changes over the course of the next few hours, we don’t anticipate calling anybody up. He felt good this morning, and that was something that we had to look at with Johnny’s situation,” Claude Julien said. “Had he not been, we would have probably been more cautious and called somebody up.”
Forward Daniel Paille is also considered a game-time decision for Thursday night’s game. He has been practicing with the team and wearing a full cage due to the slapshot he took to the face last Monday against the Islanders.
|11.16.11 at 4:11 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins’ 3-7-0 start to the season brought many words to mind: surprising, unacceptable, even the overused “hangover.”
Based on history, what should have come to mind would be more along the lines of “screwed.”
The Bruins found themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference when they had just six points through 10 games. If Thursday’s game against the Blue Jackets were to be played two weeks ago, it would have been a matchup of cellar-dwellars. Instead, the B’s have rattled off six straight wins that’s seen balanced scoring from all four lines.
“We’re very confident in the group we have,” Shawn Thornton said Wednesday. “We dug ourselves a bit of a hole, yes, but we knew we were right there. I think the guys did a good job of just sticking with it and working through it to get to where we need to be.”
The win-streak has brought the Bruins all the way up to ninth in the conference, just one point behind the Senators for eighth with three games in hand. Year after year, good teams get off to bad starts and are never able to recover due to the difficulty of climbing the standings with three-point games. After all, over two teams in the last two years who weren’t in the top eight on Nov. 1 ended up making the playoffs.
There are two ways of looking at what the Bruins have done here. One thing to take from it is that it’s proof that moving up in this league isn’t easy. The Bruins have been hotter than any team in the league, and the fact that it hasn’t catapulted them into the top eight shows that there’s still work to be done.
“Ninth still doesn’t put us in a playoff position. Our goal is to keep climbing, and you see how tough it is. We’ve won six games in a row and we’re still not in a playoff position,” Gregory Campbell said. “It’s a feather in our cap to have done what we’ve done, but for us to have so many losses early on, we can ill afford to get comfortable and rest on our streak so far.”
After the Bruins play the Blue Jackets and Islanders on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, they will have one of their biggest two-game stretches of the young season. Monday will see them square off with the Habs in Montreal and Wednesday will take them to Buffalo. The B’s currently trail the Sabres by four points in the Northeast division. If the B’s can grab four easy points against the struggling Blue Jackets and Islanders, they could be sitting pretty to move up even further and not only vie for a top-eight spot, but for the division lead.
“We’re just trying to maintain our intensity, our solid play structurally, and continue climbing,” Campbell said. “We have two huge division games coming up next week, so in order to set ourselves up to make another jump [in the standings], we have to win these next two games.”
For the streaking Bruins, there doesn’t seem to be a hint of satisfaction. They’ve made it hard on their opponents over the last six contests, but anybody in their dressing room will tell you the goal isn’t to win six in a row. The goal to correct the bizarro standings of two weeks ago, and get their names right around the top.
“For us, we’ve been down below too long,” Claude Julien said. “It’s been a month and a half. The season’s been going, and we’re still in ninth of today, not in a playoff spot. We feel we’re a much better team than that. I think that there’s an opportunity here in this next week and a half to really, I guess, move up in the standings as long as we can continue to win games and play as well as we have.
“It’s one of those things where we don’t want to be relying on other teams to do our job. It’s up to us to continue to play well and win hockey games. I think if we can keep playing the way we have lately, this next week and a half is going to really be telling for our hockey club.”
Added Campbell: “No matter who you are or what team you are, how good you are, this league is full of good teams,” Campbell said. “Things change quickly, as you’ve seen. We have to stay focused on the task here and set ourselves up. We’re in a good spot now, but teams ahead of us keep winning. It’s up to us to do the same.”
|11.16.11 at 1:33 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — After practicing for the first time since his lower-body injury, Bruins defenseman said that he is “still day-to-day,” but the Bruins doubt he will play Thursday against the Blue Jackets.
“I don’t think we’re even at that stage yet for Andrew where it’s a game-time decision,” Claude Julien said. “I don’t even know if he’s been assessed well enough to make that comment, but maybe that will change tomorrow morning.”
Perhaps the most interesting moment of Wednesday’s practice came when an enraged Tuukka Rask banged his stick on the cross-bar four times and threw his stick through the door and off the ice following a goal from Patrice Bergeron‘s line.
“Tuukka has a temper,” Julien said. “It’s not the first time he’s exhibited that. He gets mad and he’s competitive. It’s never a bad thing as long as it’s for the right reasons.”
|11.16.11 at 11:53 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins a returned to practice in anticipation of Thursday night’s tilt with the Blue Jackets.
Andrew Ference, who suffered a lower-body injury last Thursday against the Oilers, skated with the team, marking the second straight day he’s skated and his first practice since the injury. He is considered day-to-day.
All other players were present as well, with Daniel Paille the guy to watch for a potential return to the lineup Thursday. The guess here is that they might wait another game, especially with Benoit Pouliot coming off a big night Tuesday.
|11.16.11 at 9:55 am ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning for his weekly appearance.
The Bruins defeated the Devils, 4-3, Tuesday night for their sixth straight win. It was a game that Boston had to work for all three periods to win, as opposed to the blowout victories the B’s had earlier in the winning streak.
“I think in this six-game winning streak this is the first game that when the Bruins pushed, there was a push back,” Brickley said. “Boston had to earn just about every inch of ice that they got. The good news was that Boston got better the deeper they got in that game. They had a strong third period and their will to win in the third period was clearly evident. A team that is feeling ultra-confident right now.”
The Bruins started the season 3-7, but they have drastically turned it around, winning all six games they’ve played in November. The team is averaging just under six goals per game this month. Brickley said that many people will point to the increased goal-scoring and improvement on the power play as the main factors in Boston’s winning streak, but he thinks the biggest change has come in the B’s’ own zone.
“They went back to being and reemphasizing a Bruins team that takes away the middle of the defensive zone and tries to keep everything to the perimeter to allow their goaltenders to get good looks at pucks and not allow second-chance opportunities,” Brickley said. “When they play that way, their counterattack game now really becomes more prominent.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
On Brad Marchand’s play against the Devils: “He took two offensive zone penalties, whether he agreed with the goaltender interference penalty, and then away from the puck really a meaningless roughing penalty that really served no purpose, and I know that’s part of his game. But listen, the second one’s a really bad penalty. You’re interested in winning the hockey game as well as playing to your strengths. Yeah, that was definitely a teaching moment, and I loved the fact that Claude sat him down. He got an opportunity probably to address his teammates in the locker room before the third period, saying, ‘My bad, that’s on me, I’m going to get it back.’ And to get it back the way he did on that set play right off the faceoff in the third period was a thing of beauty.”
|11.16.11 at 8:47 am ET|
The Bruins knew defending their Stanley Cup perch would be difficult.
But eventually, they also knew they would be up to the challenge.
And the challenge that came Tuesday night from a hard-working, big, strong and physical Devils squad was the toughest yet this season. At least, according to Milan Lucic.
“Yeah, definitely I have to say out of all the games so far through the season that was definitely the toughest battle that we’ve had,” Lucic said. “And we needed to dig real deep to get a win in this one and we definitely had to fight to the end. And we showed a lot of character, sticking to the game plan and finding a way. Obviously they came at us real hard and they’re a hard team to play against and we were able to find a way and get a good one here.”
The Bruins took the quick 2-1 lead six seconds into the third period, only to have the Devils come back two minutes later for the equalizer.
“This is definitely one that we had to earn and it was one that, when we get the lead they come back and score, it’s easy to get down and get discouraged,” Lucic said. “But we were able to find a way and keep pushing and keep finding a way to push for more and in that third period I think we had eighteen shots which goes to show that we really wanted to win this one.”
The Bruins have scored 34 goals in their six-game winning streak but Tuesday was the first one of the six they really had to sweat out in the end.
“I know this is one of the toughest wins that we’ve had,” Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said. “Probably the toughest win out of the six games that we’ve had. They really tested us, they really worked hard, they really played a good game. We just stayed with it, and we were the ones that had the ability to turn it on the last ten minutes, and were able to pull out the win because of that.
“We’ve had a couple of games where everything went our way, kind of easier wins, and this was a good wake up call without having to pay the price because we were able to get out of it with the win. You know, this is the way it’s going to be the majority of the time, it’s not always going to be the way it has been the last three or four games. And so it’s a good experience for our team, I think.”