Rask looking forward to next year. Will it be in Boston?
|05.26.09 at 9:46 am ET|
PROVIDENCE, RI — The Bruins organization’s 2008-09 season full of promise and wonder came to an official close yesterday afternoon when the Providence Bruins dropped a 5-2 decision in Game 5 to Chris Bourque and the Hershey Bears at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.
The P-Bruins seemed to have some of the same defenseman problems that plagued Boston in the playoffs beyond steady blueliners Johnny Boychuk and Jeff Penner, and it was a pretty one-sided affair despite Providence still hanging around in the third period thanks to some superior goaltending from Tuukka Rask (33 saves).
One other observation about the P-Bruins: 22-year-old Mikko Lehtonen is going to be a pretty good player in the NHL someday soon. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound forward was a big nuisance in front of the net during the game, squeezed off four shots and scored a goal on an NHL-level top shelf wrister from the left faceoff circle when the game was still in question in the third period. Lehtonen was part of a group of promising young Providence players that will be heard from when Boston Bruins training camp rolls around next fall.
In the meantime, Lehtonen — and perhaps Rask if he can be pried out of Finland – will be a part of Boston’s annual rookie development camp this July at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.
“You’ve got to look at it starting with Tuukka. He’s come a long way in a year. He was very good last year and I think he’s only gotten better and he’s matured a lot this year. I think Brad Marchand got better,” said P-Bruins coach Bryan Murray. “I think Mikko Lehtonen probably was under the radar, but had a fantastic season. Jeff Penner, you almost forget he’s a first-year player because of the way he played as a rookie. I could go on and on.
“That says a lot for our future development here in Providence and with the Boston Bruins,” added Murray.
The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder was pretty peeved after the game — a great sign for a Finnish goaltending product, as sometimes it’s difficult to find a pulse on many of the European netminders — and didn’t seem to want to elaborate much on his plans for the offseason.
The hockey season started on a sour note when Rask didn’t make the big club out of training camp – a virtual certainty given Rask’s cap hit north of $3 million for this season — and the ending wasn’t much better when he allowed a pair of third period goals en route to a 5-2 defeat.
Rask finished 33-20-4 in 57 games for Providence this season with four shutouts and a .915 save percentage and a 2.50 goals against average, and the 22-year-old bumped that up to a .930 save percentage and a 2.21 GAA during the Calder Cup playoffs. The young goalie was pleased with his final year of minor league hockey seasoning, and will be readying himself for a Spoked B Boston sweater next season.
“I think I really stepped up enough from last year; I’m better and more consistent,” said Rask. “Overall I’m happy with what I did this year and I want to keep growing next year. Obviously when you feel like you’ve had a great camp and expect to stay there — and then you get sent down (to Providence) — it’s frustrating. But you need to keep battling and bounce back.
“You can’t just stay in and be sad every day. It’s your job and you’ve got to work hard. It took a few weeks to get over it, but after all of that it was a great season.”
Does he feel like he’s ready to take on the role as backup to Tim Thomas next season in the NHL?
“Why not?” said Rask, who said he’s still focused on gaining size and muscle headed into next season. “I played in a couple of games there and I don’t feel like I sucked. So why not? I’m going to take a couple of weeks off (in Finland) and let my body recover from all of the games that I played. I’m really looking forward to next year.”
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