|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.
|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.