|Jonas Gustavsson enters wait-and-see mode with Bruins||10.02.15 at 1:23 pm ET|
Now, the waiting game begins for Jonas Gustavsson.
After going through training camp and playing one and a half preseason games for the Bruins on a professional tryout, the 30-year-old netminder can do nothing but hope that the work he put in was good enough to earn him a contract and a spot on the bench as Tuukka Rask‘s backup.
Claude Julien said Friday morning that Gustavsson would not travel with the team for Friday’s preseason finale against the Capitals, with Rask starting and Jeremy Smith serving as backup. That means the preseason book is closed on Gustavsson, who stopped 42 of 45 shots over parts of two preseason games for a .933 save percentage.
“I’m not trying to think about it too much; I’m trying to do whatever I usually do – just practice, play games whenever I get a chance to play and have some fun,” Gustavsson said after Friday’s practice. “All the other stuff, that’s not in my hands. I guess I’m waiting, but on the other hand, at the same time, I’m just taking it day-by-day like I always do.”
Smith, a 26-year-old who was drafted in the second round by the Predators in 2007, is the favorite to win the backup job after a strong showing last season in Providence. That leaves Gustavsson, who played formerly with the Leafs and Red Wings but was limited to seven games with the Wings by injuries last season, potentially on the outside looking in.
Julien insisted Friday morning that a decision has not been made on the backup goaltender.
“There’s a lot that’s going to come into play there in that decision-making. It’s going to be a group decision,” he said. “We’re going to look at the pros and cons and everything else that goes into it. Unfortunately, that’s where it would be nice to have more preseason games and give a lot of those guys an opportunity to play even more and us assess them even longer, but that’s the way it is. Tuukka’s got to play. He’s our goaltender that we’ve got to get ready for the start of the season.”
Gustavsson’s preseason availability was limited by the birth of his first child, which cost him a preseason start that was perhaps made up when he played all of Wednesday’s game against the Rangers. Malcolm Subban (who started two preseason games) and Zane McIntyre are already back in Providence having been cut from camp.
Julien has noted that the decision the team makes for Rask’s backup will not necessarily be the team’s final decision. If the team loses confidence in the backup, as the Bruins did with Niklas Svedberg last season, they won’t hesitate to call up Subban and give him his shot. Should Smith get the first crack at the gig, such a scenario would do Gustavsson no good unless he remains unsigned.
Gustavsson saw his injuries create that situation last season in Detroit. As he battled a shoulder injury, AHL callup Petr Mrazek emerged as a starting option for the Red Wings, which made his services no longer required. If Gustavsson does happen to win a job in Boston, he intends to keep it.
“Every time you’re on the ice, you’re trying to prove yourself,” he said. “That’s what you’ve got to do, no matter if you have a contract or not. There’s always going to be competition. You can’t really take any spots for granted, no matter if you’re on a one-way or two-way or tryout or whatever it is. If you’re not going to perform over time, some younger kid or some other goalie’s going to take your spot. There’s only 60 spots in the league and there’s tons of good goalies.”
Gustavsson still considers himself one of them. He’ll have to wait to see if the Bruins agree.
|Tuukka Rask happy to get back on ice: ‘You kind of forget how tough it is out there’||09.29.15 at 12:12 am ET|
The long wait finally came to an end for Tuukka Rask Monday night.
The 28-year-old goalie made his 2015 preseason debut after watching the likes of Jonas Gustavsson, Jeremy Smith, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre fill the void over the first four games, all wins.
Monday night wasn’t about the final result, a 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. It was about getting Rask’s feet wet for the first time in game action since the regular season finale last April 11 at Tampa Bay. That night, the Bruins were eliminated in the middle of the game. Monday night, in a game with far less significance, Rask stopped 21 of 24 shots in getting his first taste of action.
“Good to get it out of the way,” Rask said. “You kind of forget how tough it is out there. It doesn’t matter how much you workout or skate, it’s always different when it’s a real game and I definitely felt it. It’s good to get that first one out of the belt and to keep moving on that.”
Rask posted a 2.30 goals against last season with a 34-21-13 mark in 70 games. He will, of course, be the starting goalie for the Bruins when they open the season on Oct. 8 against Winnipeg at TD Garden.
“I think at this point I focus on myself and getting my game where I feel like it needs to be – it’s just with the feel and everything,” Rask said. “I felt that timing was sometimes a little off, angles were a little off at times — not natural all the time. Those are the things I need to work on, but I think in the bigger picture too, looking at the breakouts we did a pretty good job today and communication was pretty good too. The first period I had to handle it a couple times, the first one of the game I just made a bad pass, but after that I made a couple good passes. A couple guys talked to me where they wanted the puck to be and I think they did a good job in front of the net, clearing some sticks and some players. I think it was good.”
Rask realizes that improving Boston’s breakout this season begins with him.
|Observations from Bruins’ preseason loss to Red Wings||09.28.15 at 9:28 pm ET|
Jimmy Howard lost his shutout bid in the final minute of Monday night’s preseason contest as the Red Wings earned a 3-1 win over the Bruins at TD Garden. Here are some quick observations from the preseason contest:
— Tuukka Rask made his first start of the preseason. After coming up with an impressive kick save on Drew Miller and stopping him again point blank in the second period, Miller finally cashed in on one of his chances when he fired a shot from the right circle past Rask at 7:11 of the second.
Rask didn’t get much help from the guys in front of him on Detroit’s second goal. After getting burned by Tomas Jurco, Linus Arnesson took a hack at Jurco but did not deter the Red Wings forward from scoring on the delayed penalty call. The Wings went up 3-0 in the third on a Andreas Athanosiou wrist shot from the point.
Rask finished the game with 21 saves on 23 shots.
— Loui Eriksson scored Boston’s only goal, with Loui Eriksson picking up a rebound in front off a Torey Krug point shot during 6-on-5 play and jamming it past Howard. It was a good finish to the game for his line with Patrice Bergeron and Marchand after the trio struggled to stay onside early in the contest.
— The B’s survived an injury scare late in the second period. After leaving the ice slowly and in pain, Brad Marchand could be seen grabbing his right thigh area as he remained on the bench for the final 5:38 of the period. Fortunately for the Bruins, Marchand was back on the ice to start the third period.
— David Pastrnak may have taken an uncalled stick to the face late in the third period. Pastrnak dropped his stick and left the ice holding his mouth after Brian Lashoff’s stick apparently got him with a little more than four minutes remaining.
– David Krejci was not in Monday’s lineup, Matt Beleskey and Pastrnak were centered by Austin Czarnik. The line wasn’t anything special, though it did draw a pair of penalties.
Pastrnak sprung Beleskey for a breakaway, but the puck was just out of his reach and Jimmy came out of his net to minimize the threat.
Tuukka Rask will see his first preseason action Monday night, as he is expected to play the entire time as the Bruins host the Red Wings.
Speaking after Monday’s practice, Rask said he doesn’t mind having sat out the Bruins’ first four games of the preseason, as he’s as invested in seeing who wins the backup job as anyone.
“I’ve been fine. I’m sure I could have had a game or half a game if I really wanted to,” Rask said. “We figured that I’ll play my games this week and carry it over to next week.”
Jonas Gustavsson will back up Rask on Monday. Still on a professional tryout, he is back with the team after leaving to attend the birth of his first child. Gustavsson, Rask and Jeremy Smith are the only goalies left in camp after the B’s sent Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre to Providence Sunday.
The projected lineup for Monday’s game is as follows:
David Krejci, who was given Sunday off, practiced with the second group Monday. Among the others to skate with the second group were Adam McQuaid, Zac Rinaldo and Brett Connolly. Word is that practice was particularly taxing, as one player was overheard saying it with the toughest of camp so far.
|Signs could point to another busy season for Tuukka Rask||08.10.15 at 3:52 pm ET|
MIDDLETON — Last season, Tuukka Rask turned had the heaviest regular-season workload of any Bruins goalie in over 50 years. His 70 games played tied the Bruins’ franchise record, making him the first to hit that mark since Eddie Johnston played all 70 of Boston’s games in the 1963-64 season.
That’s not a good thing.
Sure, you want one of the best goalies in the league to play often, but not quite all the time. The reason Rask had to play so many games was because the Bruins didn’t think they could win games unless he was playing. Had the Bruins actually made the playoffs, there’s no telling when all of that work would have taken its toll on Boston’s wiry star. [For more on the Bruins’ use of goaltenders, click here.]
The Bruins didn’t have faith in last season’s backup, Niklas Svedberg, who departed for the KHL in the offseason. Barring a trade, they likely won’t have a sure thing behind Rask this season either. The candidates to man the No. 2 job in Boston this season are Malcolm Subban (one career NHL game), Jeremy Smith (zero career NHL games) and Zane McIntyre (zero career professional games).
“I’m sure things are going to sort out,” Rask said Monday at Shawn Thornton‘s Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament. “There’s good young guys wanting to battle for a spot on the roster. Whatever, whoever it’s going to be I’m sure is going to be very capable of playing games. We’ll see how it plays out, but I’m sure there’s no reason to worry.”
Rask’s previous high in games played during a regular season was 58 games in his Vezina-winning 2013-14 season. After the Bruins missed the playoffs last season, he lamented the toll that playing every game (15 in a row in January, 12 in a row to end the season) took on him.
“Honestly, it felt like [I] played like 15 playoff series out there, but we battled and I battled and just tried to give us a chance to win every game,” Rask said after the final regular-season game. “The last I don’t know how many games, it felt like if I let in more than two goals, it’s going to be done. Obviously it drains you mentally, but we battled.”
Rask said Monday that while he was drained from having to handle as much work as he did, he hasn’t needed extra recovery time this summer.
“Not crazy,” he said of resting up. “Obviously it’s mentally draining when you’re battling for that playoff spot and you play a lot of games in a row and stuff like that, but you always feel kind of exhausted afterwards. Then when you do nothing for a week or two, you’re kind of like, ‘OK, let’s play hockey again.””
The lack of an established backup and some question marks elsewhere on Boston’s roster (particularly defense) could point to another busy season for Rask. He didn’t seem to like being overused as much as he was (only Braden Holtby and Jonathan Quick played more), but he’s willing to do it again this season.
“I don’t think you can put a number on it, but a lot of things depend on how tight the games are and how many games you play in a row and stuff like that,” he said. “Last year, it happened to be 70. If it’s going to be like that, it’s going to be like that again.”
Boston’s group of star players got smaller this offseason, as the team lost two in Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic. Though the team did add Matt Beleskey and make an interesting swap of Reilly Smith for Jimmy Hayes, the roster is not better now than it was last season. Bounceback seasons are expected from many Bruins, but Rask understands that the B’s are no longer viewed as the powerhouse they once were.
“I think we’ve been through so many different scenarios in past years that people put us up on a pedestal and pick us as the favorites,” Rask said. “Maybe now that’s not necessarily the case, so we know where we stand when we talk as a team and when we practice and play as a team. We just try to focus on our own thing and not try to worry about what people on the outside say. Our approach has always been that we’re doing our thing and we’ll do it as good as we can and see where it leads us.”
As such, when he said that he isn’t concerned about the state of the Bruins’ defense — a group that made his life hard last year before it lost Dougie Hamilton — his outlook should be taken with a grain of salt.
“I don’t think there’s a reason to worry,” Rask said of Boston’s defense Monday at Shawn Thornton‘s Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament. “I haven’t been worried.”
Rask knows better than anybody how much the Bruins needed to improve on the back end, as his play had to make up for a rough season on the blueline. Between having to play nearly every time the B’s took the ice (70 of 82 games) and facing tougher challenges as a result of the team’s defense, Rask was overworked as a result of the team’s shortcomings.
So when Boston’s defense lost Hamilton, a 22-year-old restricted free agent who wanted out, it would have been understandable for the 2014 Vezina winner to head to the dairy section of his local grocer and go H.A.M. on some milk crates.
Instead, Rask took an it-is-what-it-is attitude when asked about Hamilton’s trade to the Flames.
“Obviously I was surprised,” Rask said. “I think everybody was surprised, but there’s always the truth somewhere. I haven’t heard what happened, but if he felt like he had to move on, he had to move on.”
While there was something (however small) to the chatter that Hamilton wasn’t the most popular guy in the Bruins’ dressing room, it would have been hard for Hamilton’s teammates to take issue with the way he played. Hamilton was clearly Boston’s second-best defenseman behind future Hall of Famer Zdeno Chara and he was in line to eventually take the torch from Chara as the next in a long line of great Bruins blueliners.
Hamilton’s fit with his teammates was not a big deal in the Bruins’ eyes, which is evidenced by the fact that they tried to re-sign him. Whether it was his teammates, the city or coach Claude Julien, it has not been made clear why Hamilton wanted to leave.
“I thought he felt comfortable with everybody,” Rask said, “but what you feel deep inside is a different thing and he felt like he needed to move on.”
Thornton laughed off a question about the Hamilton situation by saying he didn’t care, but he admitted he found the departure to be a bit odd.
“Listen, I’m a little surprised,” Thornton said. “I loved Boston, obviously, and for someone to want to get out of it, I don’t get it ‘ especially in the first few years. But it’s his world. He had decisions to make and that’s the one he made. Hey, hopefully he’s happy in Calgary.”
The Bruins received a very underwhelming package of three draft picks in exchange for Hamilton, who will co-star on a terrific blue line in Calgary. The deal did not help the Bruins for 2015-16 at all, as the team used the three picks on prospects Zachary Senyshyn (15th overall), Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (45th overall) and Jeremy Lauzon (52nd overall).
|Don Sweeney says he isn’t rebuilding Bruins or trading Tuukka Rask||06.30.15 at 12:29 pm ET|
Don Sweeney is adamant that the Bruins are not going through a rebuild.
To some degree, his actions reflect that he doesn’t think the Bruins will bottom out. For example, no team planning on rebuilding would send a third-round pick in two years away in exchange for bottom-of-the-roster player, as the B’s did this week by acquiring Zac Rinaldo for a 2017 third-round pick.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Sweeney’s stance on his team’s direction remained unchanged from the weekend.
“I don’t think it’s a rebuild,” Sweeney said. “We didn’t strip this down.”
The Bruins have made a number of moves of late, which have left fans believing the Bruins are indeed undergoing an overhaul. The trades of Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic have made the current roster considerably worse, while the re-signing of Adam McQuaid and the trade for Rinaldo have been met with confusion.
The Bruins still have a core of Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Patrice Bergeron in place, which could still allow them to contend for the playoffs. Further moves figure to better indicate the team’s direction.
Sweeney insisted that one piece of the team’s core will remain in Boston. Tuukka Rask was rumored to be discussed at some length, however small, during the draft in Florida over the weekend, but Sweeney rejected the notion that he would trade his goaltender.
“Tuukka Rask not on the market,” Sweeney said. “I’m not sure where those necessarily come from. I can deliver emphatically that did not happen.”
Rask has six years remaining on an eight-year deal with an annual cap hit of $7 million.