|Rask unshaken by competition, sophomore slump||08.09.10 at 5:04 pm ET|
MIDDLETON — A refreshed and eager Tuukka Rask made his first appearance around these parts in quite some time as he prepared to tee off with teammates and fans for Shawn Thornton‘s Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament. With last season’s borderline traumatic Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Flyers in the rear view mirror and a new season just around the corner, Rask is ready to build on a 2009-10 performance that saw him become the No. 1 goaltender down the stretch.
“Things are going great. I had an awesome summer in Finland, spent a couple times there, seeing my friends and family and working out,” said Rask. “Now I’m back here so it’s time to get your thoughts back on the hockey season.”
After playing five games in the previous two years, Rask, a former first-round pick acquired from the Maple Leafs in exchange for Andrew Raycroft, made his first real impression in the NHL last season. In splitting time with then-reigning Vezina winner Tim Thomas, Rask started 39 regular- season games and posted a 1.97 goals against average, which, like his .931 save percentage, led the NHL.
Yet as Rask, who started all 13 playoff games for the Bruins, looks to improve and further his accomplishments, he must do so knowing of the sophomore slump that has plagued Raycroft and so many goaltenders before him.
“I’ve heard about people talking about it,” Rask said of the struggles that face second-year goalies, “but not yet in my part, but we’ll see what happens. You just try to be yourself and do your best every day and when you know that you have worked hard and you’ve done everything you can to be at your best, there’s nothing you can change and thats something I’m going to try to do. If it goes not so well, then it goes, but we’ll see.”
Any feared decline in Rask’s performance has hardly been the only discussion that has involved the Bruins goaltending this offseason. Given Rask’s emergence and Thomas’ $5 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons, there has been significant chatter among the fanbase that Thomas should be considered expendable for a team that is struggling against the salary cap.
That’s not how Rask sees it, however. He thrived on the competition with Thomas and maintained that having to challenge an established veteran made him better, which in turn made Thomas better.
“We had an awesome time last year,” Rask said of his relationship with Thomas. “It’s a fair competition for both of us and I think it’s healthy for a team and for us when nobody takes anything for granted. We liked it and hopefully that continues.”
Thornton, who this offseason re-upped with the Bruins on a two-year pact, can agree.
“They’re both professionals,” said Thornton, who noted training camp competitions are a natural part of the game. “It’s the same for us. My job’s not guaranteed either, so every training camp you go in fighting for a spot. I think competition’s a good thing. I think it’s healthy. I’m sure Tuukka knows that job isn’t his and it’s not going to be given to him, so that’s healthy for them to push each other. We’re pretty fortunate to have two No. 1 goalies as far I’m concerned.”
Based on the statistics of the two, it’s hard to argue with Thornton’s logic. Both Thomas and Rask certainly have the pedigrees and reputations to suggest they could earn a starting job on most teams, but the younger of the two doesn’t seem to care about anything but what happens on the ice each night.
“Whoever is playing good is going to play,” Rask said matter-of-factly. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve got 16,000 Vezinas or zero Vezinas, you know? That’s just the way it goes on our team and that’s good for everybody I think.”
Rask appears to have put on a little weight, though it’s nothing noticeable enough to confuse him with any of the league’s bigger goaltenders. After playing last season at 171 pounds for a man who stands at 6-foot-2, any bulking up on the 23-year-old’s part seems welcomed to him.
“I’m, heavier. I don’t know if that’s because of the workouts or the food I ate. We’re getting there. I’m working out with [Bruins strength and conditioning coach] John Whitesides now so we’ll see in a couple weeks what things look like.”
Rask is back in the states for good until training camp opens in the middle of September. He pointed to working with Whitesides as a big reason for his early return, admitting that working out by himself isn’t as productive as working with a “real trainer.” Rask admitted his first full season in the NHL did feel him leaving a little rough when it came to the offseason, but as he trains for 2010-11, everything has been smooth sailing.
“I think it was about five or six weeks [after the season ended], and my body was still kind of feeling the season, but after that, everything was normal and you start doing your workouts and stuff like that and everything felt good,” Rask said. “No problems, but it always takes quite a time to recover fully.”
Rask signed a two-year extension with the Bruins in November and will earn $1.25 million in each of the next two seasons, at which point he will remain under the Bruins’ control as a restricted free agent.
|Thornton-Cooke the top fight of ’09-’10?||07.13.10 at 7:16 pm ET|
…Yikes. It appears that’s what NHL.com thinks. The league’s website put together a few videos of what it deemed the top fights of last season that it had on Tuesday, and it led off with the scuffle between Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton and Matt Cooke of the Penguins in the ultra-disappointing March 18 3-0 loss at the Garden.
The game was one that Bruins fans had on their calander as the day the Bruins would exact revenge on Cooke and the Penguins for taking center Marc Savard out of the equation with this dirty hit to the head, one that was deemed legal by head NHL disciplinarian and now father of a Bruin Colin Campbell (Gregory Campbell is his son). Read the rest of this entry »
|Thornton: ‘I wanted to be a Bruin as long as possible’||06.04.10 at 2:37 pm ET|
Speaking with the media Friday afternoon in a conference call, newly re-upped Bruins forward Shawn Thornton and general manager Peter Chiarelli hit on what led to the tough winger’s two-year extension.
“I wanted to be a Bruin as long as possible,” Thornton said. I love the city, I love being here and I’m still here so I’m really happy to be back and I’m glad we could make it happen.”
With the team just three weeks away from adding a wunderkind prospect in the NHL draft, Chiarelli spoke of what it means to retain a key veteran when seeing an influx of youth.
“It’s important to have any good veteran to help out with the younger guys,” Chiarelli said. “Shawn’s career path has not been the easiest and he commands a level of respect for that reason. … He’s put in his time and he’s put in his work and he’s been rewarded for it.”
“It was a good decision that we made, it was a relatively easy decision that we made and we’re happy to have him back.”
|Thornton gets two-year extension||at 10:49 am ET|
The Bruins have signed winger Shawn Thornton, set to become a free agent on July 1, to a two-year extension that will run through 2012, according to a Bruins press release.
Thornton has racked up 338 regular season penalty minutes in his three years as a Bruin, with 141 of them coming last season. He has totaled 28 regular season points in his tenure in Boston. The 2009-2010 season saw him record a career-high nine assists while finishing fifth in the NHL with 21 fighting majors.
While financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, the Boston Globe is reporting that the deal is worth $1.625 million. Thornton and GM Peter Chiarelli will speak with the media this afternoon, so check back here throughout the day.
|Bruins to ‘embrace challenge’ of Game 7||05.13.10 at 12:53 am ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Sometimes you just have to tell yourself things will be okay in the face of adversity.
The Bruins will spend the next 24 hours preparing themselves and reassuring themselves of the positives – namely win one game on home ice and earn the right to have home ice advantage against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference finals.
Only minutes after losing their third straight in the series to the Flyers, 2-1, many Bruins attempted to put on a brave face as they now face a do-or-die Game 7 at TD Garden on Friday night.
“Like my buddy once said, ‘Pressure is five kids, no job.’ This is just fun,” Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. “Game 7. Enjoy it. Just drink it in as they say.”
Milan Lucic, who scored Boston’s only goal and the first by the Bruins in nearly 135 minutes of play in the series, also attempted to put things in perspective.
“We’re just looking forward to the challenge ahead of us,” Lucic said. “We know it’s going to be an exciting game. I’m not nervous. I think you have to embrace the struggle, embrace the challenge and have fun with it.”
Of course, if the Bruins don’t win, they join the 1942 Detroit Red Wings, the 1975 Pittsburgh Penguins and the 2004 New York Yankees as the only teams in major professional North American sports to blow a 3-0 lead and lose a best-of-seven series.
|Taking the edge off the Bruins||05.11.10 at 2:30 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Somebody needs to take a little bit of an edge off these Bruins.
Captain Zdeno Chara made a half-admission after Game 5 on Monday night that the team may have been a touch nervous heading into what could have been a series-clinching victory.
I don’t know if we were maybe a little bit nervous. It’s hard to explain and really find words for it so for sure we didn’t play with the composure we were playing with,” Chara said Monday. “Maybe it wasn’t nervous, it was just… we couldn’t make those plays we normally do, strong plays with the puck, plays that we are normally doing and all of the sudden it was tough for us to make those plays.”
In the grand world of hockey cliches, this is what is called “clutching the stick.” The Bruins need someone, be it Johnny Boychuk and his eccentric antics, Shawn Thornton and his smile and his wife’s cooking or Claude Julien putting “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” on repeat on the team plane.
“Everybody can keep it loose and there is no reason to tense up and grip the sticks too tight,” Boychuk said. “We know what we have to do and just go out there and do it. There are times to keep loose and times to focus and we know that and that is what we have been trying to do.”
Thornton was of the opinion that, heading into Game 5, the team was relatively loose and had a good energy level. For the most part the Bruins tend to be a loose team. Chara and Patrice Bergeron are serious with the media and on the ice but there are moments when you catch them joking around with the guys. Thornton thinks that everybody on the team has a role to play in taking the edge off. He would not name specific characters for fear of being labeled the jokester by the coaching staff.
“We have got a few guys who like to keep things loose. It wasn’t too tense today [Tuesday,” Thornton said. “We did a pretty good job of forgetting about losses and forgetting about wins and moving on. We learned some things today and move on to the next one. There is nothing you can do. There was only seven on the ice but before the game too, there was a lot of energy. I don’t know. We definitely didn’t play the game we wanted to but honestly I thought going into it that we felt pretty good.”
Coach Claude Julien agreed that everybody on the teams plays their part in keeping the room loose and said that, when it really come down to it, winning is what puts a smiles on everyone’s face.
“We all have a part to do in that. I am telling you right now that we have too put yesterday aside and learn from it,” Julien said. “That is what the players have to do and so do the coaches. You know, we have to take the same approach as a group and that is what we have done here. We have to focus as a group and do what we need to do tomorrow and hopefully those are good things and that we can come back with smiles on our faces.”
|Morning notes: Gagne a game-time decision||05.07.10 at 1:55 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The Broad Street faithful are hoping to see one of their old friends on the ice at the Wachovia Center on Friday and hope that he will be able to continue their season, if only just a little bit longer.
Simon Gagne will be a game-time decision for Game 4 after having surgery on a broken toe on April 23 after the fourth game of the quarterfinals against the Devils. Gagne skated at the Flyers practice facility in Vorhees, NJ on Thursday but did not take part in Philadelphia’s morning Friday. He was the only Flyers player to [officially] address the media before Game 4 and said that he will take part in warmups and consult with the athletic trainer and doctors before making a decision on whether or not he will play.
“There is no need right now to go out there and skate. I am going to wait in my warmup and put all the chance on my side and decide from there,” Gagne said.
Gagne had an MRI on the toe on Thursday after practice to make sure it had not moved or been displaced during the skate. All results were OK and now it just seems like how much pain he can withstand and how much the injury will allow him to contribute.
“I am going to have to talk to the trainer after warmup and tell him how I feel and get the call from the doctor,” Gagne said. “I talked to him yesterday and we went and got that MRI and we talked a little bit about what I have to look for to be able to play. Do, like I said, I need to get ready for warmup and we will chat with Jimmy [McCrossin -- athletic trainer] after warmup and then we will decide if we are good to go.”
Coach Peter Laviolette said in his morning news conference that the emotional benefit from getting a player back is fleeting when it comes to the work it takes to win a hockey game. He would talk nothing of assumptions concerning whether or not Gagne would play or what his minutes would be other than to say that he probably would not spend much time on the penalty kill.
“When the players return I think there has to be more than the bang that you might get in the first minute,” Laviolette said. “There is so much work that has to be done throughout the course of the game and even when a player, when he does return, I think it is important that they are contributing factors. Maybe you get a quick boost but there is a lot of work to be done. Boston won’t put a lot of stock into a player when he returns to the lineup.”
The Flyers are going to need all the help they can get if they want to climb back into this series. Gagne admitted that a Game 4 timetable was not on his mind, he figured, at best, Game 5, perhaps later in the series. A player has to do what a player has to do. It is playoff hockey.
“To be honest with you, I was looking toward Game 5 or maybe the end of the series, but I started to actually feel pretty good before Game 3,” Gagne said. “It is the playoffs and right now we are against the wall and we have to win and we are not allowed to lose any games. It is right there and if I feel good enough to play, I will be there.”
Laviolette expects the Flyers to play to win Friday night, regardless of the status of Simon Gagne. He went so far as to say that the pressure had shifted to the Bruins, which is not all that unreasonable. The fourth game is always the hardest to claim. Boston found that out in Game 5 of the quarterfinals against the Sabres.
“I would expect us to play a really good hockey game,” Laviolette said. “We had a good practice yesterday, had a good meeting. Our backs are up against the wall but the pressure really shifts to Boston at this point, not so much on us. I would think our guys are going to come out with one heck of an effort tonight.”
Morning notes — The Bruins had a full team practice while only a couple Flyers took part in the morning skate, reversed from the situation on Thursday we Philadelphia had a full team practice and the Boston had a workout day (in Bruins parlance, that means they played soccer in the hallway of the Wachovia center). Shawn Thornton did not skate for the Bruins and coach Claude Julien said that “he exercised his option” on whether to skate or not. An interesting choice for a player who does not have a contract after the season ends. Trent Whitfield is the probably replacement for David Krejci in the Bruins lineup as Julien likes the idea of having five true centermen in the lineup but the decision between him and Brad Marchand will be made after warmups.
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