|Rask gives a crystal ball glimpse into B’s future||01.31.09 at 6:15 pm ET|
The future of Bruins goaltending, thy name is Tuukka.
Tuukka Rask, all 21 years and 325 days worth of him, made 35 stressful saves in a nailbiting 1-0 win over the defense-minded New York Rangers at the TD Banknorth Garden on Saturday afternoon, and looked every bit the bright prospect that he is within Boston’s development pipeline.
“We are confident in whoever is in (net), and today it was Tuukka [Rask],” said Bruins center Marc Savard, who scored the game’s only goal on a nifty tip of a Dennis Wideman shot with only 22.7 seconds remaining in the second period. “I mean give the kid credit, he has been waiting for his opportunity and he took advantage of it tonight. He is a NHL goaltender and we all know that, and he is going to get his time. Right now he can do a good job for us.”
The victory marked Boston’s seventh straight one-goal game during the current dog days of the NHL schedule, and it also provided a shimmering glimpse at just how much potential lies within the 6-foot-2, 171-pound, still-developing body of Rask. The Finnish goalie arrived in Boston three years in a trade that shipped beleaguered goalie Andrew Raycroft to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he’s been heralded as one of the best young goalies in the world ever since.
“I’m so happy,” said Rask after his securing the third win of his wet-behind-the-ears NHL career. “Win a game one-to-nothing (on a) Saturday afternoon. What’s better than that?”
He didn’t exactly disprove that “future goalie” notion or the hype yesterday in notching his first career shutout against the Blueshirts — a nice little exclamation point to a solid emergency stretch that’s had Rask practicing with the Bruins and proving that his future as an NHLer is close. Perhaps even closer than many think. The lithe netminder was actually Boston’s best goalie during training camp and wasn’t exactly enthused when he was sent down to Providence during the fall.
But to his credit, Rask kept working and didn’t sulk and allow circumstances to dictate performance. He’s obviously still attempting to tack weight and muscle on to a frame that could clearly carry more of both, and he’s concentrated on maintaining his elite performance level in back-to-back games where stamina and strength are every bit as vital as puck-stopping skill.
While Rask went 2-1-1 with a 3.25 GAA in four appearances with the Bruins last season and clearly distinguished himself with a 30-save NHL debut in a 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs, he felt more prepared for action this season after seeing — and stopping — more shots while manning the pipes in Providence this season.
This season’s Baby B’s crew isn’t nearly as puck possession dominant as last season’s team of skaters and Rask is experiencing many more nights in the 25-30 save range — a change from having to fight off yawns while making 15-20 saves per game last season.
“This year down in Providence I get lots more shots than last year,” said Rask, who last appeared in a game for the Bruins on Dec. 6, 2007. “I mean, last year I had probably ten to 15 shots in a game and now I’ve got like 30 and it makes you feel a little bit more comfortable when you’re a little heated up and feel comfortable all the time.”
The B’s maintained their box-plus-one defensive style to a ‘T’ against the Rangers and kept nearly every attempt to the outside perimeters of the defensive zone, but the calm, collected Rask remained large in net without any wasted movement when things did get a little hairy. The Finn was at his best in the third period when he turned away 15 shots — including a deflection of a Michal Rozival shot that ticked off Rask’s stick and then bounced off the crossbar.
Rask was so locked in before the game even started that veteran Tim Thomas just left the kid alone, and didn’t offer any words of advice or encouragement — in some ways that silence was the ultimate show of respect from a been-there, done-that goaltender.
“He is such an even keeled guy that you don’t notice him if there is a little shakiness in his game (or) if he’s nervous,” said Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward. “I wouldn’t be telling you that before the game he looked anything different than he did in practice. He’s a unique individual; he’s a goalie, so there you go. That says it all. Enough said.”
The biggest question now comes with the “other goalie” Manny Fernandez and the uncertain status of his balky back. The 34-year-old veteran was able to get out on the ice and skate Saturday morning before Rask’s netminding mastery, and Claude Julien voiced hope following the game that Man-Fern will be able to go through the motions of regular practice beginning Monday. Julien has insisted all along that the Bruins held Fernandez back to allow him time to truly heal his back issue, but it remains to be seen if his lower back is a nagging malady that could linger through the season’s second half.
Has Rask’s performance assured B’s front office types that the youngster is ready to handle backup duties amidst a season with Stanley Cup aspirations? Perhaps so. The possibility remains that Fernandez could be dealt for a draft pick or a needed spare part coming down the stretch — despite the constant assurances from GM Peter Chiarelli that he’s happy with his current veteran duo — and the chances get even stronger after a game like Saturday afternoon’s Rask-authored shutout.
The defense was spectacular in front of Rask in a 60 minute hockey game filled with plenty of playoff intensity, but the goaltending prodigy stood tall amidst the pressure from both rival shooters and himself. Bruins Nation got a pretty vivid glimpse at their future between the pipes with Rask’s performance on Saturday afternoon, and the future looks pretty damn good.
|Sounds of the game… Bruins 1, Rangers 0||at 5:17 pm ET|
Aaron Ward said both teams played the game like it was the playoffs.
And head coach Claude Julien said his team got contributions all around.
The couple of hundred blueshirts (that’s New York-speak for Rangers fans) in attendance didn’t have much to cheer about all afternoon in a game that was void of much offensive action. The perfect game for Tuukka Rask to give Tim Thomas a rest between the pipes since Thomas is expect to start Sunday afternoon in Montreal.
And Rask was perfect, stopping all 35 Rangers shots to record his first career shutout.
|Bruins take 1-0 win over the Rangers||at 4:15 pm ET|
Marc Savard redirected a Dennis Wideman shot with less than a minute to go in the second period, and supplied the only score in a 1-0 win for the Bruins over the New York Rangers. Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask got the nod for the first time this season in net against the Rangers at the TD Banknorth Garden. Rask made 35 saves while impressively shutting down the Blueshirts.
The 21-year-old was 2-1-1 with a 3.25 GAA in four career NHL appearances with the Black and Gold entering this afternoon’s game. Powered by both Rask and Savard, the B’s took the 1-0 win and look to make it a weekend sweep in Montreal tomorrow afternoon. More from today’s win on Pucks with Haggs later.
|Straight through the checking glass||10.24.08 at 12:29 pm ET|
The B’s Friday morning practice was one predictably filled with skating, more skating and a big helping of sheepish regret after frittering one away against a divisional opponent the night before at the Garden. The B’s are still looking for their first win on home ice, and Claude Julien still clearly wasn’t happy with the effort against the Leafs. Friday morning the B’s whistle blower called it “by far our worst game of the season.”
It wasn’t an out-and-out punitive bag skate for the Bruins at practice with the Atlanta Thrashers on the schedule for Saturday night, but it was clear that the team was being called on to reinforce the little things: more grit and tenacity around the net and the danger areas in the offensive zone and the mental strength to stick within Julien’s defensive system when play starts to break down on the ice.
“We need to get a little hungrier,” said Julien. “I think being hungrier can get us over the hump a little. It’s not what our fans deserve, and that’s why we have to show that we have some pride and bounce back tomorrow and show [the fans] the real Boston Bruin team.”
One moment of levity during the media session following practice involved the Looch — AKA Milan Lucic — recounting how he basically threw a Toronto Maple Leafs player through the glass boards and shattered a 1/2 inch thick pane of glass on the side wall. Lucic said that he thinks that the hit was aided by both his and Mike Van Ryn’s sticks hitting the top of the glass-like material, where the acrylic sheet is most vulnerable.
“It felt cool. I heard a couple of people went to the hospital and got stitches and stuff, and that kinda sucks that it happened like that. If you look at it, the way somebody explained it to me, it’s the top of the glass that’s very vulnerable. If you see the hit, when it happens our sticks hit the top of the glass and then I hit him. So just hitting the top of the glass put so much pressure and helped make it shatter. The sticks hitting the top of the glass triggered the whole thing and the glass breaking.”
Doesn’t that take away some of the sheer awesome power of the hit and growing mythology of the fire-breathing Looch lurking in Boston?
“Well, there still had to be a lot of power. Obviously now I know how to do it. It was a hard hit and it felt cool, that’s for sure,” said Lucic. “I received a lot of text messages and they were all like ‘holy smokes’ and one guy asked me if I worked out enough this summer. It was on TSN in Canada and all kinds of people told me they saw it.”
The hit reminded Marc Savard a bit of the plate of glass that landed on Janet Gretzky and knocked The Great One’s wife out cold after mustache-twirling Bruins villian Ulf Samuelsson crashed into the boards with similar force during a New York Rangers game. Savard was a member of the Rangers at the time and remembered the scary incident pretty vividly.
“Yeah, I had seen that when a guy got hit into the boards and the glass popped out and hit Janet right in the forehead,” said Saved. “She was bleeding out of the mouth. It was a scary sight, and just Thank God that nobody got seriously injured. It’s a part of the game. [Looch] is a big boy and anytime he hits you, you feel it. A lot of people felt that one.
“It really put a stall in the game. It was a good hit, but we didn’t really muster much after that. Saturday [against the Thrashers] gives a good chance to redeem that.”
Here’s the Samuelsson hit that knocked out the glass boards and subsequently injured The Great One’s wife back in the late 1990’s, courtesy of the all-knowing and all-powerful youtube: