|Tuukka Rask working on becoming a Bostonian||09.17.10 at 2:30 pm ET|
Finland native Tuukka Rask has done plenty in Boston so far as a goaltender. In his first full season splitting time with Tim Thomas in net, Rask led the NHL in both goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.931).
Now, after bringing Finland to Boston, Rask is getting more acquainted with becoming a Bostonian. After spending a couple of months in his native country, Rask did what he could to soak up the Boston atmosphere outside of hockey season.
“I had never seen Boston in the summertime, so I kind of wanted to see that. I was really impressed, it was awesome here.”
As such, his offseason activities included plenty of golfing — including charity tournaments for both Shawn Thornton and the Bruins foundation — and, like many locals this summer, taking in the Aerosmith/J. Geils Band concert at Fenway Park last month.
With fitness testing taking place Friday morning, the offseason fun is over for Rask, but if he continues what he started last season, his affection for the city will undoubtedly be reciprocated.
|Tim Thomas: ‘My play will do the talking’||09.13.10 at 2:24 pm ET|
BOLTON — Between rehabbing from a hip injury, coming off a season in which he lost his starting job down the stretch, and trying to remain a key piece of the puzzle, Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas had plenty to talk about Monday at the team’s golf tournament in Bolton.
Thomas said the hip that was operated on following the season is feeling “pretty good” and that after skating a bit last week, has “passed every test we threw at it so far.” He’s not sure whether he’ll be cleared to go full throttle once camp opens Friday.
“I don’t know,” Thomas said when asked what his level of participation will be. “That’s going to be up to the trainers and physical therapists. It depends on how it reacts as it’s going along. You can’t really make a projection at this point.”
Thomas added that he and the medical staff will “evaluate it as it goes along” and that he should have a clean bill of health by the team the wheels touch down in Prague to open the season on October 9.
“That’s what we’re shooting for, is opening day of the regular season, 100 percent,” Thomas said. It’s been going pretty well. It might end up being 100 percent before that.”
Much has been made about what Thomas’ role with the team will be in the 2010-11 season. After getting the majority of starts in the regular season (43), Thomas saw Tuukka Rask take over as the team’s starting goalie in each of the Bruins’ two playoff series. The 36-year-old now must focus on proving naysayers wrong and splitting time with Rask once again.
“I thought it over over the summer, and I’m approaching it just like I did every challenge I had at every level going through,” Thomas said. “It’s a battle against yourself. I’ve proven in the past what I can do when I bring the best game that I have to the table, so it’s up to me just to do that.
“I was promised the same chance [as before], and that’s the way I’m approaching it,” he added. “I think I will [get a chance]. My play will do the talking. It’s in my hands. that’s the way I look at it.”
|X-Factors: Tuukka and Tim||08.24.10 at 1:00 am ET|
Each day this week, WEEI.com will be putting a player or position in the spotlight based on their ‘X-factor’ status entering the season. Monday, we took a look at Michael Ryder. Up next are the two men between the pipes in Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas.
Though it may be a bit strange to not consider strong goaltending to be a sure thing in Boston given the past two seasons, it is certainly worth looking into what type of production the Bruins can expect from their netminders. Each player has something big to deal with in 2010-11. For Thomas, its another year under his belt and for Rask it’s the dreaded sophomore slump.
For the Bruins, and this goes against most of the fans’ wishes this offseason, it would appear the right choice was made in not dealing Thomas and his $5 million salary cap hit. The fact of the matter is that though he is 36 years of age, is coming off hip surgery and did not show his Vezina form last season, Thomas is of utmost important to the Bruins’ operation. He started the majority of Boston’s regular season games and posted a respectable 2.56 goals against average last season. He didn’t get a single start in the postseason, but he played just as big a role as Rask in getting the team there.
So why all the negativity surrounding Thomas? One would have to guess it can’t be fun going into each season with fans expecting you to lose your job, something Thomas has undoubtedly had to deal with for quite some time. Though he made $1.8 million more than Rask (after the rookie’s performance bonuses), evaluating the position as a whole based on cap hit would actually suggest the Bruins are paying a fair price.
Entering the coming season, the Bruins will be paying $6.25 million for a tandem that gave them a 2.33 goals against average over 82 games last season. The team’s GAA was second to only the Devils. For a frame of reference regarding that $6.25 million number, that’s exactly how much reigning Vezina winner Ryan Miller will be making with the Sabres next season. Though Thomas’ cap hit may be alarming by itself, the Bruins are paying a manageable amount for perhaps the league’s best duo in net. Read the rest of this entry »
|Slideshow: Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s||08.09.10 at 10:51 pm ET|
WEEI.com was on hand for Shawn Thornton’s first annual Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament, which means photographer John Vu was snapping plenty of pictures at Ferncroft Country Club in Middleton. Here is the slideshow of the event, which also featured Bruins forward Milan Lucic and goaltender Tuukka Rask (click the picture to begin). For the full low-down on the event and what it meant to Thornton, whose grandmother passed away from Parkinson’s, click here.
|Bruins can hear the hype||at 7:22 pm ET|
MIDDLETON — Eighty-something days after the Flyers eliminated the Bruins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Bruins Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, and Tuukka Rask took to the golf course for Parkinson’s disease, re-energized on the tail end of the offseason. Frustration and shock that stained the end of the season seems to have washed away, and for good reason.
The Bruins infamously let the Flyers erase a 3-0 series lead and allowed Philadelphia to advance to the conference finals, where they would defeat the Canadiens.
“[It was] really hard. Obviously when something like that happens, it stays in for a long time, but you’ve just got to realize what happened and learn from that,” Rask said Monday. “I think if we’re ever in the same kind of situation again, we’re much stronger as a team and as individuals for [learning] from that situation.”
Since things ended for the Bruins, though, the team started on a course to fill whatever perceived holes they had while also retaining its core group of guys.
Though the team finished sixth in the conference with 91 points last season and were viewed as somewhat of a regular season disappointment, in coming within a game of playing for a shot to represent the East, the Bruins confirmed to Boston their legitimacy as a team with significant playoff potential. As a result, fans have overlooked the loss to the Flyers and instead have zeroed in on how close the Bruins appear to be. Whether it be adding Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton or bringing back Mark Recchi, Blake Wheeler, Thornton, and key guys on defense, something has sent a jolt of life into Boston’s fanbase and the Bruins are noticing. Read the rest of this entry »
|Rask unshaken by competition, sophomore slump||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.