|Will the playoffs be the time for Tuukka Rask to shine?||04.26.13 at 4:58 pm ET|
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 »
|Claude Julien on bounceback win: ‘I’m not looking for perfection, I’m looking for reaction’||at 12:59 am ET|
After his team shut out the Lightning, 2-0, to clinch home ice in the first round of the playoffs, Bruins coach Claude Julien said he was happy with his team’s response to Tuesday night’s loss in Philadelphia.
“Like I said [Thursday] morning, we’re going to find out quickly if it was just a little bump in the road or whether it was a step back,” Julien said. “I thought our guys played hard tonight. I’m not looking for perfection, I’m looking for reaction.”
What kind of reaction?
“Reaction, to play with some emotion, play with some grit, desire, determination,” Julien added. “I saw all those things tonight. The identity of our team is as such, we’re a team that prides ourselves on being a physical team, a team that’s hard to play against. We have to create that, the rest of the game will come along. That’s what we’re looking to see from our guys for 60 minutes and I think they did a good job of playing a full 60 tonight.
Tuukka Rask was a big part of the reaction Thursday, turning back all 30 shots in recording his fifth shutout of the season.
“Overall, I thought we played hard, we moved the puck quickly, when there was a breakdown Tuukka was there to make the big saves. I was pretty happy with the game, I know that if we keep playing that way we’ll only get bet better.”
|Tuukka Rask, Bruins blank Lightning to lock up home ice in first round||04.25.13 at 10:05 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask made all the timely saves a coach could ask for as the Bruins clinched home ice in the first round of the playoffs with a 2-0 win over the Lightning at home on Thursday.
Rask earned his fifth shutout of the season, tying a career high set in the 2009-10 season. Dennis Seidenberg chipped in with his third goal of the year, a slap shot through traffic from the point, and while the Bruins didn’t have a particularly inspiring start to the game, they finished strong, holding off a late Lightning onslaught for the win.
Here’s a look at what went right and wrong for the Bruins on Thursday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
- Rask was sharp from the start and ultimately made 30 saves. Perhaps his most memorable stop came in the second, when he robbed Steven Stamkos on an odd-man rush for the Lightning, sliding across the crease to snatch Stamkos’ wrister out of the air. Shortly afterward, he drew chants of his name from the Garden crowd when he made two impressive kick saves in rapid succession.
Late in the third, with the Bruins maintaining a 2-0 lead, Rask shut down another Lightning rush, stopping Tampa leading scorer Martin St. Louis.
Rask also kept the Bruins in the game when they were being outshot and outworked early in the first period, stopping a number of quality chances from close range. He effectively put his brief but unspectacular outing in Philadelphia, in which he allowed three goals on 13 shots in relief of Anton Khudobin, behind him.
|Dougie Hamilton wins Bruins’ Seventh Player Award||at 7:45 pm ET|
In what could be the first of many individual honors, Dougie Hamilton received his first Thursday night.
The Bruins announced that the 19-year-old defenseman is the winner of the NESN Seventh Player Award. Voted on by Bruins fans, the Seventh Player Award is an annual award presented to the Bruin who went above and beyond the call of duty and exceeded the expectations of Bruins fans during the season.
Ironically, Hamilton was a healthy scratch Thursday night against the Lightning as the team gives him a rest before the start of the playoffs next week.
In his first season with the Bruins, Hamilton has notched five goals and 11 assists in 42 games with a plus-6 rating. The rookie ranks second among Bruins defensemen in points (16) and goals (5).
Hamilton is tied for third in the NHL among rookie blueliners in points (16), third in assists (11) and tied for third in goals (5).
Hamilton started the season with the Niagra IceDogs (Ontario Hockey League), skating in 32 games, notching eight goals and 33 assists for 41 points. Last year, he was named the Canadian Major Junior Defenseman of the Year.
The 6-foot-5, 199-pound native of Toronto was drafted by the Bruins in the first round (9th overall) of the 2011 NHL draft.
In addition to the Seventh Player Award trophy, Hamilton will receive $5,000 to donate to the charity of his choice.
Recent recipients include Tyler Seguin (2012), Brad Marchand (2011), Tuukka Rask (2010), David Krejci (2009) and Milan Lucic (2008).
The Seventh Player Award sweepstakes winner was Scott Martioski of Orange, Mass. Martioski wins a three-year lease on a 2014 Kia Sorento courtesy of Central Auto Team of Norwood and Raynham.
|Claude Julien mum on postseason goaltending plans||04.22.13 at 2:49 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Claude Julien operates a certain way and he rarely strays from it, but might this shortened season change the circumstances?
The Bruins have made the playoffs in each of the six seasons Julien has been in Boston, with this season being the sixth. Julien has used only one goalie in every postseason, with the backup never seeing the ice. In the first two seasons it was Tim Thomas, followed by Tuukka Rask in 2010 and then Thomas again in each of the last two postseasons.
Rask has started 31 games this season, with Anton Khudobin getting 13 starts, which has made for a 70-30 split in Rask’s favor. Yet with the postseason scheduling figuring to be just as condensed as the regular season schedule, the B’s could find themselves in a position where they don’t want to overwork Rask.
Asked about this season altering his strategy come playoff time, Julien was mum.
“We’re not there yet,” Julien said. “I think a lot of it has to do with if the goalie’s playing extremely well, you ride your goaltender,” he said. “If you need to make a change for whatever reason, you make a change, but it’s hard for me to answer that right now.”
Over the past two postseasons, the Bruins have had two sets of back-to-backs in a total of five series. Both came in Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals (against the Canadiens in 2011 and against the Capitals last year), with Thomas starting both games each time.
This past weekend, Rask started games on back-to-back games for the first time this season. The last time he had started games on consecutive days was on Feb. 17 and 18 of the 2011 season. The B’s did not have back-to-back games in the 2010 postseason in which Rask went the whole way against the Sabres and Flyers.
|Tuukka Rask blanks Panthers as Bruins end skid||04.21.13 at 3:01 pm ET|
The Bruins snapped their longest losing streak of the season and positioned them to control their destiny in the final four games of the season by beating the Panthers, 3-0, Sunday at TD Garden.
With the victory, Boston’s first in five games (0-3-1 in four games entering Sunday), the B’s pulled themselves even with the Canadiens atop the Northeast Divison with 59 points — though the B’s have played 44 games to Montreal’s 45.
Carl Soderberg got his first career NHL point, picking up a rather liberal assist on a play in which Jaromir Jagr recovered a puck along the boards and fired a wrist shot past Jacob Markstrom to open the scoring for the B’s. Dougie Hamilton, playing in place of the injured Adam McQuaid, scored in the second period to make it 2-0. The B’s made it 3-0 with 1:22 remaining in the game on an empty-netter from Brad Marchand.
Tuukka Rask made 28 saves for his fourth shutout of the season. Rask’s career-high for shutouts in a single season is five, which he accomplished in the 2009-10 season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- Claude Julien essentially called Rask out following Saturday’s game, saying that the Bruins needed timely saves. The Bruins went back with Rask again on Sunday, and he came through with a very timely save in the first period to preserve the Bruins’ lead by robbing Drew Shore on a play in front. Shore, who was battling with Wade Redden in front, took a feed from a teammate and had the whole right side of the net to work with, but Rask was able to slide over to block him with the left pad.
- For the fourth consecutive game, the Bruins scored the game’s first goal. For the first consecutive game, they won.
- Hamilton had a nice return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Saturday (and in three of the Bruins’ previous four games entering Sunday). Paired with Zdeno Chara, Hamilton had five shots on goal and scored from the point on a slapshot in the second period for his fifth goal of the season, which will certainly help his case to stick in the lineup come playoff time.
- Patrice Bergeron had a season-high seven shots on goal Sunday, and he’s really hit the ground running since returning from his concussion. In his three games since coming back, Bergeron has 17 shots on goal.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- The Bruins were playing without both McQuaid (lower-body) and Nathan Horton (upper-body). Both players were out with injuries sustained in Saturday’s loss to the Penguins, as Horton appeared to hurt his left wrist while fighting Jarome Iginla and McQuaid was slow to get back to the bench after a hit from Matt Cooke.
- Milan Lucic made his return to the lineup Sunday after being a healthy scratch on Saturday. He was more active than in previous games, as he finished with three shots on goal. His wrist shot on Markstrom in the second period marked his first shot on goal in over a week, as he had last put a puck on net last Saturday against the Hurricanes. Lucic was denied on a rebound bid following a David Krejci shot in the second period and still has just two goals over his last 28 games.
|Bruins know Tuukka Rask can do only so much to save the D||04.09.13 at 11:20 am ET|
Tuukka Rask can only do so much.
He’s been outstanding in the last week, turning away 40 shots in a 1-0 shutout last Thursday over the Devils and making another 40 saves Monday night in a 6-2 win over the Hurricanes.
And in some ways, Monday’s performance in what looked like a blowout on paper was more impressive than the shutout.
The Hurricanes opened the game with a five-minute flurry of action in front of Rask, trying to get that all-important first goal to set the tempo for the game. Rask turned away the first eight shots and allowed the Bruins to find their scoring touch.
Boston scored twice in the first eight minutes and took the spirit out of Carolina. After Monday’s 40-save effort, Rask was asked if all the action is sharpening him up for the playoffs that start in just over two weeks.
“I don’t know,” Rask said. “I’ve felt sharp throughout the year, trying to be calm and just poised out there. It’s been good the past three games so I’m just trying to work on that and keep that up.
“I think defensively we’ve been pretty good, if you look at the goals against. I don’t think we’re the best we can be in that area. Especially today, a couple let downs there. Still we’ve been pretty solid defensively, that’s our bread and butter, as you know, it was good to see that offense get going. Every team goes through phases like that. I don’t blame the guys because they’re trying and sometimes you just don’t have it. It was good to see.”
While defenseman Dennis Seidenberg had three assists, he remains concerned about the team’s defensive approach – or lack thereof.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We’re getting into that phase of the season that we have to get sharp for the playoffs, and we only have I think 10 games left now, and it comes down to the wire for us to get into playing playoff hockey, and just playing that style of hockey makes you successful going into the postseason.
“If [Rask] doesn’t stop the puck we’re behind in the game, and you know how the game changes once the team is up. They sit back, so we got lucky in the first. Obviously we converted on those chances, but if we had fallen behind it would have been tough to come back from. It’s been a few games now that we haven’t been sharp in the first period. I don’t know how many games we’ve given up the first goal and had to battle back or try to come from behind, but tonight Tuukka saved us, kept us 0-0, and we luckily scored.”
Rask knows how very important these next two weeks will be in establishing the right defensive trend for postseason.
“Yeah I think so,” he said. “I think we kind of have to build that momentum in the last 10 games or whatever we have left. Build it off of the defense and try to get that offense going like we can. Sometimes it feels like we are trading those chances and I get a lot of shots, it plays into my advantage, but I don’t think in the long run that would be a good idea.
“I mean there’s always room to improve. I think sticking with the structure and not getting caught running around and stuff like that. Keeping our heads up and protecting that net front, I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Claude Julien wants to see a defensive urgency in front of Rask in the final two weeks.
“There’s no doubt, we need to see that urgency to get ourselves better,” Julien said. “Although defensively we weren’t very good, it was a step in the right direction, as far as being a little bit better offensively. We’ve got to carry that into the next game, where it’s going to be even tougher, against a Devils team that doesn’t give much. But at the same time, hopefully we’re better defensively as well.”
Rask isn’t nearly as hard on the defense in front of him as fans and his own teammates are. Read the rest of this entry »
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