Thursday, February 27, 2014
Rask rejuvenated, ready for action
By Joe McDonald
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Tuukka Rask spent nearly 30 minutes on the ice with some of his Bruins teammates Thursday afternoon, as part of an optional team practice at Ristuccia Arena.
Rask helped Finland to a bronze medal at the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and now with 24 games remaining in the regular season for the Bruins, he appears rejuvenated for the stretch run. He didn't appear tired or overwhelmed. In fact, he says his Olympic experience was better than he thought, and he's healthy and ready to go.
"I feel good," he said. "I only played four games, so it wasn't an exhausting experience. We had some time to relax there and enjoy the Olympic experience, too. On the way back, I slept the whole flight, so I pretty much feel back into the rhythm. I'm ready to go.
"As tough as it is there, you get to enjoy it. It's not the same kind of grind and pressure as it is here, so you feel rejuvenated and sharp again."
Tuukka Rask led Finland to a bronze medal by shutting out the U.S. 5-0 in the third-place game.
He missed the semifinal game against Sweden due to a bout of the flu, which was something, he said, he had been dealing with in previous games, including in Finland's win against Russia where he earned the victory. In the semis, he couldn't get out of bed, so Finland turned to Kari Lehtonen to face Sweden.
"I could've played, but, if you're like, 40 percent capacity it doesn't make any sense to go out there when you have two No. 1 goalies, so that kind of helped my decision to stay off," Rask said. "I knew it wouldn't matter who was in net because we were going to have a chance to win. It happens and there's no hard feelings, it's just life."
Rask finished the Olympics with a 27-save performance to lead Finland to a 5-0 win over Team USA in the bronze-medal game.
"I don't think anybody picked us to win a medal," Rask said. "You look at the four teams, the best in the world, but we knew if we played our system we would have a chance to beat anybody and we showed it. We played a great game against Canada, it could have gone either way, then beating the Russians. We played some great games. Nobody expected us to win, but we felt pretty confident for our game."
When he first in arrived in Sochi, Rask tweeted pictures of himself riding a bike around the Olympic village in the warm weather.
"It was great," he said. "People were jealous because we were the only team right from day one that had bikes, and by the end of it everybody had bikes. It would've been a lot of walking if we didn't have bikes. A couple of hours a day walking wears on you, but people liked [riding bikes]."
Prior to the games, there were major security concerns, and many of the athletes, including NHL players, voiced their worries over possible acts of terrorism. Fortunately, everyone was safe and the athletes were impressed with the security.
"It was great. For the athletes, we didn't have any problems," Rask said.
Rask added, "When we got there everything was top-notch and the security was tight, but not noticeably tight. The hotel we stayed at was great, the rink was great, the food was great, everything was just great."
Bruins coach Claude Julien decided it would be best if Rask remained in Boston while the team played Wednesday night against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Backup Chad Johnson started as the Bruins lost in overtime 5-4.
Rask said it was a little weird watching from home, but he's expecting to start against the Washington Capitals on Saturday afternoon (1 p.m.) at TD Garden.
Of the 24 games remaining, the Bruins have 17 in March, including six pairs of back-to-backs. The condensed schedule will present some challenges, but the Bruins are confident they'll finish the regular season exactly how they need to before the Stanley Cup playoffs begin.
"Well, the good thing is we've been through it before, so it's nothing new for us," Rask said. "We just have to approach it the right way and make sure we get our rest at the right times and really dig deep in the game situations. It's going to be tough but we have been through it before, we have the experience and the leadership here to get through it and finish off on the right note."