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Tuukka while, but patient Rask ready to step into spotlight 06.10.13 at 9:38 pm ET
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Jaromir Jagr didn’t know where he was shooting the puck. He just wanted to put it on net.

Tuukka Rask has had plenty to celebrate this postseason, especially after he led the Bruins to a sweep of the Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals. (AP)

“Good goalies, they always hate to be scored on, even if practice,” said Jagr. “They remember every shot, they remember every goal somebody score. And they tell you after the practice, ‘You lucky.’ They all remember your shot.”

Tuukka Rask stands four wins away from making a permanent mark on the Bruins franchise. By winning a Stanley Cup, the soon-to-be restricted free agent can secure a golden contract, erase any doubts over his play, and forever remove the shadow of Tim Thomas. But the soft-spoken, most “normal” goalie Bruins coach Claude Julien has ever had the pleasure of coaching is no different than any other goalie when it comes down to one simple fact: He hates when you score on him.

“Tuukka hate it,” Jagr confirmed. “Sometimes you just shoot it in the air because you don’t want him to be mad. I scored on Tuuka, I score one goal, and he come to me and say, ‘[Expletive], you never shoot there! You always shoot over there!’ He know where you shoot in practice. How am I supposed to know? I don’t even know where I am shooting.”

Rask’s play is persuading people to forget about the quirky yet extremely talented Thomas. While Thomas refuses to speak to anyone associated with the Fourth Estate, Rask has played outstanding in goal. Through the first three rounds, the 26-year-old Rask’s 2013 playoff numbers are even slightly better than Thomas’ from the Stanley Cup run in 2011. While Thomas had a .932 save percentage and 2.28 goals-against average, Rask’s numbers are even more spectacular. He has a .943 save percentage and an outstanding 1.75 GAA, and stopped 134 of the 136 shots the Pittsburgh put on net in the 4-0 sweep of the vaunted Penguins.

“I feel good,” said Rask. “I don’t feel any better than I’ve felt all throughout the playoffs. The team is helping me out a lot. You let in two goals in [four] games, you’re making some good saves, but we’re blocking shots and taking care of the rebounds pretty well.”

RASK DEFLECTS PUCKS AND PRAISE

Rask is adept at stopping pucks as well as deflecting praise. It simply isn’t in his nature to bask in the glory of his play or take all of the credit for shutting down a team like the Penguins.

“I was feeling good, seeing the puck a lot, being patient, and made some good saves,” said Rask. “But nobody wins these games by themselves. Our defense did a really good job, and a lot of credit goes to them, too.”

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Tuukka Rask: ‘It was definitely a grind’ 06.06.13 at 2:53 am ET
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Tuukka Rask was again on top of his game Wednesday night. (AP)

Of all the great performances Tuukka Rask has had in these 2013 playoffs, Wednesday night was certainly the most grueling.

He stopped 53 shots in 95 minutes and 19 seconds, allowing only a Chris Kunitz goal in the second period as the Bruins prevailed, 2-1, in double-overtime in Game 3 of the Eastern finals at TD Garden.

“Yeah, it was definitely a grind,” Rask said. “Both teams played pretty good. That second period was the worst one for us, but we battled and going into double overtime it’s anybody’s game.

“It’s five periods. So I imagine everybody gets tired. It’s more of a mental challenge I think. I wasn’t cramping up today or anything. So that was positive.”

Is he wiped out?

“Yeah, a little bit. I mean, it’s I don’t know 12:30 or something, five periods of hockey. Not the freshest feeling, but I think the win makes it a little easier,” he said with a smile. “I don’t think you feel that physical fatigue-ness at that point. It’s just trying to keep your head, and not thinking that you’re tired. It’s just a nice little challenge – you know if you think you’re tired you’re tired, and if you don’t you don’t.”

Tired or not, the numbers don’t lie. Rask is putting up even better stats to this point of the playoffs than Tim Thomas – the Conn Smythe winner – did in 2011 on the way to the Cup.

Thomas was 11-4 through 15 games with a goals against of 2.28. He had two shutouts, facing 521 shots with a save percentage of .931. Rask is also 11-4 through 15 games, with a 1.85 goals against, one shutout, facing 501 shots and a .940 save percentage.

“I feel good. I mean, I don’t feel any better than I’ve felt throughout the playoffs,” Rask said. “I think our team is helping me out a lot. Although obviously you let in two goals in three games you’re making some good saves too. But we’re blocking shots and taking care of those rebounds pretty well. So they’re helping my job a lot.”

Rask made several big saves and was helped out by a pair of posts, including a shot by Sidney Crosby in the first period. But the biggest save may have come from Gregory Campbell, who blocked a slap shot from Evgeni Malkin in the second period during a Penguins power play.

“I saw it, yeah. A guy had a lane and he sacrificed his body,” Rask said. “It was a great thing, just bad thing he got hurt. He blocks a lot of shots, he took one for the team there, and we really wanted to win this for him.”

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Report: Ex-Bruin Tim Thomas might return to pro hockey next season 06.03.13 at 11:19 am ET
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Tim Thomas

Perhaps Tim Thomas is not done with professional hockey after all.

CBC’s Elliotte Friedman said that while Thomas’ agent says everything is still the status quo, it would not be surprising to see Thomas make a comeback in 2013-14 (skip to 4:32 in the video).

If Thomas does make a comeback, it does not necessarily mean he will be returning to the NHL. Friedman’s sources indicated Thomas could head to Europe. Thomas played four seasons in Finland’s SM-liiga and one season in Sweden’s Elitserien between 1997 and 2005 before spending seven seasons with the Bruins.

The Islanders traded for Thomas’ rights this season and have the right to toll his contract to the 2013-14 season because he refused to report this season.

Thomas, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner and the 2011 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup in 2011. He turned 39 years old in April.

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Shawn Thornton on D&C: Penguins front lines ‘a force to be reckoned with’ 05.28.13 at 10:21 am ET
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Shawn Thornton

Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning and previewed the B’s Eastern Conference finals series against the Penguins, talked up “underhyped” goalie Tuukka Rask and revealed that he received a congratulatory text message from former teammate Tim Thomas after Game 3 vs. the Rangers.

The Bruins return to practice Tuesday following two days off since dispatching the Rangers in Game 5 on Saturday night, preparing for what is expected to be a much tougher test from the top-seeded Penguins.

“They’re a pretty deep group up front, that’s for sure,” Thornton said. “They’ve got guys like Brenden Morrow on their fourth line. That’s some pretty good players back there. So, yeah, they’re a force to be reckoned with up front.”

Added Thornton: “I know there’s a lot of hype with the guys we’re playing against, and rightfully so, they’re great players. It’s always kind of the Sidney Crosby show wherever he goes. He’s the face of the league and he’s probably the best player in the game. You can’t get caught looking at that. We have to worry about what’s going on in our locker room, like we did last series with the Rangers and the series before with Toronto. You can’t really worry about what’s going on outside. We’ve got to play our game if we want to be successful. … You get caught just trying to react to what they’re doing, you’ll get caught with your pants down. They’re a dangerous team.”

Asked if Crosby is the best player he’s played against, Thornton said: “Yeah, I’d say, all-around. There’s not much he doesn’t do well. He competes hard. Not only how skilled he is, his compete level is right up there. He never seems to take a night off. I think that’s part of the reason why he’s so good. ”

Thornton said there are no hard feelings toward Jarome Iginla after the veteran forward chose Pittsburgh over Boston at the trade deadline.

“No, I don’t care,” Thornton said. “He made a decision based on his personal opinion. He has a no-trade, he’s entitled to that. He earned it. He played a lot of great years in Calgary for that right. As a player, you can’t really fault him for it.”
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Will the playoffs be the time for Tuukka Rask to shine? 04.26.13 at 4:58 pm ET
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The last time Tuukka Rask started a playoff game was one all Bruins fans would like to forget.

It was May 14, 2010. Rask was spotted a 3-0 lead in the first period of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers. The Bruins would lose the game on a power play goal by Simon Gagne when the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice.

The game marked Boston’s collapse after going up 3-0 in the series and three goals in the final game on home ice. Rask was thrown into the spotlight that season when Tim Thomas was nursing an injured hip that eventually required surgery. Rask was 7-6 in the playoffs that season with a 2.61 goals against and a .912 save percentage. Not bad but a lot of Bruins fans felt Rask was exposed.

Of course, that was all forgiven 12 months later as Thomas and the Bruins won their sixth Stanley Cup in history.

Now, Thomas is gone. It’s Tuukka’s time to shine, and shine is exactly what Rask has done this season. He has five shutouts, including a 2-0 blanking of the Lightning on Thursday in which he turned aside all 30 shots. He is a leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy awarded to the top goalie, sporting a 19-9-4 record with a sparkling 1.97 goals against and a .930 save percentage.

There’s no doubt he’s the goalie going into the playoffs. Still, there were questions about Rask and the Bruins in the last three weeks, as the team has struggled with consistency.

How important was Thursday night in terms of confidence? Even Rask isn’t sure it means all that much.

“I don’t know. I guess you always try to take the positives no matter how it goes, but the playoffs is a different season,” Rask said. “Everybody knows that. I just try to feel comfortable out there and play the game one at a time.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Claude Julien: Make no mistake, Tuukka Rask still is team’s No. 1 goalie 03.26.13 at 11:21 am ET
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There’s no goalie controversy with the Bruins – at least certainly not in the eyes of coach Claude Julien.

Tuukka Rask wore the honorary “Red Rooster” T-shirt after turning away 23-of-25 shots in a 3-2 shootout win over the Maple Leafs on Monday night at TD Garden. After allowing two goals on the first nine shots he faced, both of which he had little chance of stopping, Rask was spectacular down the stretch, making several key saves in the final two minutes of regulation and two late in overtime to allow the Bruins to escape with two points.

Eyebrows were raised last week when Rask’s backup Anton Khudobin started back-to-back games against Ottawa and Toronto after the Rask lost games to Pittsburgh and Winnipeg to start the road trip.

Despite Rask’s 15-4-3 record, a sparkling .928 save percentage and a 1.90 goals against (second-best in the NHL), there were some murmurs that the Bruins might be closer to a platoon situation in net than anyone expected. Julien put that to rest Monday night.

“Well I don’t think Tuukka’s been bad at all,” Julien said. “I think you know, I hope people didn’t read into Khudobin playing two games, because I think Khudobin deserved to play two games. He’s played well all season long, he played well in Ottawa, and this was an opportunity to get him two games in a row and that’s all it was.

“You know, we’ve got a busy week this week and I needed Tuukka fresh and that’s all it was. So certainly had nothing to do with that. And Tuukka to me has been good and he’s never been bad, he’s been great and he’s been good. But you know, we’ve gotten some pretty good games out of him and I don’t think we can necessarily point the finger at him for losing any games for us this year.”

As a matter of fact, Rask didn’t even get that second game off as Khudobin was pulled after allowing three goals on 11 shots Saturday night in Toronto and Rask was sent in to try and salvage matters.

Rask and Khudobin have teamed to make a very effective combination this season, as the pair has combined for a 2.10 goals against, the second-best in the NHL this season. Khudobin gave Rask some advice on the final shootout save on Nikolai Kumelin, who beat him on a breakaway in the second period, the save that won the game.

“He made the same kind of move in that breakaway, and then Anton told me that’s the only move he’s got, so I kind of threw my blocker there and then just tried to stay with him and made my block,” Rask said.

Then came the kicker from the coach.

Asked whether Rask seemed to take the message of rest and being at full strength the right way, Julien said that’s up to each individual, pointing out that sometimes players – like Tim Thomas – can be quirky and hard to read.

“I don’t know, I think it’s one of those things that everybody reads it whichever way they can. And you know that from the goaltender last year,” Julien said.

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Barry Pederson on D&C: ‘As Bruins fans, you’ve got to be ecstatic’ about proposed realignment 02.27.13 at 9:39 am ET
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Barry Pederson of NESN joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to talk about the Bruins’ strengths so far, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin‘s styles of play, and the newly proposed NHL realignment plan.

“I think it makes total sense,” Pederson said of the realignment plan, which would reconfigure the league into four divisions. “As Bruins fans, you’ve got to be ecstatic. You’ve got Detroit coming into this, what’s going to be called the Central Division, you’ve got four Original Six teams, some rivals, Buffalo still in there, and [Andy Brickley] will be happy because you still have Tampa Bay and Florida and he can go down and play some golf now and then. As Bruins fans, it’s a pretty good setup.”

Pederson said he thinks Marchand’s attitude, even more so than his speed or his hands, is his greatest strength, although his speed combined with Seguin’s creates space for their line to work.

“I don’t think he gets enough respect around the league for his offense because of the way he plays,” Pederson said of Marchand. “Marchand is sneaky offensively. Last night, he gets that puck on his backhand, he knows that [Evgeni] Nabokov‘s going to come diving out at him — he just waits and waits and then is able to get the goal. He’s got a great release. His speed really backs the defense off, and he and Seguin, when they’re going, they’re hard to play against.”

Despite speculation that Tim Thomas will never end up playing for the Islanders after being traded there, Pederson said he thinks Thomas is too competitive to walk away from hockey completely if he’s still capable of playing.

“I have no insight, for sure, to what’s going through his mind, but … to me there was a guy that never quit on anything,” Pederson said. “He went after shots that most guys would just say, ‘Oh, it’s an empty net, I’m not going to dive over there.’ So I just have a really hard time thinking he’s going to walk away from the game the way it’s going. I just have to think he’s coming back at some point.”

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