|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.
|Tuukka Rask gives Bruins an ‘F’ for season: ‘If you don’t make the playoffs, you’ve failed’||04.14.15 at 10:52 am ET|
Good was not good enough.
In a nutshell, that sums up Tuukka Rask and the Bruins’ first non-playoff season since 2007. The Bruins goalie acknowledged as much in assessing what went wrong throughout a season in which the Bruins could never find a consistent groove.
Rask finished with a 34-21-13 mark in a career-high 70 games, including 64 starts, also the most ever by the 28-year-old in his eight-year career. Rask had a 2.30 goals against average and a .922 save percentage, good numbers to be sure but when you compare them to the previous three seasons (2.03 GAA, .929 save percentage), they represented a drop off, just like the team.
“Good. Not great, good,” Rask said. “Improve? Always like to improve. But I looked at my numbers and the scoring chances, and it was not obviously quite as good as last year, but it was still over 82 percent. So, that’s good.”
But Rask left no doubt about how he felt about the season from a team perspective when asked to give a grade for the season.
“Well, what’s failed, F? Because you know, if you don’t make the playoffs, you’ve failed,” Rask said. “You know, it doesn’t matter what happened, if you make the playoffs you’ve failed. I mean, if we were to make the playoffs, who knows what could have happened. So the line there is very thin, and we really felt like we had a group of guys to make a good run in the playoffs. But we failed because we didn’t make the playoffs and we’ll never find out.
“Never would have thought that I’d be in this situation, never been in this situation in my career before. Hopefully never have to be here again. It’s tough.”
After reaching the Cup finals in 2013 and the second round in ’14, Rask has a little extra time this spring to think about what went wrong.
|Tuukka Rask: ‘It felt like if I let in more than 2 goals, it’s going to be done’||04.11.15 at 11:53 pm ET|
TAMPA, Fla. — Nobody had to work harder than Tuukka Rask this season. His efforts were not rewarded.
The Bruins leaned on Rask to play the final 12 games of a season that also saw him play 15 straight from mid-January on. Those stretches were part what ended up being a career-high 70-game campaign for Boston’s starter. Rask was one of only three goalies to hit the 70-game mark this season.
Making matters more difficult for Rask was Boston’s difficulty scoring this season, meaning the goaltender could not afford to have many off-nights. Following the team’s elimination from postseason contention, the 2013-14 Vezina winner admitted the heavy workload got to 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. “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.”
Asked whether he felt the workload was too much, Rask said the more difficult part was the lack of breathing room given all the close games.
“I don’t think the amount of games, but when you’re struggling with your team game and you know that you have to be on top of your game every night and you play pretty much 70 of those games, it’s tough,” he said. “It’s too much for anybody because it’s like a playoff game every night out there. But physically I felt fine and we’ll see how we move on.”
Rask finished the season with a .922 save percentage, which was seventh among NHL goaltenders with at least 50 starts.
TAMPA, Fla. — The Bruins didn’t play dumb after concluding their disaster of a 2014-15 season. They know that when the bar is set high and the results come in low, things can change quickly.
Charlie Jacob’s words about the team’s leadership being under review midway through the season suggested general manager and Peter Chiarelli could be on the hot seat. Star players could be shipped out of town.
Milan Lucic, a player who is both one-of-a-kind and overpaid, hopes this season didn’t cost anyone their jobs, himself included. Lucic has one season remaining on a three-year, $18 million contract with a modified no-trade clause. The 26-year-old, who will be an unrestricted free agent following the deal, had just 18 goals in 81 games this season.
“Obviously, there’s high expectations on this team and this organization,” he said. “I think, if you look at things, when there’s those high expectations and they aren’t met, changes usually seem to be made. As a player, those are things that are out of your control.
“For myself, personally, I just want to be back and stay in Boston. You love the team, you love the city, you love the organization and you hope that things stay the same as much as they can.”
Players were aware of Jacobs’ comments. The B’s went on a five-game winning streak in January following that press conference, but their play dropped off again in a season full of starts and stops. Tuukka Rask felt that said the players failed their bosses and not the other way around.
“Coaches put the game plan out there and we go out there and try to execute it,” Tuukka Rask said. “Obviously that wasn’t the case this year, so a lot of it falls on us as players because we underachieved. We just have to live with it.”
Asked about Julien and Chiarelli, Brad Marchand said it’s ‘not their fault that we didn’t perform.’ Marchand, who led the Bruins with 24 goals this season, said that nobody did well enough this season.
“I don’t think that any of us really performed to our capabilities this year,” Marchand said. “The goals may have been there at times, but that doesn’t mean that I had any better of a season than anyone else. I think we all know that we could have been better, and if we were then we wouldn’t be here right now. This is a failure of a season for all of us and it doesn’t matter what guys’ stats were.”
|Bruins lament failure of season||at 11:34 pm ET|
TAMPA, Fla. — The Bruins never gained traction this season and now it’s over. Though injuries and the team’s coaches/management will be blamed for the team’s demise, the team’s motor was seemingly busted all season.
“When you don’t make the playoffs, you’ve failed,” Claude Julien said after the Bruins finished ninth in the Eastern Conference.
For all the team’s inconsistency this season, the Bruins were in control of a playoff spot entering the final week of the season. Boston sat third in the Atlantic Division entering their season-ending three-game road trip, but regulation losses in Washington and Florida left the Bruins needing teams like the Senators and Penguins to lose in order for Boston to get in.
That didn’t happen and the Bruins got what was coming.
“I really don’t have an answer,” Chris Kelly said. “You’d think at the most critical time, we’d be playing our best hockey, and that wasn’t the case. It was in our hands and we let it get away. This is ultimately what happens.”
Kelly and other leaders called out the team at multiple points in an effort to return to the success of seasons past, but their efforts rarely took.
“I mean, you talk about it all the time. You talk about, ‘We need to have everybody going. We need to do this, we need to do that,’ and at the end of the day I just think a lot of it is mental,” Tuukka Rask said. “We never really got to that comfort zone. It seemed like we were nervous a lot of times out there and just couldn’t overcome that as a team. It’s frustrating, but I really don’t know why that happened.”
Now, the Bruins will not play postseason hockey for the first time since 2006-07.
“We could have been better. We could have been more consistent throughout the year,” Zdeno Chara said. “It’s been a tough year for us all around. I think everybody could have been better.”