|Rask unshaken by competition, sophomore slump||08.09.10 at 5:04 pm ET|
MIDDLETON — A refreshed and eager Tuukka Rask made his first appearance around these parts in quite some time as he prepared to tee off with teammates and fans for Shawn Thornton‘s Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament. With last season’s borderline traumatic Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Flyers in the rear view mirror and a new season just around the corner, Rask is ready to build on a 2009-10 performance that saw him become the No. 1 goaltender down the stretch.
“Things are going great. I had an awesome summer in Finland, spent a couple times there, seeing my friends and family and working out,” said Rask. “Now I’m back here so it’s time to get your thoughts back on the hockey season.”
After playing five games in the previous two years, Rask, a former first-round pick acquired from the Maple Leafs in exchange for Andrew Raycroft, made his first real impression in the NHL last season. In splitting time with then-reigning Vezina winner Tim Thomas, Rask started 39 regular- season games and posted a 1.97 goals against average, which, like his .931 save percentage, led the NHL.
Yet as Rask, who started all 13 playoff games for the Bruins, looks to improve and further his accomplishments, he must do so knowing of the sophomore slump that has plagued Raycroft and so many goaltenders before him.
“I’ve heard about people talking about it,” Rask said of the struggles that face second-year goalies, “but not yet in my part, but we’ll see what happens. You just try to be yourself and do your best every day and when you know that you have worked hard and you’ve done everything you can to be at your best, there’s nothing you can change and thats something I’m going to try to do. If it goes not so well, then it goes, but we’ll see.”
Any feared decline in Rask’s performance has hardly been the only discussion that has involved the Bruins goaltending this offseason. Given Rask’s emergence and Thomas’ $5 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons, there has been significant chatter among the fanbase that Thomas should be considered expendable for a team that is struggling against the salary cap.
That’s not how Rask sees it, however. He thrived on the competition with Thomas and maintained that having to challenge an established veteran made him better, which in turn made Thomas better.
“We had an awesome time last year,” Rask said of his relationship with Thomas. “It’s a fair competition for both of us and I think it’s healthy for a team and for us when nobody takes anything for granted. We liked it and hopefully that continues.”
Thornton, who this offseason re-upped with the Bruins on a two-year pact, can agree.
“They’re both professionals,” said Thornton, who noted training camp competitions are a natural part of the game. “It’s the same for us. My job’s not guaranteed either, so every training camp you go in fighting for a spot. I think competition’s a good thing. I think it’s healthy. I’m sure Tuukka knows that job isn’t his and it’s not going to be given to him, so that’s healthy for them to push each other. We’re pretty fortunate to have two No. 1 goalies as far I’m concerned.”
Based on the statistics of the two, it’s hard to argue with Thornton’s logic. Both Thomas and Rask certainly have the pedigrees and reputations to suggest they could earn a starting job on most teams, but the younger of the two doesn’t seem to care about anything but what happens on the ice each night.
“Whoever is playing good is going to play,” Rask said matter-of-factly. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve got 16,000 Vezinas or zero Vezinas, you know? That’s just the way it goes on our team and that’s good for everybody I think.”
Rask appears to have put on a little weight, though it’s nothing noticeable enough to confuse him with any of the league’s bigger goaltenders. After playing last season at 171 pounds for a man who stands at 6-foot-2, any bulking up on the 23-year-old’s part seems welcomed to him.
“I’m, heavier. I don’t know if that’s because of the workouts or the food I ate. We’re getting there. I’m working out with [Bruins strength and conditioning coach] John Whitesides now so we’ll see in a couple weeks what things look like.”
Rask is back in the states for good until training camp opens in the middle of September. He pointed to working with Whitesides as a big reason for his early return, admitting that working out by himself isn’t as productive as working with a “real trainer.” Rask admitted his first full season in the NHL did feel him leaving a little rough when it came to the offseason, but as he trains for 2010-11, everything has been smooth sailing.
“I think it was about five or six weeks [after the season ended], and my body was still kind of feeling the season, but after that, everything was normal and you start doing your workouts and stuff like that and everything felt good,” Rask said. “No problems, but it always takes quite a time to recover fully.”
Rask signed a two-year extension with the Bruins in November and will earn $1.25 million in each of the next two seasons, at which point he will remain under the Bruins’ control as a restricted free agent.
|Will Bruins stick to status quo in net?||07.02.10 at 12:54 am ET|
Though Tim Thomas rumors have been more or less overflowing from the internet this offseason — some feasible, some outrageous — Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is certainly speaking like a guy who wouldn’t feel it was the end of the world if he goes into next season with his No. 2 goalie making $5 million.
‘I’m comfortable with our goaltending duo,” Chiarelli said. “There will be an intense competition, that’s the way we had planned it and I’m comfortable with it. I’m not saying it’s going to end up that way, but I’m certainly comfortable if it is.’
With the looks of free agency so far, it’s a good thing he’d be comfortable with it. With Marty Turco and Evgeni Nabokov still on the open market, it’s hard to believe teams would rather trade for a guy who’s two years older and seemingly better-suited for a tandem.
Some may view it as a waste to keep the 36 year-old Thomas around at such a high price tag, but he undoubtedly adds security to a goaltending position that may be a bit overestimated due to solid play down the stretch from Tuukka Rask. Thomas has the track-record of being able to play at a high level despite age and Rask hasn’t been the man for a full season yet.
The Bruins are in a tight spot regarding cap space, and though Thursday’s two-way deal given to old friend Jeremy Reich won’t be a back-breaker (he’ll get $500,000 if he’s on the NHL club), the team has just $4,465,357 in cap space, with Tyler Seguin set to seemingly get the entry-level maximum of $900,000 in salary (he’ll get more in bonuses) and deals still to be done for Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart.
Making all three deals happen may be tough given their current cap number and a contract may have to be moved around to make the signings a possibility, but don’t count on it being Thomas.
|Flyers help Bruins make dubious history||05.14.10 at 9:33 pm ET|
Summary — The Flyers became just the third team in the history of the National Hockey League to come back from a 3-0 series deficit and win a seven-game series, in the process coming back from a 3-0 first-period hole to score four straight goals to advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a 4-3 win over the Bruins at TD Garden on Friday night.
Tuukka Rask was the loser for Boston, allowing the four Flyers goals on 27 shots. Michael Leighton overcame a shaky first period to put the clamps down on the Bruins season with 25 saves. Simon Gagne scored the game-winner at 12:52 in the third period on the power play after the B’s were whistled for too many men on the ice.
The Bruins struck first (and, for that matter, second and third), jumping to an early lead eight seconds into a power play after Scott Hartnell went to the box for a high sticking call on Matt Hunwick in the neutral zone at 5:18 in the first period. Boston wasted no time, controlling the puck on the face off and getting a couple attempts on Leighton. The second — of the stick of Zdeno Chara — rebounded down to the right dot, where Michael Ryder sent it right back on the crease past a hopping Mark Recchi and the Bruins were off and running at 5:27.
Boston made it 2-0, again on the power play, at 9:02 when a broken rush through the neutral zone ended up in a reset by Dennis Wideman, who decided to take it all the way down the right wing into the corner and send it back towards the crease where Milan Lucic timed his crash perfectly to bang it past Leighton for the two-goal advantage before the first period was halfway over.
Leighton would let in a third straight Boston goal at at 14:10 as Lucic struck again when he turned a giveaway into a lamplighter when he rushed all the way down the right wing and let off a snap shot by the right faceoff dot that went five-hole and made TD Garden erupt.
But the Flyers, remarkably, refused to concede defeat. James Van Riemsdyk fought hard to the right of Rask, leveling Wideman and getting a broken-play dribbler under the net minder’s left pad for a soft goal that made it 3-1 at 17:12 in the first. It was Van Riemsdyk’s first career playoff goal in his second professional season (first in the NHL) coming out of the University of New Hampshire.
The Flyers made it a one-goal game early in the second period on an even strength play where Danny Briere was able to penetrate the Rask’s crease after Ville Leino put the puck deep. Briere did a spin-o-rama and put the puck across the crease, where Andrew Ference could not put a stick on it at the goal line and Scott Hartnell flipped it back over Rask at 2:49.
The comeback was complete when Briere struck on his own, this time with the assist from Hartnell at 8:39 of the second period. Briere came back down around the net and did a wrap-around on Rask that rattled through the net and back out the other side to tie the game at three. The play was reviewed but it was conclusive that Briere had put the puck in the net and Boston had relinquished another 3-0 lead in the series.
Simon Gagne — His Game 4 return from a broken toe made all the difference for the Flyers in this series as he scored his second game-winner of the series to complete the series comeback.
Danny Briere — Perpetual thorn in the Bruins side was instrumental in getting the Flyers back in the game as his goal and assist in the second period were the answer Philadelphia was looking for after it went down 3-0 in the first.
Milan Lucic — Two first period goals got TD Garden pumping as the Boston forward set the stage for the excitement that was to come.
Turning Point – When Briere and Hartnell teamed up to take over in the second period. The pair was able to bring the Flyers back from the brink as the Bruins went soft in front of Rask. The wily center and his large wingman were able to get deep into the crease twice to tie the game and give the Flyers a chance to win it in the third period.
Key Play — The Bruins took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty at 11:10 of the third period, which set the Flyers up to score the go-ahead goal by Gagne when he found the puck on the right dot in front of Rask for the wrist shot top shelf to bury Boston and its Stanley Cup dreams once and for all.
|Flyers shut down Bruins to force Game 7||05.12.10 at 10:37 pm ET|
Summary — The Flyers became only the sixth team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit to force a Game 7 as they beat Boston 2-1 at Wachovia Center in Game 6 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series. Michael Leighton got his first career playoff start and made 30 saves as the Bruins could not end their sudden scoring woes. Tuukka Rask was not up to the task to close out the Flyers for the third straight game as he allowed two goals on 27 Philadelphia shots.
The Flyers continued their charge with their sixth consecutive goal in the series as they opened the scoring at 6:58 in the first period. Simon Gagne put the puck on Rask who made the initial save, but Daniel Carcillo crashed the crease and prevented Johnny Boychuk from clearing the rebound. The puck squirted into the slot where Mike Richards was there to clean up the mess and Philadelphia had an early lead once again.
Danny Briere put the Flyers up by two goals at 16:20 in the second period on the power play as the Flyers had a 4-on-3 advantage with Marc Savard, Daniel Paille in the box for the Bruins and Chris Pronger for Philadelphia. Briere crossed through the slot and let a wrist shot off that Rask got a piece of with his chest and arm but still got through to make it 2-0 heading into the third period.
With Rask on the bench in the final two minutes of play the Bruins pressed the 6-on-5 advantage and Milan Lucic banged home a rebound with 1:00 remaining on the clock to make the final minute of play tense but Leighton was able to hold on. The goal snapped 134:12 of scoreless play from the Bruins as they had not scored since the final minute of Game 4 when Mark Recchi forced overtime.
Mike Richards — Scored the opening goal and assisted on the second to pace the Flyers attack.
Michael Leighton — Withstood the Bruins second period pressure and delivered a win to Philadelphia to push the Bruins to a Game 7.
Matt Carle — The oft-overlooked defenseman paired with Chris Pronger had six blocked shots to keep the puck from getting to Leighton’s crease. Carle also has a plus-6 rating for the series.
Turning Point – Briere’s goal. The Bruins spent most of the second period in the Flyers zone but started taking penalties starting a high-stick by Savard at 15:15 and then a Paille elbow at 15:49. Pronger checked Zdeno Chara at the top of the crease and went for interference and the Flyers wasted no time in the 4-0n-3 as Briere used Rask as a pinball flipper to stop any momentum the Bruins had gained.
Key Play – Leighton made a save on a Mark Stuart shot early in the third period off his shoulder and Miroslav Satan crashed the net but was unable to slam the puck through the crease and a chance for the Bruins to make it a one-goal game was snuffed out. Boston would go on the power play a few minutes later when Matt Carle went for tripping at 5:15 but could muster nothing as the Flyers were aggressive at the point of attack to thwart the chance.
|Bruins self destruct in Game 5 loss to Flyers||05.10.10 at 9:33 pm ET|
Summary ‘ The Flyers will be going home with their season still alive after taking care of the Bruins 4-0 on Monday in Game 5. Tuukka Rask gave up four goals on 31 shots en route to his second straight loss of the series after winning the first three contests. The series shifts back to Philadelphia on Wednesday as the Bruins have two more chances to try and put the Flyers away to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1992.
Brian Boucher started in net for the Flyers, but only played in for 24:31 and left the game in the second period after getting his leg pinned back in a scrum in front of the net and having to be helped off the ice. Boucher stopped all nine Bruins shots he faced and left the game with a 1-0 lead. Michael Leighton replaced Boucher and made his first career NHL playoff appearance as well as his first appearance in a game since March 16. Leighton stopped the rest of the Bruins 14 shots to share the first combined shutout of the Bruins in a playoff game since Montreal did it in 1955.
The Flyers got on the board first as Ville Leino’s hard work in the series was rewarded when he slammed home a rebound that Rask left in the slot off a shot from the point by Chris Pronger at 6:41 in the first. It was the second goal of the postseason for Leino. The goal was originally charged to Scott Hartnell but changed to Leino after review in between the first and second periods.
The same Philadelphia line struck again in the second when a blocked shot in the slot in front of Rask led to a loose puck getting throw towards the crease. That’s where Danny Briere caught it at the corner and tried to flip it passed Rask and Hartnell was on the other side to ram home the oscillating puck to make it 2-0 at 11:16. It was Hartnell’s first goal of the playoffs after scoring 14 during the regular season.
After Steve Begin went for a boarding call on Claude Giroux at 17:00, Simon Gagne scored his second of the playoffs on the power play in the second. Gagne got the puck on a rebound from Mike Richards and Leino putting the puck on Rask and got the easy put back to make it 3-0 at 17:53.
Gagne struck again to really put the game out of reach at 6:48 in the third period when Dennis Wideman could not control a back pass at the blue line as the puck slid through him into neutral ice while he dropped his stick. Gagne chased the puck down, easily eluding Wideman’s attempt to box him out and took the breakaway straight on Rask for an easy score to make it 4-0.
Ville Leino — Has been the hardest-working member of the Flyers the past two games and it showed on the scoreboard on Monday with a goal and an assist.
Simon Gagne — The forward played in his second game of the series after toe surgery at the end of the Flyers quarterfinals series against the Devils and has three goals, including two in Game 5, since his return.
Brian Boucher/Michael Leighton — The Bruins did the goaltenders a bunch of favors on the night but they still combined to shutdown the Bruins offense for most of the night to take the game back to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Wednesday. It was the first combined shutout for the Flyers in their playoff history.
Turning Point — Boucher had only seen nine shots before Leighton replaced him and it looked like a golden opportunity for the Bruins to climb back into it. But Hartnell scored about six minutes later and Gagne added the demoralizer on the power play late in the second period as the Flyers took control of the game.
Key Play — Gagne’s goal was the first power play goal Philadelphia scored since Game 1 and came after the Bruins had killed the first five power plays the Flyers had on the night. The three-goal lead would be too much for Boston to overcome on en route to its second straight loss in the series.
|Flyers stay alive with Game 4 OT victory||05.07.10 at 10:12 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The Flyers kept their season alive and got a digit in the win column in the Eastern Conference semifinals as they beat Boston 5-4 in overtime of Game 4 at the Wachovia Center on Friday evening. Simon Gagne scored the game-winner in the extra frame to keep Philadelphia’s Stanley Cup hopes alive. Brian Boucher got his first win of the series and stopped Tuukka Rask’s four-game playoff winning streak in the process to force a Game 5 in Boston on Monday.
The Flyers were up by a goal by Ville Leino late in the third period and looked like they would squeak out the win after Boston came back from a two-goal deficit to tie it a three but Mark Recchi scored an empty-net goal with 31.5 seconds left in the game to send it to overtime.
Boston took the early lead for the third time in the four games as Mark Recchi recorded his fifth strike of the playoffs at 15:37 in the first period. The play was set up by strong play from Dennis Wideman and Daniel Paille through the netural zone that set up center Patrice Bergeron on a partial break on Boucher. Bergeron got off a weak shot but Boucher had committed on the ice and was forced to deflect the puck back into the slot with his side while laying on his side. Recchi was following Bergeron on the play and flipped it high for the 1-0 advantage.
The Flyers came back on during a 4-on-4 after Scott Hartnell and Vladimir Sobotka went to the box with matching roughing penalties at 18:06 in the first. Defenseman Matt Carle rushed down the left wing and slipped the puck through the high slot to the stick of Claude Giroux who was skating on a parallel line with Danny Briere. Giroux slowed up and tapped the puck to Briere who sent a snap shot on Rask that found its way to the back of the net to tie it at 19:06.
The Flyers took the lead with two goals in the second period, the first time in the series that they have had a two-goal advantage over the Bruins. Chris Pronger scored the first when he took a slap shot from the high slot that deflected off of defenseman Mark Stuart’s skate and zipped passed Rask at 4:28 to make it 2-1. Giroux made it 3-1 when he crashed the net as Scott Hartnell was battling on the elbow of the crease to dislodge the puck from a tie-up against the post. Hartnell was able to kick it through the crease and Giroux slammed it home at 8:35.
Boston got back to within a goal at 10:56. Michael Ryder took a slap shot from the high slot that went wide of Boucher’s net and rebounded off the end wall back to the corner of the crease. Boucher went to cover but Vladimir Sobotka crashed the goalie and hit the glove to dislodge the puck and squirt it through Boucher’s legs to get Boston back with a goal.
The Bruins would tie it back up at three early in the third on the power play. Dennis Wideman took a wrist shot from the left point that he elevated to Milan Lucic’s hip as the forward was camped in the slot in front of Boucher. Lucic got an eek of a tip on the puck to deflect it through the crease at 3:49.
Chris Pronger — Had a goal and a big assist on the game-winner to keep his team playing hockey in the month of May.
Claude Giroux — The sophomore forward helped the Flyers create offense with a goal and an assist to give him nine points through the playoffs.
Mark Recchi — The game-tying goal was simply amazing as the veteran and future Hall of Famer added another chapter to his legacy.
Turning Point – Lucic’s tip was set up by a Flyers penalty to Ville Leino for hooking at 2:59 in the third period. The Flyers had held the Bruins scoreless through their first two power play attempts of the game but Boston was able to settle the puck in its third attempt and cycle it to the point where Wideman could wind up and fire. Lucic was in decent position in the slot and shot the shaft of his stick on it, enough to get it passed Boucher. The goal made the game competitive again until late in the Recchi sent it to overtime.
Key Play – Recchi’s game-tying goal will be one of those moments that goes down in NHL playoff lore. He could have one-timed the shot off the stick of Patrice Bergeron but stopped, held it for a moment, let Boucher get out of position and flipped it top shelf to send the game to an extra frame.
|Second period summary: Bruins vs. Flyers – Game 4||at 8:39 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — It looks like the Flyers want to continue to play hockey in the spring of 2010. They scored two goals to take a 3-2 lead into the third, the first time in the series where they have had a lead entering the deciding period.
The Bruins got a power play opportunity early when Danny Briere pinched Dennis Wideman on the half wall and got his stick up just a bit too high and whacked Wideman in the face for Boston’s first man-advantage of the game. Boston was able to get a couple shots off but did not break through Brian Boucher and the chance slipped by.
Chris Pronger then gave the Flyers a rare thing for them in the series — a lead. He had a slap shot from the high slot that deflected off of defenseman Mark Stuart’s skate on its way through Tuukka Rask to make it 2-1 at 4:28.
It looked like Boston would be able to grab the momentum right back when Daniel Carcillo went to the box for cross-checking at 5:26 but the Philadelphia penalty kill was again on top of its game as Boston got off another couple shots before it was killed.
Philadelphia then had a series first for it when it took a two-goal lead at 8:35. Forward Scott Hartnell was in a scrum at the very corner of the net and kicked the puck through the crease where a crashing Claude Giroux made it 3-1 as he slammed it home passed Rask.
Boston got a goal back at 10:56. Michael Ryder had a shot from the slot go wide of Boucher but bounced off the end wall back to the side of the crease. Boucher went to cover the puck but Vladimir Sobotka crashed the net and hit Boucher’s glove, dislodging the puck and sending it through the pads into the net to make it 3-2.
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