Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Rask looking forward to new season
By Joe McDonald
MIDDLETON, Mass. -- Tuukka Rask has spent his summer stopping cannonballs for charity and learning the sleep habits of his newborn daughter.
The Vezina Trophy winning goaltender for the Boston Bruins hasn’t dwelled too much on the team’s early exit from the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.
“Yeah, a little bit,” he said. “You can’t just sit around and think about the past because you’ve got to focus on what’s ahead of you. Things happen quick and it’s just hockey. I don’t like to think about it too much. I’ve seen so many times that everything needs to click in order to reach that ultimate goal. Last year just wasn’t our year. You look at the [Los Angeles] Kings who won, every series went seven games and you need the luck, too. So many things need to happen right and last year wasn’t our year and that’s it.”
Even though the Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s best team during the regular season, Rask is all about moving forward and believes last season was a learning experience for the Bruins. The only positive aspect of Boston’s early exodus is the fact the players were able to use the extra summer month to rest and rehab, which is something the Bruins haven’t been used to the last few season.
“It’s been a little different, but every once in a while I guess it’s a good thing to really refocus and load the batteries. [Camp] is still over a month away and it feels like we’re ready to go already, but rest [because you lost] is never a good thing, I guess,” Rask said.
Rask spent most of his time in Finland this summer, but he’s back in Boston and preparing for training camp. On Monday, he participated in former teammate and close friend Shawn Thornton’s annual charity golf tournament “Putts & Punches for Parkison’s” at Ferncroft Country Club. Prior to the event, Rask also did his Ice Bucket Challenge to support ALS research.
As for hockey, he hasn’t started skating, yet, but he’s been working out and gaining strength.
With the exception of not re-signing Thornton, and Jarome Iginla signing with the Colorado Avalanche, the Bruins’ roster hasn’t changed too much this offseason.
“We’re not changing that much, as of now, so I don’t think it’ll be a huge change for us but obviously a couple of veteran guys like that gone, you need the young guys to step up and take the role and I think we’re ready for that,” Rask said.
He’ll also have a new goaltending partner this season with Niklas Svedberg serving as the backup. Rask believes Svedberg is ready for the NHL.
“I think so. I can’t see why not,” Rask said. “His first year in Providence he had a great year, then last year he had his struggles but he played that one game for us against Nashville and I thought he played great. He’s proved to himself that he can play and it’s just a matter of keeping that consistency. He’s a great guy and a good goalie.”
Boston’s inexperienced defensive unit was one reason the Bruins lost to the Canadiens in the second round. General manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien admitted as much at season’s end. But Rask believes this season will be different.
“Every team has to go through that at some point. Guys are getting older and teams change, so you’re going to have your learning curves and we hope last year was ours,” Rask said. “Guys, especially the defense, are a year older and more experienced, so once that situation comes again we’re more prepared and guys don’t squeeze their sticks so much.”
The Bruins don’t lack for leadership in the locker room, but with Thornton not returning, Rask understands he might have to become more vocal off the ice.
“I might have to, yeah,” he said. “When you’re young you’re worried about your performance on the ice and you’re so focused on that, but once you get older you learn to still be focused on the ice but also be more vocal and maybe not stress about it too much. Maybe next year I’ve got to step up and start being more vocal inside the locker room.”
Since winning his first Vezina Trophy in June, Rask says nothing has changed. The 2013-2014 season was a good one on a personal level, finishing 36-15-6 record, along with a 2.04 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. But falling short of the ultimate goal since becoming the No. 1 goalie in Boston two seasons ago is what drives Rask.
“I don’t feel any different,” Rask said of the Vezina. “It’s in the past. I’ll start thinking about those once I’m done playing hockey and feel good about it, but I think the main focus has to be on the next season. You always have to prove yourself and be good, so it doesn’t matter if you win Vezinas or not you still have to be good.
“It’s a never-ending circle. There’s always something. You play unbelievable then you have to be as good. If you suck then you have to be a lot better. There’s always something. It doesn’t really matter if you win or not because you always have to be good, be better, so that’s my mindset.”
In case you’re wondering about Rask stopping cannonballs for charity this offseason, it was a stunt to raise money for a children’s hospital in Finland. A goalie from his hometown started a charity and Rask wanted to participate while he was home. He stood in net with all his equipment on, while a cannon was fired from center ice.
“Magic, I guess,” Rask said with a laugh. “It was pretty fun. I figured I might as well help out,” Rask said. “We got some other guys there, too. A group of young guys started it, so I wanted to help out. It was a good event. I think we raised 30,000 Euros; pretty good for the first time.”