|Doc Emrick on M&M: Tuukka Rask gives Bruins ‘check mark’ over Blackhawks||06.12.13 at 12:34 pm ET|
NBC Sports play-by-play caller Mike “Doc” Emrick joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday morning to break down the Stanley Cup finals between the Bruins and Blackhawks.
Emrick said he expects the series to be almost dead even, and he did not offer a prediction for who would raise the Stanley Cup in the end. However, he drew a comparison between this series and the 1995 finals between the Devils and Red Wings.
‘The edge is very difficult to call,’ Emrick said. ‘I know there have been various surveys done and I think one very extensive one in Canada came out 50 percent to 49.2 percent, and at that point I didn’t even ask who had the 50 percent because it becomes ‘ it is pretty much the way that everyone here is thinking. It is just too tough to call.
‘I remember a similar thing that happened when we had a 48-game season in 1995 and we went into the final with a favorite team and a non-favorite one because the New Jersey Devils were not a good scoring team. They had a good goaltender and they played good defense. And the Red Wings were lights out. I mean, they were the biggest offensive juggernaut going and they banged their way through Chicago to get to the final and then New Jersey shut them down in four straight games with a defensive scheme.’
Emrick continued that comparison between the current series and the 1995 finals while discussing Zdeno Chara‘s impact on Tuukka Rask‘s play. Emrick compared Chara’s dominance to that of hall-of-fame defenseman Scott Stevens.
‘I think if you were to ask that question to Marty Brodeur, he would say that Scott Stevens‘ years were some of his best, because when you have somebody out there that is a presence that takes care of business as well as Scott did and as well as Zdeno Chara does and covers even more distance than Scott would ever hope to just because of his raw size.’ Emrick said. ‘I think you’re making a very good comparison there and I think you’re also giving appropriate credit to the defense in front of [Rask].’
While he praised Chara for his defense, Emrick was sure to give credit to Rask, saying that he gave the Bruins an advantage between the pipes over Corey Crawford.
‘If you want to put a check mark in one particular category that I think solidly goes to Boston, it is goaltending,’ Emrick said. ‘And again, we have the leading goals-against average is one guy and the other is second. And the leading save percentage is the other guy and the one guy is second. So you can waffle back and forth. It seems to me the way that Rask has been playing, that is a check mark to the Bruins.
‘As [NBC Sports color commentator] Eddie Olczyk always says, ‘Without goaltending you have got no shot.’ And they’ve sure got goaltending.’
|Tuukka while, but patient Rask ready to step into spotlight||06.10.13 at 9:38 pm ET|
Jaromir Jagr didn’t know where he was shooting the puck. He just wanted to put it on net.
‘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.’
|Shawn Thornton on D&C: ‘You never really expect to sweep a [Penguins] team with that much firepower’||at 10:13 am ET|
The Bruins open the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday in Chicago against the Blackhawks, who led the league with 77 points in the abbreviated regular season.
Thornton spent five years in the Chicago organization and made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks in the 2002-03 season, so he has some familiarity with a few of the current Blackhawks.
“I think their back end is as mobile as anybody’s in the NHL,” Thornton said. “I think that they’re a puck-possession team. If you give them their opportunities, if you turn that puck over they get going the other way in a hurry. They have some really, really crafty forwards up front also with [Patrick] Kane and [Jonathan] Toews and [Marian] Hossa. You definitely have to be careful.
“They’re similar in that way with the Penguins. But it’s kind of tough to compare them; we haven’t played against them this year. I only know from playing with those guys years back. I don’t really watch a whole lot of hockey.”
The Bruins are coming off a surprising four-game sweep of the top-seeded Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals. The B’s shut down Pittsburgh’s heralded offensive stars and limited the Penguins to two goals in four games.
“I honestly did not think we’d be able to shut those guys down for a whole series. Sweep was a little surprising, too,” Thornton said. “I liked the feeling in our room after we were up 2-0. I liked the feeling in our room after we were up 3-0 and going into Game 4. But you never really expect to sweep a team with that much firepower.”
Added Thornton: “Our D did an unbelievable job. The forwards helped out, but you’ve got to give the D and Tuukka [Rask] a lot of credit. And our penalty-killers. A lot of blocked shots. A lot of being in the right position. A lot of layers. A lot of hard work defensively. Definitely not easy. They had their chances, too. They hit a few posts and stuff like that. But I think for the most part we did as good a job as can be done against those guys.”
|David Krejci: ‘We might have the best team in the world’||06.07.13 at 11:58 pm ET|
“We don’t have the superstars on this team. We don’t have the best player in the world. But we might have the best team in the world,” said Krejci. “We play as a team.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Krejci talk about the “best players in the world.” After a 3-0 Game 1 victory, Krejci compared the Penguins to the Bruins.
‘Those guys, I think they’re the best players in the world at this moment. There’s no one like those guys. On the other hand, we don’t have guys like that. We have a team. We all play as a team,’ Krejci said at the time.
The Bruins forward is the team leader in points, goals, and assists this postseason, but has stressed a team-first mentality throughout.
“In the playoffs you need everyone to step up at one point,” answered Krejci. “Tuukka [Rask] has been doing it, defensemen have been doing it, and forwards have been doing it. If you want to go far in the playoffs you need more than just one or two lines to score goals.”
Fifteen different Bruins players have scored goals so far this playoffs.
Andy Brickley, the color commentator for the Bruins on NESN, called into Mut & Merloni on Friday afternoon, and he wholeheartedly agreed with Claude Julien‘s apparent decision to play Kaspars Daugavins Friday night after Gregory Campbell broke his leg in Wednesday’s double-overtime win.
“You have to look at it this way: What players are available in the absence of Gregory Campbell? And what are we losing in Gregory Campell?” Brickley said. “You’re losing an energy guy, a real good faceoff guy, a penalty-killer, reliable, accountable ‘ all those things that you want in your role-playing centerman.”
Brickley said once Julien split up Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly to center the bottom two lines, Daugavins makes the most sense of the options, including Jay Pandolfo, Carl Soderberg and Jordan Caron.
“Which player has the most trust of the coaching staff, and which player gives your team the greater flexibility and versatility if you have to shorten the bench or you get into a special teams game?” Brickley asked. “Daugavins is probably your best bet.”
Brickley, like many, many others the last two days, lauded Campbell for sticking it out for the rest of his shift after breaking his leg while blocking a shot during Wednesday’s marathon Game 3. He said the effort exemplified “the [hockey] culture, how these guys grew up,” and Campbell finishing his shift was a high-risk, high-reward situation.
“I know there was some discussion whether he should’ve just lied down and writhed in pain in order to get the whistle — but I don’t think it would have come — so he did what he had to do,” Brickley said. “The impact that that can have if you survive that penalty-killing situation, but then get yourself to the bench, the message received by the players [about] how committed you are.”
|Bobby Orr on D&C: Bruins ‘a better team than they were in ’11’||06.06.13 at 9:11 am ET|
“This team, you go back to the Toronto series, is this the same team? What did they do? Absolutely amazing,” Orr said. “They didn’t play great against Toronto. The 10 minutes of the last game, an unbelievable comeback. They played a little better against the Rangers. But in this series, they’re playing as well now as they did in ’11. They’ve completely dominated Pittsburgh. ‘¦ They’re playing their big guys against their big guys, and the Bruin guys that are supposed to score are scoring, Tuukka [Rask] has been unbelievable. I don’t know what happened. But Claude [Julien] and the coaching staff got them playing great. Very impressive. Very impressive.”
Added Orr: “This is team is playing unbelievable hockey. And people are going to say, ‘Well, Pittsburgh’s not playing very well.’ Well, the Bruins aren’t letting them play. They’re all over them, they’re not giving them any room. And when they get those chances, Tuukka’s coming up huge for that team. It’s a team effort.”
“I don’t agree with that at all, about him being overrated and this guy not doing da-da-da-da,” Orr said. “Let’s look at what the Bruins are doing. they’re not giving them one inch. You want to play tough? The Bruins are there. Finesse? Every player that’s supposed to — whatever the players’ strength is, that player is playing to his full strength. It’s wonderful to watch. And they’re defense, wow. Defensively they’re very, very strong.”
Gregory Campbell took a slap shot off his leg late in the second period but showed toughness by getting back to his feet and struggling to help the B’s penalty kill for almost a minute until the puck was cleared and he had a chance to get to the bench.
“What that kid did last night — I mean, they’re reporting he may have a broken leg. He obviously he was in pain, and he hung in there,” Orr said. “That’s the team. That’s the team right there. That’s what they are right now. We saw what they’re made of. This team has a ton of character. A ton of character.”
Added Orr: “What he did was incredible. Certainly it gave the team a great lift. Certainly the fans appreciated what Gregory did.”
|Tuukka Rask: ‘It was definitely a grind’||at 2:53 am ET|
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.”