Bruins: Tuukka Rask

Rask is Bruins' hero, with assist from Kelly

February, 7, 2015
Feb 7

BOSTON -- After the final horn Saturday night at TD Garden, Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask sprinted out of his net to thank one of his teammates.

It wasn’t Loui Eriksson, who scored the game-winning goal at 12:26 to lead the Bruins to a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders. Instead, Rask hugged Chris Kelly at the team’s blue line, and the rest of the Bruins followed.

In the waning seconds of regulation, the Islanders pulled goaltender Chad Johnson for an extra attacker, and New York was pressuring when the puck made its way back to the point. Standing there locked and loaded was Islanders defenseman, and former Bruin, Johnny Boychuk, who possesses one of the heaviest shots in the NHL.

Boychuk unloaded, but Kelly went down and blocked the shot to secure the victory for Boston. Normally at the end of a game, the goalie stays in front of his net and his teammates swarm around him to congratulate him after a win. On Saturday, Rask couldn’t wait to thank Kelly.

“Hey, I didn’t want to stop that. I saw who was shooting it and that’s why I was so happy for him,” said Rask, who finished with 39 saves. “You need that. In important moments of the game you need to sacrifice and it was good to see that.”

After the game, Kelly gingerly walked to his locker to talk about the team’s win and his blocked shot.

“Tuukka bails us out all year long, so if we can try to get in those shooting lanes and help him out a little bit because we really do appreciate him. It’s nice when he can appreciate us a little bit,” Kelly said.

He was sporting a bit of a limp for his heroics, but he will be fine.

“Things have felt better,” he said with a smile. “It is what it is.”

Kelly also knew exactly who the shooter was.

“Oh, yeah. Unfortunately. It would’ve been nice if it was someone else,” he said. “He got me last game in New York, too.”

With Saturday’s game in the books, the most important question is, can the Bruins finally beat the Montreal Canadiens?

Boston hosts Montreal on Sunday night at TD Garden, and it appears Rask will get the nod, despite a career 3-12-3 record against the Canadiens.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “Nobody’s told me otherwise, so I’m sure I’m playing. If I play hopefully we’ll get a win so I don’t have to answer those questions again.”

Fortunately for the Bruins, they’re playing their best hockey of the season and have earned points in 14 of their past 16 games. Rask is also on top of his game, so it’s a good time for him to shake the Montreal demons in the final regular-season matchup between the teams before a possible playoff series.

“It’s always a big game against them," Rask said. "Wherever you go in Boston it’s, ‘Well, the Habs are coming to town. It’s a big game.’ We don’t really think of it as any bigger game than usual. We try to approach it as any other game, but the fact is we haven’t been able to beat them that many times in the past and we have to change it because most likely we’re going to face them in the playoffs this year, so we have to learn to play against them.”

Rask is normally better in the second game of back-to-backs, but Sunday will be a major test for him. He’s now played 10 consecutive games and 19 of the past 20.

“Try to break the record, I guess,” said Rask with a smile.

Bruins coach Claude Julien knows Rask is playing his best hockey of the season, and the netminder is proving why he won the Vezina Trophy last season.

“It’s one of many lately,” Julien said. “He’s in the zone. He’s been really good for us, focused and even intense. He’s not afraid to yell at the players around him if they’re not doing their jobs. He’s been a determined athlete in this last little while and it’s made a big difference for our hockey team.”

When asked if Rask will face the Canadiens on Sunday, Julien simply said, “Are there any other questions?”

Rask needs to answer whether or not he can beat the Canadiens.

Rask looking forward to new season

August, 12, 2014
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.”

Bergeron wins Selke; Rask takes Vezina

June, 24, 2014
The Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask both were honored as winners at the annual NHL awards night Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Rask won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie, while Bergeron earned the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the top defensive forward. This is the second time Bergeron has won the Selke; he was a landslide winner, receiving 1,283 points in the voting, including 112 first-place votes.

Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara finished second in voting for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman, behind winner Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Bergeron also won the NHL Player Foundation Award for the player who applies the core values of hockey, commitment, perseverance and teamwork to enrich the lives of people in the community. Bergeron finished fifth in Hart Trophy voting as league MVP and 13th in Lady Byng Trophy voting for sportsmanship and a high quality of play.

Hockey fans also voted Bergeron to be the EA Sports NHL15 cover athlete, beating the Montreal Canadiens’ P.K. Subban for the cover of the video game.

The Bruins’ David Krejci finished 12th in Selke voting, while defenseman Torey Krug finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting for top rookie. Bruins coach Claude Julien finished fourth in Jack Adams Award voting.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli finished sixth in voting for the general manager of the year.

Chara was named to his third career First All-Star team, while Rask earned his first. Krug was named to the All-Rookie team.

B's push back after Plekanec crashes Rask

May, 11, 2014
BOSTON -- It's no coincidence the Boston Bruins scored a pair of power-play goals in a span of 32 seconds after Montreal Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec took a run at Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.

With Rask's sharp play from Game 4 carrying over into the first period of Game 5, the Canadiens attempted to get the Boston netminder off his game by crashing the net with reckless abandon. That tactic didn't work. In fact, it backfired on the Canadiens as the Bruins finished with a 4-2 win and now lead the series 3-2.

[+] EnlargeTuukka Rask, Max Pacioretty
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsBruins goalie Tuukka Rask makes a save against Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty in Game 5.
Boston held a 1-0 lead late in the first period when Plekanec crashed the net and finished with a cross check to Rask's mask. Rask responded with a blocker punch to Plekanec's face, and the Montreal forward was given a two-minute penalty for goaltender interference. But before he skated off to the penalty box, he was surrounded by many of Rask's teammates and a scrum ensued.

The message was sent to not fraternize with the Finn.

It's standard hockey practice to protect your goalie at all costs, but during the Stanley Cup playoffs, when a team's chances at winning a championship are often determined by goaltending, a team needs to stick up for its masked man.

"Every hockey team expects that," Rask said after his 29-save performance. "We're a tight group and we stick up for each other and if something happens we do it, but nothing serious."

With Plekanec still in the box for 1:44 to start the second period, the Bruins' Reilly Smith scored a power-play goal at 1:04 to give Boston a 2-0 lead. No sooner was Plekanec out of the box than he was called for high-sticking and returned to the sin bin.

Again, the Bruins capitalized and scored their second power-play goal when Jarome Iginla scored at 1:36 to give Boston a 3-0 lead.

"That was key," Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk said about the pair of goals. "Usually our second periods aren't our best and we know that, so we came out, scored two goals and kept going."

There was also a motivational factor to respond after Rask was plowed over in his own crease.

"Tuukka can take a lot of things, too," Boychuk said. "If a guy taps him on the hand, it's not going to hurt Tuukka. If something drastic happens, I'm sure somebody's going to step in no matter what. You never want to see that."

Since becoming the Bruins' No. 1 goaltender, Rask has bailed out his teammates time and time again. He led them to the Stanley Cup finals last spring before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks, and once again this year Boston is a strong title contender because of his prowess between the pipes.

Basically, anytime Rask sees a Canadiens sweater up close and personal, the Bruins are making sure to clear out the bodies in front.

"It's pretty important," said Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller. "In the past maybe we went a little far and end up getting in the box. We just need to make sure we're disciplined and let [Montreal] know that's not going to happen, but just don't cross that line."

Added Miller, "Whoever is in the net, we don't want anybody messing with our guy. I'm sure they don't want the same thing for their guy. We try to walk that fine line, whether to stay out of the box but make sure those guys know that's not going to happen."

Rask responded with his second consecutive solid performance. At the start of this series, it was evident goaltending would be a crucial aspect. Montreal goalie Carey Price was outstanding in the first few games, but now Rask is finding his groove.

"It's a huge confidence booster and he makes our job real easy," Miller said. "He's been playing well, so it's easy to play in front of him. He's an unbelievable goalie."

Rask only gets better when he gets pushed around.
BOSTON -- Any Bruins fans who were calling for goaltender Tuukka Rask to turn in a truly dominant performance had to be satisfied by his 33-save gem in Game 4 of the B's Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Montreal Canadiens.

Rask collected his second shutout of the postseason, after allowing three or more goals in each of the first three games of the series against Montreal.

[+] EnlargeBrian Gionta
Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/Getty ImagesTuukka Rask shut out Montreal in Game 4 after giving up at least three goals in each of the first three games.
"I didn't think it was tighter, necessarily," Rask said after Friday's optional team skate at the TD Garden. "The goals have been scored on a lot of tips and stuff, and yesterday there wasn't too many tips either way."

Rask credited the defensive effort in front, which allowed him to see pucks clearly.

"It's always easier for a goalie when you can see the puck and there's no sticks around the net," Rask said. "That was a huge factor yesterday."

Entering Thursday's game, voices again began to conspire against Rask, asking whether pressure was getting to the goaltender, who holds a 3-10-3 career regular-season record against Montreal.

"I think a lot has been made of Tuukka, and I'm not on the same page as everyone else," Julien said Friday. "We gave up breakaways in that first game in Montreal; we were really sloppy."

Julien continued, "I thought he was really good last night. There is no issue with that. I said it [Thursday] morning: He has no confidence issues. He's hard on himself, but he never gets rattled that way."

Now, with the series shifting to Boston for Game 5, has the pressure shifted back to the Canadiens?

"I don't think anybody's got too much pressure," Rask said. "It's the playoffs and you just try to have fun out there, work hard and get the wins. We start 0-0 again, and it's a best-of-three series now. I don't think anybody has pressure, it's just who plays better at the end."
BROSSARD, Quebec -- Instead of singling out specific players, Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Wednesday that he expects “many” of the Bruins players to improve for Game 4 of their series against the Montreal Canadiens.

When asked about his goaltender, Tuukka Rask, Chiarelli added “one of many.”

Rask hasn’t been bad this series, but he’s hasn’t been at his best, either. The Canadiens lead the series 2-1, and in order for the Bruins to tie it up before returning to Boston, Rask needs to be the best player on the ice in Game 4.

Plenty of times during his career, he's shown the ability to bail out his teammates with spectacular performances.

“He’s one of the best two or three goalies in the world,” Chiarelli said. “And he knows where his game is and I’m not going to comment on his game. And I think he’s maybe one of the top two goalies in the world. So I expect him to play well. And he’s one of many that have to play better.”

After a 4-3 double-overtime loss in Game 1, Rask said he “sucked” and needed to be better, which he was in Game 2 -- a 5-3 Boston win. He didn’t receive much help in Game 3, as three of Montreal’s four goals (one was an empty-netter) were defensive breakdowns that led to golden opportunities for the Canadiens.

In the first-round series against the Detroit Red Wings, Rask was sensational and stopped 146 of 152 shots as Boston won in five games. Against the Canadiens, Rask has allowed a few goals he’d like to have back.

It’s been an emotional week for Rask. He and his girlfriend welcomed the couple’s first child, a girl, between Games 2 and 3.

Rask said his personal life has nothing to do with his play in this series.

“No, no. It was just another game,” Rask said after Game 3. “Obviously, I’m really happy but we still have a job to do here and when we come to the rink it’s go time, and when I go home it’s a different time.”

At the other end of the ice, Montreal goalie Carey Price has been outstanding. He has stopped 104 shots in the first three games, and he's being helped by his teammates’ willingness to block shots in front of him. In Game 3, the Canadiens had 29 blocked shots.

Montreal expects a better Bruins team in Game 4.

"I think they’re a good team and they have a lot of weapons and they can hurt you many ways,” said Montreal forward Daniel Briere. “Obviously, when you have a guy like Carey Price holding down the fort it gives you a lot of confidence. It gives you the chance to sometimes play a little looser and make plays you wouldn’t normally make if it were anybody else back there. He’s been so good for us. He’s given us confidence all year long.”

Rask, girlfriend welcome first child

May, 5, 2014
BOSTON -- Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask and his girlfriend welcomed the couple’s first child, a baby girl, either late Sunday or early Monday. Rask said the mother and child are doing great.


If Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask had missed either Game 1 or 2 because of the birth of his child (the baby girl was born on an off-day, fortunately for him), would you have faulted him?


Discuss (Total votes: 10,380)

The due date was Friday, a day after Game 1 of the Bruins' first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens. During the Bruins’ practice on Friday, Rask was on the ice, and a Massachusetts state trooper was on hand at Ristuccia Arena, perhaps to give Rask an escort to the hospital if needed.

If the team had left for Montreal before the child was born, the Bruins were prepared to have a plane available for Rask to return to Boston, a club source said. It’s not clear whether Rask would have played if the baby had arrived either prior to or during Game 1 or Game 2. Bruins backup Chad Johnson said he was ready to play if that was the case.

“I’ve sort of talked to him about it. You don’t know what’s going to happen there, so you sort of have to be ready,” Johnson said Friday. “I don’t know if he’s going to leave or not leave in that situation, but again, you can’t really control anything. I just have to try to be ready for any situation. If I get to start or I get put in, I want to make the best of it and try to do as well as you can.”

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The foundation has been set.

The Boston Bruins know exactly what it will take to defeat the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Now it's only a matter of going out and doing it.

Game 1 of this series was epic. It lasted into the second overtime before P.K. Subban ended it with a power-play goal to secure a 4-3 win for Montreal. The Bruins had plenty of chances to score more than three goals, but the game turned into a session of missed opportunities for Boston.

The Bruins' top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla just couldn't finish any of multiple quality bids. The trio wasn't alone. Boston's other three lines weren't successful, either.

Montreal goalie Carey Price deserves a stick tap for his 48-save performance. He was outstanding between the pipes. The Bruins' offense is potent enough to break through, and it will.

"I thought we had so many chances, we could have scored like 10 goals [in Game 1]," Krejci said. "But we didn't and hopefully we're saving it for the next game."

Despite the loss, the Bruins were pleased that they were able to create quality opportunities. Montreal grabbed a 2-0 lead after two periods, but Boston responded and controlled the pace of the game. The Bruins need more of that in Game 2.

"Going into next game, I guess the main focus is you don't want to grip your stick too tight and bury those opportunities when you get them," Lucic said. "It sucks losing the way that we did, it was a tough loss to swallow, but you've got to have short-term memory and forget about it as quick as you can and focus on the next one because it's coming soon with a 12:30 game tomorrow. We're excited about it."

[+] EnlargeTuukka Rask
AP Photo/Charles KrupaTuukka Rask expects he'll play better than he did in Game 1's 4-3 double-OT loss.
Despite what Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask says, he does not suck.

He didn't have his best performance in Game 1, but his harsh self-criticism is not warranted.

"When you suck, you suck," he said after the game.

Rask finished with 29 saves, but his counterpart Price was even better in withstanding Boston's attack. Rask was one of the best goaltenders during the regular season and is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. He may have seemed preoccupied in the first half of Game 1, but he responded and his teammates are expecting the same in Game 2 Saturday.

"There's not much you need to say to him," Lucic said. "He's always trying to do whatever he can to be on top of his game. He's a professional when it comes to his preparation. Sometimes he is hard on himself, but that's athletes everywhere. They can be hard on themselves at times, but Tuukka is a world-class goaltender and I know he's going to do whatever he can to have a big, big performance tomorrow."

Since Rask took over the No. 1 job in Boston a season ago, he has bailed out his teammates time and again. After Thursday's game, not one Bruins player or coach Claude Julien was about to blame goaltending for the team's loss to the Canadiens. But his teammates weren't surprised by his self-deprecation.

"That's him. He always has high standards and expecting himself to be at his best all the time," said Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron. "He's been like that for us all year. I thought he was good for us and he always wants to be better. He wants to win games for us and I know he's going to bounce back tomorrow."

Added teammate Brad Marchand, "Tuuks is very hard on himself. He competes very hard and he expects to be his best every night. He played well last night and made a lot of really big saves. I think you've just got to let him do what he does and prepare for the next game."

At the other end of the ice, Price was solid. He made timely saves and was also on the fortunate end as a few quality-scoring chances went just wide or hit the post. The Bruins need more traffic in front of him, because he was able to see too many pucks cleanly in Game 1.

"We can definitely have a few more bodies in front," Marchand said. "It's a lot tougher to see the puck when there are guys battling in front there. He's a very good goalie, so pucks he sees, he's going to stop. We're going to be harder in front."

B's looking forward to matchup with Habs

April, 26, 2014

BOSTON -- After eliminating the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 4-2 win in Game 5 on Saturday at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins will now face the Montreal Canadiens.

This is the first season with the NHL's new bracket-based playoff system, so after the Canadiens swept the Tampa Bay Lightning in four games, the Bruins knew if they beat the Red Wings, the hockey world would get its wish for a playoff matchup between Boston and Montreal.

Second-round series dates and times have yet to be announced.

This will be the 34th lifetime series between the Bruins and Canadiens, fourth since 2008. These teams last faced each other in the playoffs in 2011, when the Bruins prevailed in a dramatic seven-game, first-round series and went on to win the Cup that spring.

Bruins forward Milan Lucic said he's looking forward to the matchup.

"Yeah, definitely," he said. "It's the fourth time now since 2008 that we faced them here in the playoffs, first time that it isn't a first-round matchup, so another Original Six battle that we get to be a part of and a lot of hatred between the teams, the fans, the cities when it comes to this kind of rivalry, so we expect them to bring their best. We saw what they were able to do in the first series, and we got to be prepared to come out and elevate our game as the playoffs move on."

[+] EnlargeLuke Glendening, Tuukka Rask
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsTuukka Rask gave up just six goals in five games against the Red Wings but has struggled in his career against the Canadiens.
In the 2011 series, the Canadiens won the first two games on TD Garden ice before it shifted to the Bell Centre in Montreal. The Bruins won Game 3 4-2, and with two days off before Game 4, Bruins coach Claude Julien decided it would be best for his team to spend a few days away from all the hoopla in Montreal, so the Bruins set up camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., for some team bonding.

It worked.

In Game 4, the Bruins defeated the Canadiens 5-4 in overtime to even the series at two games apiece. Boston won Game 5 in overtime 2-1 before losing Game 6 in Montreal 2-1. Boston finished Game 7 with a dramatic 4-3 win when Bruins forward Nathan Horton scored in overtime.

After Saturday's win over the Red Wings, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was already in shutdown mode when asked about the Canadiens.

"I think people tend to make it a huge deal outside our locker room, but we've learned over the years to keep the focus on us," he said. "We get better results, so for me and for everybody else, I think it's just another series we want to win, and [we're] looking forward to it. They have a great team, so it's going to be tough, but we'll see."

This season, Montreal had a 2-1-1 versus Boston. The Bruins are 6-4-2 in their past 12 games overall against the Canadiens, and 4-3-2 in the past nine matchups on TD Garden ice.

"They're a quick team. They're a talented team, so I'm sure it'll be entertaining for the fans," said Rask, who has a 3-10-3 career record against Montreal.

Added Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron, "It's always great to play these guys. Detroit was definitely a great challenge, same thing with Montreal. They're a great team. They're a team that definitely is playing some great hockey right now. They played well against Tampa. It's going to be a good challenge again for us. There's lots of history behind both teams, so it's going to be fun to be part of it."

Rask honored, but focused on bigger prize

April, 25, 2014
BOSTON -- After Tuukka Rask signed an eight-year contract extension worth $56 million last summer with the Boston Bruins, the franchise goaltender said he wanted to be worth every penny.

He's lived up to all the expectations.

[+] EnlargeTuukka Rask
Dave Reginek/NHLI/Getty ImagesTuukka Rask denies Justin Abdelkader's breakaway bid in overtime of Game 4, a 3-2 Bruins win.
On Friday, the NHL announced Rask is one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender during the regular season, joining Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche.

Rask posted a 36-15-6 record, along with a 2.04 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in 58 games. He led the league with seven shutouts and surrendered two or fewer goals in 38 games.

"I feel like I wasn't a disappointment," Rask said. "You just try to be as good as people think you are and you think you are. So I accomplished that in the regular season and there's still a lot to prove in the playoffs."

A year ago, Rask helped Boston reach the Stanley Cup finals, where the Bruins lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. This season, the Bruins finished as the Presidents' Trophy winner and are the odds-on favorite to win the Cup this spring.

Boston holds a 3-1 series lead over the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. Rask and the Bruins can clinch the best-of-seven series with a win on Saturday at TD Garden.

Rask and teammate Patrice Bergeron, a Selke Trophy finalist, both said it's an honor to be nominated for individual awards, but the bigger prize is more important.

"It's a great honor to be nominated. Obviously it's something you don't necessarily -- you dream about these individual awards when you're a kid, too. It's great recognition, but everybody knows we're a team-first team and it's something that comes after the biggest trophy," Rask said.

For the majority of his tenure as coach in Boston, Claude Julien has been blessed with solid goaltending. Former Bruins netminder Tim Thomas won a pair of Vezina trophies, plus a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe Trophy. Rask just might be in line to win all three awards this season.

Julien believes Rask should win the Vezina.

"To me, it's a no-brainer, he's had such a good year," Julien said. "He has been so good for us and he has had an unbelievable season. He did well at the Olympics for his team, too, but this is based on the NHL. I just think he has had a great year and would be really disappointed had he not been one of the three nominees."

Rask has never lacked in confidence. From the time the Bruins acquired his rights from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for goaltender Andrew Raycroft, the Boston organization knew Rask would eventually become a world-class goalie. He has never doubted his ability to compete and succeed at this level.

"I guess I felt that all along," he said. "But when you play more, and you get consecutive starts, and you kind of feel like you've proved yourself in the league, and you feel that you can play a lot of games in a row at a good level, then you just try to build on that and keep working hard. But I've always felt like as long as I get my chances, I'll be able to play. So then it's not so much to get there, but then the toughest part of things is just to maintain that level and stay at the top."

If the Bruins can produce another deep run through the Stanley Cup playoffs, Rask will need to be the cornerstone of the team.

"It's been an honor to play with Tuukka," said Bruins forward Gregory Campbell. "He's an extremely talented goaltender. He's not only talented, he's worked hard and I've seen him develop since I've been here. He's very deserving of that nomination. He's a huge part of this team, a huge part of this organization's success."

Rask one of three finalists for Vezina

April, 25, 2014
Boston Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask on Friday was named one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, awarded each season to the best goalie in the NHL. Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche are the other finalists.

Rask’s first nomination comes after a season in which he posted career bests in shutouts (7), wins (36) and games played (58). Rask’s 2.04 goals-per-game average and .930 save percentage were both second in the NHL behind Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild.

This is Rask’s first nomination. If he wins, he’ll become the second Bruins goalie to win it in four seasons. Tim Thomas won it for the 2010-11 season.

Game 1: Datsyuk, Red Wings edge B's 1-0

April, 18, 2014

BOSTON -- Three days into the Stanley Cup playoffs, the postseason hockey hasn't disappointed.

The Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings continued the excitement in Game 1 of their first-round series. The game remained scoreless until Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk scored at 16:59 of the third period to give the Red Wings a 1-0 win to take a 1-0 series lead.

The lone goal of the game came in the ensuing action after the Bruins' Milan Lucic nearly redirected a shot past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, but Howard was able to get a glove on it. Datsyuk's shot from the high slot beat Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask to the glove side.

The game was back and forth with both teams playing well defensively, limiting shots and scoring chances early.

Rask finished with 23 saves, while Howard had 25 to earn the shutout.

The Bruins entered the playoffs with a different lineup than they've had for the majority of the season. With forwards Daniel Paille and Chris Kelly and defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller sidelined, reinforcements were needed. On the defensive end, Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter were inserted. Justin Florek and Jordan Caron played on the third and fourth lines, respectively. It was the first career playoff game for Potter and Florek.

The Red Wings gained early control of the series, but the rest of it should be a tough test.

Save of the game: With the game scoreless after two periods, the Red Wings had a golden opportunity to score early in the third period. Less than three minutes into the third, Detroit's Darren Helm collected a loose puck in front of Rask and nearly stuffed it in, but Boston's netminder sprawled out and made a critical right-pad save to keep the game scoreless.

Rask's concern is Cup, not Vezina

April, 16, 2014
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The Bruins’ Tuukka Rask is the odds-on favorite to win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender during the regular season.

His numbers support that notion. Rask finished with a 36-15-6 record, 2.04 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in 58 games. He also led the league with seven shutouts. But Rask would rather earn a much bigger prize than any individual award, especially since the Bruins fell short of winning the Stanley Cup last spring with a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the finals.

[+] EnlargeTuukka Rask
Brian Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesTuukka Rask has the confidence of his teammates and coach -- and is confident in himself.
“You work throughout the year as a team and if those individual awards come, they come. But if you accomplish something as a team it’s that much better,” Rask said.

Rask, along with Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, Tampa’s Ben Bishop and Montreal’s Carey Price, all are candidates for the Vezina.

“It’s obviously an individual award, but then again you don’t win that award playing on a bad team,” Rask said. “A lot of credit goes to your teammates. All the outside credit goes to you but you have to recognize nobody’s going to do it by themselves, so a lot of credit goes to teammates.”

When the Bruins won the Cup in 2011, Rask served as the backup for Tim Thomas. During his tenure in Boston, Thomas won two Vezinas, one Stanley Cup and one Conn Smythe.

Despite playing an NHL career-high 58 games this season, Rask is healthy and primed for the Stanley Cup playoffs. He doesn’t lack in confidence and will be the backbone for Boston’s Cup run again this spring.

“You want him to continue playing at his best and playing at the level he’s been playing at,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. “You saw it throughout this year, you saw it in the Olympics and obviously you saw it last year in the playoffs.

“We know what type of goaltender he is and we know how important he is to this team’s success. He has a lot of confidence in himself and when he’s having fun he’s playing at his best. There’s no better time to have fun right now. I know he’s looking forward to this challenge. Obviously, coming up short last year we’re looking forward to getting it going and I’m looking forward to seeing him have another great performance.”

Bruins coach Claude Julien believes Rask, along with teammates Zdeno Chara (Norris) and Patrice Bergeron (Selke), each should win an individual trophy. As far as Rask, Julien has been impressed with his goalie’s confidence.

“I don’t think Tuukka has ever lacked confidence,” Julien said. “Even when he was here behind Tim, he was always very confident in what he could do. He has always worked hard and had the right attitude, and that is just growing into the experience of the years.

“His stats certainly did improve a lot, but at the same time he has been one of those goaltenders that continues to want to be better all the time. He was on the big stage, obviously, at the Olympics and was probably a big part of his team winning the bronze. He is capable of handling, I guess, that kind of a stage as well. We’re going to need his leadership and his stability back there if we expect to do well.”
BOSTON -- The 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs can’t get here fast enough.

With a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins clinched the top record in the Eastern Conference, and with only four games remaining in the regular season, they have 113 points.

[+] EnlargeTuukka Rask
Brian Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesTuukka Rask improved to 35-15-5 in 2013-14.
After a two-game skid with losses to the Detroit Red Wings (3-2) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (4-3 OT), the Bruins remain confident, and it showed in their win over the Flyers. Loui Eriksson, who replaced an injured Jarome Iginla on Boston’s top line, recorded four assists and now has nine points in his past 11 games.

Teammate Milan Lucic had a pair of goals and one assist against the Flyers and now has 12 points in the past 15 games. Top-line center David Krejci had a goal and an assist to boost his totals to six points in the past five games. And Patrice Bergeron had an assist to extend his point streak to a career-best 11 games.

After Saturday’s win, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was asked about clinching the regular-season conference title.

"Oh?" Rask replied. "That’s good. It’s something we wanted to do, but it wasn’t like really our main goal. Everybody knows what our main goal is, but it’s good to finish first. We still have a few games left, and we’ve got to finish strong and feel good going into the playoffs."

Rask finished with 24 saves Saturday to improve his record to 35-15-5 and believes the team is confident enough to beat any team in the playoffs.

"We've felt that way for a long time -- if we play our style of hockey, we’re going to have a chance to beat everybody," Rask said. "Especially this year, we’ve shown glimpses of really good hockey, and lately, we've been playing pretty well, so I think the team feels pretty confident going into the playoffs."

Boston is 19-2-4 in its past 25 games, and the players are as anxious as anyone to start the Stanley Cup playoffs. In fact, this week the Bruins have played three potential first-round opponents in the Red Wings, Maple Leafs and Flyers, posting a 1-1-1 record. Despite that mark, the Bruins are pleased with the way they are playing.

"It’s really hard to stop our team when we’re playing pretty good hockey," Krejci said.

Bruins coach Claude Julien seems mostly satisfied but would like to see some improvement in the final games of the regular season.

"At this point of the year, we’re pretty good," Julien said of his team’s overall consistency. "I’ve seen a little bit of our sense of urgency just dip a little bit in the last little while, but not to the point of being worried. It’s just a natural thing right now. As I’ve mentioned often, our team is an experienced team and guys know when the time comes, they will be ready. To me, they’re still ready right now and playing some pretty good hockey against some teams that are still desperate right now."

In the final four games, the Bruins hit the road to face the Minnesota Wild (Tuesday) and Winnipeg Jets (Thursday), return to Boston to take on the Buffalo Sabres (April 12, the final home game) and finish at the New Jersey Devils (Sunday, April 13).

BOSTON -- It's not about the winning streak. It's all about the process for the Boston Bruins.

With a 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night at TD Garden, the Bruins won their seventh game in a row and now own the top spot in the Eastern Conference with 93 points, one ahead of the idle Pittsburgh Penguins.

With 16 games remaining in the regular season, Bruins coach Claude Julien is pleased with the way his team is playing right now. Boston is a deep team, and every aspect of its game is on display. With a crazy schedule this month not only for the Bruins but for the league as a whole, Julien believes his team knows that the name of the game is about preparing for the Stanley Cup playoffs, not making excuses.

[+] EnlargeTuukka Rask, Shane Doan
Brian Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesTuukka Rask earned his second win in 24 hours by thwarting the Coyotes.
"I see commitment from everybody," Julien said. "It's pretty obvious when you've played the number of games that you've played, and you look at the way you've played, there's a pretty good commitment from our guys."

When the Bruins are playing well defensively, it translates into a potent offensive style of play, and that's what they've been exhibiting during this streak. Goaltender Tuukka Rask has a front-row seat and he's pleased with what he's watching.

"We're just playing Bruins hockey day in and day out and not trying to do too much," Rask said. "The schedule's tough and we're trying to keep things simple. We pretty much know we're going to make the playoffs, and we just want to get our game to a level we think it needs to be going into the playoffs."

The Bruins concluded their 12th of 17 sets of back-to-back games, and they're 9-2-1 in the first game and 10-2-0 in the second game. Thursday's game easily could have been a letdown for the Bruins, especially coming off an emotional 4-1 win over the division rival Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night at Bell Centre.

"We're playing really well right now," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. "Everyone seems to be buying into the system and playing their role and not trying to do too much. When you have all four lines going, and all six D and both goalies, it's great. We're showing we've got a really good team here, and that's what we need to be doing down the stretch."

With the regular-season schedule winding down, it's going to be a battle for Eastern Conference supremacy between the Bruins and Penguins. Boston has basically secured the top spot in the Atlantic Division, but the Bruins are focused on more than just the seeding in the standings.

"It would be big, obviously," Marchand said of winning the conference title. "You want to finish as high as you can, and home-ice advantage in the playoffs is huge, but it's more about the process and how you get there. I think if we just worry about playing our game every single night, things will work themselves out."

[+] EnlargeZdeno Chara
Eric Canha/CSMZdeno Chara's 16th goal of the season gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
The Bruins' consistent play is what has made this team a perennial Stanley Cup contender, and it's no different this season. At times, the Bruins have been streaky, but when things are going well they are one of the best teams in the league.

Given the Bruins were facing the Coyotes on a back-to-back game on Thursday night, it was a bit of a surprise that Julien decided to start Rask in net. It proved crucial as he finished with 21 saves, many of them timely.

"I don't think we should overanalyze Tuukka, or Tuukka's fatigue," Julien said. "Chad [Johnson has] played well for us, and he's going to play and they're going to share the net. For me, it was a decision I made, and I felt Tuukka wasn't overly tired. He felt great and he can rest tomorrow because we don't play."

After the game, Rask said he didn't feel completely fresh Thursday but expected to play.

The Bruins believe there's still another level they can raise their game to, and that's something they want to reach when the playoffs arrive.

"Honestly, we've been pretty focused," said forward Jarome Iginla. "We've been trying to keep pushing ourselves to be better and to keep working on things. It's been fun winning. Guys here, it's a hungry team and a very competitive team. We want to keep winning and keep getting better. We've been able to get ourselves into a battle for the top of the conference, but even that guys don't really talk about on a day-to-day basis."

Not lost in Thursday's win was the fact that Julien earned his 300th career victory in Boston. Overall, he has a 419-249-10-84 record in 762 career games as a coach, but he always downplays individual accomplishments. His goal is to win another Stanley Cup with the Bruins.

"I had no knowledge and my guys know it doesn't matter to me," Julien said. "It's great, don't get me wrong. It's great and I'm happy it's happened here. I'm happy to have that, but at the same time, to me, I'd rather look forward to hopefully a lot more than just that. I'm proud to have accomplished this in Boston. It's great. I've really enjoyed myself here and I'm looking forward to another 300."