|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.
|Chiarelli: Kessel a “good bet” to play tomorrow night||01.28.09 at 4:50 pm ET|
Bruins General Peter Chiarelli confirmed to WEEI.com this afternoon what winger Phil Kessel and coach Claude Julien both alluded to after Bruins practice this morning: Kessel is likely to make his return to the B’s lineup tomorrow night against the New Jersey Devils at the TD Banknorth Garden. Kessel has been out since Jan. 10 with a case of mono, but was cleared by team doctors yesterday to play in game action.
“I’m hoping. I think there’s a good bet that he’s going to play,” said Chiarelli. “It may be a game time decision, but I’m hoping that he’ll play.”
|Boy Goalie from Southie called up to B’s||01.12.09 at 7:29 am ET|
Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has recalled goaltender Kevin Regan from the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League) on an emergency basis. Regan will join the club today and practice with the team at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington at 10:30 a.m. in place of injured goaltender Manny Fernandez.
Fernandez appears to be out for today’s practice with what coach Claude Julien termed a “minor thing”.
Regan, a South Boston native, has appeared in 14 games this season for Providence and posted a 6-4-1 record with a 3.33 Goals Against Average and .875 save percentage. Regan played four years at the University of New Hampshire from 2004-2008, finishing as the Wildcats’ all-time leader in wins and the only goaltender in school history to record back-to-back 20 win seasons. His 2007-2008 honors included a unanimous selection as Hockey East Player of the Year, finalist for the Hobey Baker Award for the nation’s top collegiate player, First Team All-American, Fist Team All-Hockey East and the Walter Brown Award as the top American-born player in New England.
He made his professional debut lat year with the Providence Bruins at the conclusion of his college season and earned a 3-0 shutout on April 12, 2008 against Manchester.
The 24-year-old Regan was drafted by the Bruins in the ninth round (277th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
The Bruins conclude their six game homestand Tuesday night, January 13, against the Montreal Canadiens at 7:00 p.m. ET.
|Bitz, Karsums called up from Providence||01.10.09 at 7:53 am ET|
Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has recalled forwards Byron Bitz and Martins Karsums from the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League). Bitz gives the Bruins a skilled big body that can replicate a little bit of the unique size/skill set that Milan Lucic brought to the table before his injury (which will keep him out again today) and Karsums is once again called up to Boston in the never-ending carousel from Providence.
Yesterday morning Chiarelli voiced a preference to find in-house solutions capable of dealing with the potential loss of Marco Sturm for the season and Patrice Bergeron for an extended period of time, and the 22-year-old Karsums would seem to be getting his chance. Expect this to be a longer stint than the one-and-done experience earlier this season for Karsums, but Bitz is headed back for the Baby B’s once Lucic is healthy enough for a return.
Don’t discount the chance that the B’s could make a move outside the organization (trade, free agent signing etc.) if they don’t find another reliable scoring option with both Sturm and Bergeron out for the near future.
They will join the team today and be available for this afternoon’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Bitz has registered three goals and seven assists in 37 games for Providence this year. The 24-year-old scored 13 goals and made 14 assists in 61 games with the Providence Bruins last year. Before joining the P-Bruins in 2007, Bitz played four seasons at Cornell University with 28-60=88 totals and 155 penalty minutes in 124 career games.
The 6’5″, 215-pound Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native was originally drafted by the Bruins in the 4th round (107th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. This is the first recall of Bitz’ professional career.
Karsums is currently the leading scorer for Providence with 16 goals and 23 assists in 38 games, and ranks 8th in points overall in the AHL. Recently named an AHL All-Star, he will play for the Planet USA team in the AHL All-Star Classic on January 26.
He was recalled by Boston earlier this year and made his NHL debut against the Atlanta Thrashers on December 13. He tallied a career-best 20 goals and 43 assists in 79 games during his second professional season with the Providence Bruins last year and joined the P-Bruins in 2006 after playing three seasons of junior hockey with Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The 5’10’”, 198-pound Riga, Latvia native was originally drafted by the Bruins in the 2nd round (64th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The Bruins play the fifth game of a six-game homestand on Saturday,
January 10 when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at 1:00 p.m. ET.
|Bergeron speaks…||01.09.09 at 11:25 am ET|
There was one overiding theme to Friday’s media availability with Patrice Bergeron at TD Banknorth Garden. “This year is different.” From Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to coach Claude Julien to the man himself, everyone wanted to make sure this much was clear – this year’s concussion, suffered on Dec. 20 against Carolina, is NOT like last year’s grade 3 concussion that ended Bergeron’s 2007-08 season in October against Philadelphia. Last season, Bergeron addressed the media in December before a press room full of reporters and it was an uncomfortable if not traumatic experience for everyone in the organization, including Bergeron. This year, while crowded with cameras and reporters to the right of his locker stall, Bergeron look far more at ease as he took questions. Last season, there were concerns not just about his career but his long-term health. While those concerns are there for every player, Bergeron talked about getting his heart rate up to 140 beats a minute for 35 minutes while doing cardio. And last year, till the very end of the season, there was no indication when he might return. This year, reading between the lines, it seems as though a return somewhere around the All-Star break at the end of the month may not be out of the question. Joe Haggerty has the full story at Pucks with Haggs. Let’s listen to what the parties had to say Friday at the Garden.
|Lucic and Wheeler invited to All-Star Weekend||at 11:16 am ET|
A bit of good news/bad news here for the Bruins as — according to media relations guru Matt Chmura — second-year winger Milan Lucic and rookie forward Blake Wheeler were the only fresh-faced Bruins players asked to take part in the NHL All-Star Game’s newly adopted Rookies vs. Sophomores Game. The game will take place on Saturday’s All-Star Skills Competition along with traditional fare like the NHL’s hardest shot competition — a test of shooting strength that towering blueliner Zdeno Chara has turned into his own personal playground over the last few years.
In the Bad News Dept.: Somehow both second-year center David Krejci and rookie blueliner Matt Hunwick were bypassed for the game despite Krejci’s place among the NHL’s top 20 scorers this season and Hunwick’s place among rookie defenseman. Hunwick is perhaps understandable in that he’s not a household name, but Krejci has easily been among the best players in the entire NHL this season, and should have merited more consideration for the main event game at the Bell Centre on Sunday — never mind a showcase event for the NHL’s Young Guns one day prior.
–B’s General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced that Bruins winger Marco Sturm will undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and may also potentially be facing ACL surgery during the same procedure. If Sturm’s ACL is torn — a notion that Chiarelli said appears to be be likely but won’t be certain until the doctors look at the injury during surgery — then the German forward will be lost for the duration of the 2008-09 season.
–Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli also announced today that the Bruins have assigned forwards Martin St. Pierre and Vladimir Sobotka to the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League). Chiarelli also informed the assembled media that the B’s would call up two forwards from Providence to take their place on the roster — as Milan Lucic will be out of the lineup with the undisclosed injury again Saturday afternoon — for tomorrow’s matinee against the Carolina Hurricanes.
St. Pierre has seen action in nine games for Boston this year and recorded 1-2=3 totals. In 30 games with the P-Bruins this season, he registered a 10-25=35 line.
The 25-year-old St. Pierre has appeared in 30 NHL games in his career – 21 with Chicago, 9 with Boston – and has tallied two goals and five assists. Signed as a free agent by the Blackhawks on November 12, 2005, St. Pierre was acquired by the Bruins on July 24, 2008 in exchange for Pascal Pelletier.
Sobotka has played in 15 games for Boston during the 2008-2009 season and recorded 1-1=2 totals. In 17 games with the P-Bruins this year, Sobotka tallied 10 goals and 11 assists.
He split the 2007-2008 season between Boston and Providence. With Boston, he saw action in 48 regular season games and contributed one goal and six assists and added two goals in six postseason games. With Providence last year, he had 10-10=20 totals in 18 regular season games and added four assists over six postseason games. Sobotka was originally drafted by the Bruins in the 4th round (106th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
The Bruins play the fifth game of a six-game homestand on Saturday, January 10 when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at 1:00 p.m. ET.
|The Goal of the Year in the NHL?||12.22.08 at 11:07 am ET|
Here’s a look at Blake Wheeler’s amazing short-handed goal from last night’s 6-3 stomping over the St. Louis Blues. Wheeler’s lamp-lighter is one that B’s fans will be talking about for the rest of the season and an appropriate catalyst for the “Blake Wheeler as Calder Trophy Winner” hype machine that should really begin gaining some traction. Wheeler basically powered and dangled his way through four St. Louis Blues defenders while killing off a penalty, and somehow flipped a shot past Blues goalie Manny Legace after putting on his puck-handling feat of strength to get to the opposing cage.
Wheeler is now tied with Blues center Patrick Berglund and Maple Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski in rookie goals scored with his 11 strikes in 33 games this season and holds a commanding lead with the +19 number built up as a trigger man on the B’s explosive third line.
Here’s Wheeler’s biggest competition as he continues to build a Rookie of the Year resume: Columbus Blue Jackets center Derek Brassard (10 goals, 15 assists), Chicago Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg (8 goals, 17 assists), Berglund (11 goals, 10 assists), Grabovski (11 goals, 9 assists), Vancouver Canucks Jannik Hansen (4 goals, 13 assists), Pittsburgh Penguins‘ defenseman Alex Goligoski (4 goals, 11 assists) and LA Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (3 goals, 8 assists). There’s still obviously a big, honking amount of the hockey season to still be played, but Wheeler is smack dab in the middle of the mix right now and has to be considered one of the early favorites. It also appears that top-scorer Brassard will be out of the picture after suffering a right shoulder injury that will likely require season-ending surgery.
Just what Boston needs: another young up-and-coming superstar about to make a sizeable impact on the pro sports scene.
The 22-year-old power forward is on pace for 50 points this season (27 goals, 23 assists) and is a brawny, puck-possession cog on Boston’s electric third line that’s thrown up 45 points and an amazing +31 over their last 11 games. The third line has become Boston’s main scoring threat over the last month of hockey, and continues to gain steam here in the season’s first half. The only question now is whether Wheeler will hit the “rookie wall” as he doubles the amount of games he might have skated in at the University of Minnesota as a senior this season.
But that’s a query for another day. Here’s last night’s goal because, as always, a moving picture says a 1,000 hockey words:
As an added bonus — and to show you that Wheeler isn’t really a stranger to the whole highlight reel goal thang in his career — here’s an amazing game-winning score he racked up while still with the Golden Gophers. This seems like as good a time as any to ring the bell once again for B’s General Manager Peter Chiarelli for creating the kind of hockey environment that persuaded Wheeler to choose Boston over other NHL destinations on the map. Here’s the highlight reel goal for the University of Minnesota, something Wheeler seems to be making a habit of at a ripe young hockey age.
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