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Rask looking forward to next year. Will it be in Boston? 05.26.09 at 9:46 am ET
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It should be Tuukka Time in Boston next season now that Rask's AHL season is over

It should be Tuukka Time in Boston next season

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.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Mikko Lehtonen, Tuukka Rask,
Chiarelli named NHL Executive of the Year by Sporting News 05.20.09 at 9:21 am ET
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Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli, the architect of a Boston team that went barely squeaking into the playoffs in 2007-08 to an Eastern Conference-best 116 this season, has been named Sporting News’ Executive of the Year by his NHL peers, a panel of 39 coaches and executives.

Chiarelli, when asked for the moves he made that had the biggest impact on the team, cited the signing of underachieving Montreal forward Michael Ryder as one.

“I know it was a criticized move at the time,” Chiarelli said. “We put a lot of thought into it from the perspective that it was a guy who I had seen for many years in the Northeast Division. He was a guy who had a long relationship with our coach, and he was the type of player we were looking for.”

Ryder scored 27 goals and was a plus-28 for the Bruins. The entire NHL awards package will appear in the new Sporting News Magazine, which will be available at all Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets later this week.

The Bruins have several candidates for awards and trophies being handed out at the NHL Awards Show at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on June 18.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Michael Ryder, Peter Chiarelli,
Putting the ‘B’ back in the Bruins 05.18.09 at 6:14 pm ET
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For all the accomplishments the Boston Bruins achieved this past season, the biggest may reach far beyond the ice sheet at TD Banknorth Garden.

The Bruins are Boston’s darlings once again. Even with the heartbreaking end in Game 7 against Carolina, these Bruins seemed to have captured the imagination of the  blue-collar fan while casting in the average fan who heretofore has been preoccupied with the Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots.

“It was honestly one of the best (experiences),” 36-year-old defenseman Aaron Ward said on break-up Monday at the Garden. “I came in here two years ago towards the tail-end of the season and I don’t know if people even knew what the ‘B’ represented anymore. We didn’t have an identity. We didn’t have guys that you could associate with or to. You ask people who their favorite Boston Bruin was and they’d reach to yesteryear and it would be Cam Neely or Ray Bourque or Johnny Bucyk and now I think the game is revitalized.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Montreal Canadiens
Scott Walker’s wife diagnosed with cancer during playoff series 05.16.09 at 8:44 pm ET
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The Carolina Hurricanes released a sobering piece of news this morning following Scott Walker’s tumultuous series against the Boston Bruins that saw the scrappy Canes forward sucker-punch Aaron Ward in Game 5 and then pot the OT game-winner in Game 7. Walker’s wife, Julie, has cervical cancer, but the disease is treatable and she is expected to make a full recovery. Walker learned of his wife’s diagnosis during the seven-game series against the Bruins.

“My wife is an amazing person and we are looking forward to a positive outcome from this challenge,” said Walker on Saturday afternoon. “I will address the situation with the media, but my family would appreciate its privacy going forward.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Scott Walker,
Aaron Ward on D&C: ‘It is a complete joke’ 05.14.09 at 12:01 pm ET
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Aaron Ward went on the Dennis & Callahan Show this morning to discuss the advantage of home ice in Game 7 of the second-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Capitals’ failure to show up in Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and, of course, to discuss the punch by Scott Walker that left him with a black eye and potential for a broken bone in his face.

“It is a complete joke,” Ward said of the failure to suspend Walker. “If this happened to Sidney Crosby or someone of high value (there would have been a suspension), I’m a plumber in this whole situation, it’s easier to sweep it under the rug.”

Here are some excerpts from the interview, which can be heard by clicking here:

Q: What do you know for sure about Game 7 tonight?

A: I make it a practice to never notify the media that I listen to them so I was listening to you guys on the way in and you guys had some interesting theories.

It’s imperative that you get home ice and you keep home ice throughout the playoffs because you always need that added ingredient to your confidence and psyche. You’re more composed, you feel as if you have the masses behind you and for some reason, it adds to your confidence on the ice. I can’t explain why but it’s just a fact of life, as an athlete, when you have a rowdy crowd, it can be uplifting for your team.

Q: Can the “us against the world” idea work for a team?

A: I honestly think at this stage in the playoffs, the game is played out there and the crowd has an effect on the game. That’s pretty good in the first round but come the second round, I’m not so sure that works anymore.

Q: How’s the shiner looking this morning?

A: I’ve got one. It’s not looking too bad. He got the outside of my eye. Seems like it’s fine right now. If I start putting makeup on the ice, we’ve got bigger issues.

Q: Is there any fracture there?

A: In the playoffs, we aren’t allowed to reveal what is going on so I’ll tell you what I have is a lower body injury.

Q: Did you consider wearing a visor?

A: Back in 1993 I took it off when I was in college and I vowed I would never wear it again. I wore it for two months but I can’t stand it. It’s just the way you’ve been and you’re not willing to change.

Q: To what extent will injuries affect you guys?

A: I think it goes with the game; it’s a badge of honor. You expect to get injured. If you’re not getting injured in a distorted way it means you’re not getting into the corners and getting dirty. That’s more or less the mantra of this team. Zdeno, just by nature. He’s not a guy who shies away from contact. He’s naturally going to have it happen. It’s a war of attrition out there with us and that’s where your medical staff comes into play.

Q: Was going up 2-0 in Game 6 both a blessing and a curse?

A: For us, getting up 2-0, it quelled the crowd. They’re now sitting down. But on the other hand, it’s tough as a road team to go into an opponent’s building and not sit back and protect. Something about it is human nature to try and sit back and protect and I don’t know why it is. You have to fight it. Shift by shift on the bench, players talking to each other insuring that something’s got to change. If someone told me I was going to have a 2-0 lead in Carolina, I would’ve taken the drink out of his hand.

Q: Any reasonable explanation as to why Walker did not get suspended?

A: Have I gotten reasonable explanation? No. My inkling is that sometimes it’s out of convenience, fellas. If you don’t want to do anything about it, then you can find a reasonable explanation and just accept it. I try not to be sour grapes. My biggest retribution of this whole situation is to shake someone’s hand and tell them, “Have a good summer.” I would love to shake hands and know that I’m going to go on and play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the near future. We were able to exercise the way we wanted to play in that game and it was frustrating for them.

Q: He implied in his statement that there was some exchange between you two.

A: It was kind of an intimidating experience to stand there in front of 70 media members and tell them that it’s a joke. I called the media sheep because if you can look at that video and see anything that I said, the only thing I did with Walker was to brush off his punch with my left arm. How I became the instigator or the symbolic idiot in this situation baffles me. I represent everything that has gone wrong in this series for the ‘Canes. We’re a pretty gritty team. It is a complete joke.

I said nothing, he knows I said nothing, management knows I said nothing. If this happened to Sidney Crosby or someone of high value, I’m a plumber in this whole situation, it’s easier to sweep it under the rug.

Q: Blowout or close game tonight?

A: My Game 7 experiences usually get out of hand. I think someone forgot to tell Washington yesterday that the game was going on. Ovechkin was baffled and that guy can only carry the team so far.

Q: What went wrong in the second and third game for you guys?

A: It’s the playoffs. Nothing went wrong. It’s the playoffs. That’s why they make it a seven-game series. It is truly a war of wits amongst the coaches, players playing the system properly, we couldn’t find our momentum and now we’ve found it.

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, Scott Walker,
Wheeler is the scratch for the Bruins again in Game 6 05.12.09 at 7:00 pm ET
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RALEIGH, N.C. — For the second straight game rookie winger Blake Wheeler is the scratch for the Boston Bruins — along with Andrew Ference and Matt Hunwick — and Byron Bitz is again in the lineup and skating with David Krejci and Michael Ryder.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, Byron Bitz,
Bruins need speed burners for Game 6 05.11.09 at 6:14 pm ET
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WILMINGTON -With so much focus on the intensity and nastiness that has been cranked up as the result of Game 5 between the Bruins and Hurricanes, one small detail is getting overshadowed.

The Bruins finally found a way on Sunday to contain the speed of Carolina’s attack. Their reward was a plane flight Monday afternoon bound for Raleigh, where they play Game 6 on Tuesday night.

Duplicate Sunday’s effort on Tuesday and the Bruins will bring the series to a Game 7 back in Boston on Thursday night.

“I think our backs are still against the wall,” Milan Lucic said on Monday at the team’s practice facility at Ristuccia Arena. “They’re still up 3-2 going into their barn. There’s pressure in every game of the playoffs, it doesn’t matter what side of the fence you’re on. We’re the ones with our backs against it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton
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