|Which Tuukka Rask will the Bruins see this season?||08.25.11 at 4:52 am ET|
With captains’ practices just two short weeks from commencing, WEEI.com will be looking at the questions facing the defending Stanley Cup champions in the 2011-12 season.
Up next is the question of what goaltender Tuukka Rask‘s season will hold. The case of Rask is an interesting one, as he was the best statistical goalie in the league in 2009-10 before watching Tim Thomas wrest the starting job away last year. There are other factors at work as well, including the offseason knee surgery he’s coming off of and the fact that he’ll be a restricted free agent at season’s end.
Speaking prior to Milan Lucic‘s Rock and Jock softball game Wednesday in Lowell, Rask discussed the arthroscopic procedure he had on his left knee. The surgery required between four and five weeks recovery time, but Rask is now feeling healthy after suffering the injury midway through last season.
Could the knee be the reason as to why Rask went from having a league-best 1.97 goals against average and .931 save percentage in 2009-10 to posting a mediocre 2.67 GAA and .918 save percentage last season? He isn’t ready to say so, as he denied feeling significant discomfort in the knee.
‘It actually happened in January, I tweaked it, but it didn’t stop me from playing or practicing,’ Rask said. ‘It was just something that we saw that was better to fix, because it would have bugged [me] in the future at some point, so it was just a minor fix-up, but the recovery was a few weeks.’
Now, whether it’s through health or increased playing time, Rask has to be hoping to post better numbers this season. There is certainly something to be said for a goaltender getting in a rhythm, and Thomas’ dominance made it nearly impossible for the Bruins to give Rask the amount of time a netminder of his caliber deserves.
If it is more time between the pipes that will lead to more 2009-10-like numbers, Rask could be in luck. Yes, Thomas is unquestionably the best goaltender in the league right now, but he is also the oldest player to win the Vezina since the adaptation of its current criteria. Rask played in only 29 games last year, good for approximately 35 percent of the regular season schedule. Assuming neither player gets injured, the Bruins could go with a closer split to give each guy a chance to take control of the job a la Thomas last season. Additionally, if the two split time a little more evenly than last season, neither goaltender would run as big a risk of getting cold.
Then there’s the matter of the guys playing in front of him. The Bruins often struggled to give him whatever the hockey equivalent of run support is (he had an 11-14-2 record), and players often lamented the way they played in front of Rask following losses. If both Rask and his teammates can pick it up in games he starts this season, he could be a richer man come next summer. The guess here is that he gets upwards of 35 starts and posts a GAA somewhere in the 2.20 range.
One thing that is safe to say about Rask is that he won’t be a poor sport if he ends up spending more time on the bench. He was among the most chipper Bruins during their Cup run, wearing Nathan Horton‘s helmet for fun and commonly being in the middle of Bruins’ on-ice celebrations after series wins. He said Wednesday that it’s the up-and-down nature of the last two seasons that have taught him to be a team guy no matter what.
‘I mean, anything can happen, right?’ Rask said of what he’s learned. ‘And you’ve just got to go day-by-day and no matter what, be a great teammate, because even if you’re playing or you’re not playing, you’ve still got to support the guys and be a part of the group, so that was the really big thing I learned the past two years.’
|Tim Thomas goes from amazing goalie to just a maze||08.25.11 at 1:28 am ET|
Bruins goalie Tim Thomas probably expected plenty of attention after winning the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe trophy and Vezina trophy in the same season, but who saw this coming? Check out this picture of the “Corn Maize” at Sherman Farm in New Hampshire. The image surfaced Wednesday night, with a stick-tap to tremendous Yahoo! Sports blogger Greg Wyshynski, who worked “corny” and “amazing” into his headline.
|Nathan Horton on health, Aaron Rome’s lack of respect and being a champion||08.24.11 at 9:18 pm ET|
LOWELL — While Milan Lucic’s Rock and Jock softball game at LeLacheur Park in Lowell drew a big crowd for both the cause and the players participating, there was no player who drew a bigger media scrum than fellow first-liner Nathan Horton. Making his first public appearance around these parts since breakup day back in June, Horton shared that he is completely ready to go after recovering from a concussion and a separated shoulder. Here are some highlights of what he had to say.
On how he’s feeling:
“I feel pretty good. I don’t have any headaches. I feel back to normal, and I’m excited to finally start playing again.”
On whether he’ll be ready for training camp in September:
“Yeah, I’ll definitely be ready. I’d be ready right now if we started.”
On whether he’s heard from Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome:
“Just through a text message I heard [from him], but I mean, if it was me, I wouldn’t be throwing a text message someone’s way, you know? I’d have a little more respect to actually make a phone call.”
On hits like the one he took in Game 3 of the Cup finals:
“There’s guys that hit out there and they hit lots, they hit hard, they hurt people and I think that they do it within the game. You just know, and I think you just have that respect factor to know when to hit people. The people that don’t understand that or don’t get it, I think that’s what you need to fix and what you need to change. There’s a difference between hitting hard and hitting dirty. That’s definitely something that shouldn’t be in the game.”
On winning the Cup:
“Even though I didn’t play in the the end, it was a lot of fun to be there and to see my teammates and just celebrate with them. It was such an amazing feeling. Like everyone says, you dream of it as a kid, and it’s just pretty special and something that a lot of people don’t get to do in their life.”
On his reaction to learning that the Stanley Cup did not arrive in Buffalo when he went to pick it up:
“Well I went to the airport to pick it up, and it just didn’t come on the plane. I had to go back for the parade, and I was late for the parade, and it was really hot that day, so I felt extra bad. I was speeding on my way home to get back, because I was late. But like I said, once I got back, everyone was awesome and it didn’t matter that I didn’t have the Cup, but luckily it did come so everyone got to see it and take pictures with it.”
On where he is in his offseason:
“I’m working out, and kind of back into my routine and just getting ready.”
On being defending champions:
“I think that’s what we want, that’s why we’re here, and it’s definitely going to be tough that we’re on top right now and it’s tough to stay there. I think very one knows that, and everyone’s prepared to play well like we did.”
|What will Tyler Seguin do in his second year?||08.24.11 at 4:29 am ET|
With captains’ practices just two short weeks from commencing, WEEI.com will be looking at the questions facing the defending Stanley Cup champions in the 2011-12 season.
This time last year, there were plenty of questions on the mind of any Bruins fan. Much like the 2003 Red Sox, the 2009-10 Bruins left a bad taste in fans’ mouths from the heartbreaking fashion in which they were eliminated the season before. As a result, the B’s went out and added a couple of big names (Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin) with the hope that the team that came so close to the conference finals the year before was just a player or two from something special.
So, with all of the anticipation for the 2010-11 campaign came plenty of questions. Would Tim Thomas bounce back from a subpar season, and would hip surgery make a difference? (That one was answered pretty quickly.) Then there was the question of whether Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler would turn in performances better than their underwhelming 2009-10 campaigns. While Wheeler wasn’t around to completely answer the question, Ryder gave as strong a “kind of” as one could by being a healthy scratch at points of a regular season that matched his 18 goals of a season prior, while also being one of the team’s playoff heroes. People wondered how Horton might go about adjusting to a hockey market, whether Claude Julien was the right coach for the team and whether Tuukka Rask could once again be the best goalie (statistically speaking) in the league.
Many of those questions were answered emphatically. Now with a Cup ring thanks largely to his decision to go with a defensive super pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, Julien not only is the right coach for the team but should be considered one of the best coaches in the league. Thomas was the best goaltender this side of any body of water, Ryder and Wheeler have moved on, and Horton played his best when it mattered most. Now that last year’s questions have been answered and captains’ practices are a short two weeks away, it’s worth taking a look at what questions surround the Bruins as they begin their title defense.
First up is a question that will likely be discussed plenty leading into the season: What will Seguin do in his second year?
There are several truths regarding Seguin. He’s the Bruins’ most talented player. He’s essentially their only hope when it comes to those pesky shootouts. He’ll always be compared to Phil Kessel. And, until he is one of the 10 best scorers in the league, people will question the reason why, and such questions will likely be accompanied by some sort of finger-pointing at the coach.
|Milan Lucic fully healed after battling injuries in playoffs||08.19.11 at 8:23 pm ET|
LOWELL — Milan Lucic was sporting a borderline foreign look as he threw out the first pitch at the Lowell Spinners’ game Friday night at LeLacheur Park. After last being spotted celebrating the Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship at the team’s parade, the barbaric beard worn by Lucic and his teammates was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Lucic had a light beard no longer than his buzz cut.
“It’s actually too long now. It needs to be shaven,” Lucic said. “There’s times when you look back and you kind of miss [the playoff beard], but it’s definitely nice to have a clean face after that run.”
Not only does Lucic have a clean face, but he has a clean bill of health, something he did not have during the playoffs. Lucic, who had developed a reputation as a big playoff performer (he has six goals in the last eight games in which the B’s could eliminate an opponent), was forced to deal with injuries throughout the team’s playoff run. Though he did not miss a game in the postseason, he dealt with a sinus infection and broken nose over the course of the playoffs, and suffered a broken toe when rookie Tyler Seguin hit him with a slapshot in practice during the Eastern Conference finals.
While Lucic’s toe injury did not require surgery, he was operated on for his broken nose, an injury that dates way back to March 4 of 2010 (the biggest break, Lucic says, came during a fight with Colton Orr). Now walking without the limp that he sported over the last two rounds of the postseason and breathing better than ever, Lucic is ready to enter his fifth NHL season without hindrance.
“It’s nice to finally be breathing out of both nostrils again, I will say that,” Lucic said. “I felt the most effects from it in the first series against Montreal this year. I had a sinus infection, and I was feeling under the weather, and that kind of sucks. It really did suck, but it’s great now, everything’s fixed now, so it’s all good.”
Things are also good for Seguin, a man whom Lucic says he harbors no hard feelings. Though Lucic didn’t enjoy the pain at the time, he said the 19-year-old redeemed himself by playing a huge role in the series in which he injured his teammate. The highlight of the playoffs for Seguin, who was playing in place of the then-concussed Patrice Bergeron, came when he had a four-point (two goals, two assits) period in the B’s 6-5 victory over the Lightning in Game 2 of the conference finals.
“I’ve got to get him back,” Lucic said with a laugh before adding, “I told him after he had that big game in Game 2 where he had two goals and two assists that I’ve forgiven him for that.”
The 23-year-old Lucic, who led the Bruins with 30 goals in the regular season, said the excitement over winning the team’s first Cup in 39 years has not subsided, and that he is still in the process of realizing what the B’s accomplished.
“I think it sinks in more as time goes on, but it’s still pretty fresh in our minds,” Lucic said. “I don’t think it will truly sink in until next season actually begins, maybe even halfway through, because then you start to realize once you get into the grind and get into things, you realize how hard it was and how hard you worked to actually win it last year and get yourself in that position. Even though it’s been two months and a bit, it’s still definitely fresh in my mind and I’m definitely enjoying it.”
There were reports prior to Lucic’s day with the trophy that he would have to celebrate in seclusion due to angry Canucks fans, but after holding a public celebration, Lucic said his day was nowhere near what some had made it out to be. Lucic, his girlfriend and his family brought the Cup to the Serbian Orthodox Church in East Vancouver before embarking on a harbor cruise with the trophy. Lucic said the day was far more happy than hostile.
“To be honest, I don’t know who wrote that article that blew that whole thing way out of proportion,” Lucic said. “I still had a public event where five or six hundred people came by and had their picture taken with the Cup, so it was a lot of fun.”
Lucic is back in Massachusetts for good and will be in attendance when captains’ practices (optional skates put on by captains) commence in early September. He said he has kept in contact with Nathan Horton and that the right wing’s “head is all good” after suffering a playoff-ending concussion in Game 3 of the finals.
|Bruins announce national TV schedule||08.18.11 at 4:02 pm ET|
The Bruins announced their national television schedule on Thursday. Unless noted as being on NBC, all games will be on Versus. Games marked “non-exclusive” will also be shown on NESN, while games marked “flex game” could become NBC games.
October 6 vs. Philadelphia, 7:00 PM
October 12 at Carolina, 7:30 PM
November 7 vs. New York Islanders, 7:00 PM (non-exclusive)
November 21 at Montreal, 7:30 PM (non-exclusive)
November 25 vs. Detroit, 1:00 PM (NBC)
January 4 at New Jersey, 7:30 PM
January 22 at Philadelphia, 3:00 PM (NBC)
February 5 at Washington, 12:30 PM
February 8 at Buffalo, 7:30 PM
February 15 at Montreal, 7:30 PM
February 19 at Minnesota, 3:00 PM (NBC)
March 4 at New York Rangers, 3:00 PM (flex game)
March 11 at Pittsburgh, 7:30 PM (flex game)
March 27 vs. Tampa Bay, 7:30 PM (non-exclusive)
April 1 at New York Rangers, 3:00 PM (flex game)
April 3 vs. Pittsburgh, 7:30 PM (non-exclusive)
April 7 vs. Buffalo, 3:00 PM (flex game)
|Roberto Luongo regrets criticizing Tim Thomas||08.18.11 at 4:10 am ET|
Roberto Luongo is used to be critiqued, but it was his criticism of another that intensified the spotlight already being shined on Vancouver goaltender in the Stanley Cup Finals. Luongo infamously said after the Canucks’ Game 5 win that he would have stopped the Maxim Lapierre goal that B’s netminder Tim Thomas allowed go give Vancouver a 1-0 win. Now, he’s saying he regrets criticizing the eventual Conn Smythe winner.
Speaking with Jean-Francois Chaumont of Radio-Canada.ca, Luongo said in French (translated by Stuart St-Amant of CanucksArmy.com) that if he could go back, he would not make the same comments about Thomas.
“Yeah, for sure,” Luongo said when asked whether he regrets his words. “If I could do it again, I wouldn’t say it. I didn’t want to create the buzz that it did. After the fifth game, I had never been so emotional and I got carried away.”
The differing styles of the technically proficient Luongo and the unorthodox Thomas made for an interesting storyline in the finals. Though Luongo was among those praising Thomas leading into the playoffs, his comments when asked about the Game 5 goal were regrettable. Thomas, whose aggressive play out of the net had yielded complaints from the Canucks for the duration of the series, was just outside of the crease as he tried to stop a shot from Kevin Bieksa at the point. When the shot missed the net wide and ricocheted off the end boards and back in front by the opposite post, Lapierre put it in before the Vezina winner could get back.
“That’s not hard if you’re playing in the paint,” Luongo said at the time. “It’s an easy save for me, but if you’re wandering out and aggressive like he does, that’s going to happen. He might make some saves that I won’t, but in cases like that we want to take advantage of bounces like that and make sure we’re in a good position to bury those.”
While media and fans were drawn to Luongo saying it would be “an easy save” for him, the Canucks goaltender took issue with the fact that his whole answer — in which he said Thomas could make saves he couldn’t — wasn’t being heard. In saying that at the airport the following day, Luongo took things a step further, adding that Thomas had not said anything nice about him despite that fact that he was “pumping his tires.” Thomas abstained from a war of words, but did say prior to Game 6 that he “didn’t realize it was my job to pump his tires.”
In the final two games of the series, Luongo allowed six goals (he was pulled after 8:35 in Game 6), while Thomas allowed two goals, including a shutout in the Cup-clinching Game 7.