Rask starts season as a front-line starter should


Rask starts season as a front-line starter should

BOSTON -- No longer in the shadows of Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask began his tenure as the Bruins' No. 1 goaltender on Saturday night.

It's not the first time he's been the team's go-to 'tender. He got the nod over Thomas down the stretch the season before Thomas' heroic Stanley Cup run. So it's not as if being a No. 1 in the NHL -- or even for the Bruins -- was something new.

What was new was the dynamic that was Thomas' non-existence inside the TD Garden on Saturday night as Rask made 20 saves and allowed just one goal in Boston's 3-1 win over the New York Rangers in the season-opener.

This is Rask's job now. He's the top dog in net for the Bruins. And he played like it on Saturday, showing up the reigning Vezina Trophy winner -- Henrik Lundqvist in the process.

"I felt good throughout the game," said Rask after the win. "The guys made my job so easy because I saw pretty much everything."

That wasn't the case in the team's only exhibition tune-up before the shortened, lockout-plagued season began.

Rask allowed six goals on Tuesday night to Boston's AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins. Most admitted that the defense in front of him just wasn't very good.

On Saturday night, the Bruins' defense made big-time improvements, helping Rask to a night of clean looks.

"I thought he was poised," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the win. "And like I explained to a lot of the guys this week, especially after Tuesday's game, is, it's important right now that when you look at what's going on -- even watching games this afternoon --you see that the minute somebody makes a mistake up front, you've got the defense, and then if the defense makes a mistake, you've got the goaltender. But the goaltender has nobody behind him. So he's often the easy target. And we had to be better in front of him. And we weren't as good in front of him, on Tuesday, as we knew we can.

"I thought our guys did a better job, which allowed Tuukka to see the puck better, and he was able to make some key saves," added Julien. "I thought he was solid. And the goal they scored, everybody did everything well. We were all back and it hit a skate and it was a last-second screen in front of him where he lost sight of it. It was absolutely no way his fault."

The Rangers' only goal came on a Brad Richards wrister from the right point. It was the result of a broken play, after Richards attempted to send a pass across the slot, down to a wide-open Rick Nash in the left circle. Bruins center Patrice Bergeron did his job and blocked the initial pass, but the puck came right back to Richards, who wasted no time firing on net, and it beat a screened Rask upstairs.

"I think a couple of guys skated past my eyes there, and I just saw it at the last second," said Rask. "It was kind of one of those floppers that was kind of going left and right. So, it was a good shot."

"The goal they scored, I don't think there was anything he could do about it," said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. "So, that's a pretty good start to the season, I'd say."

Rask said that he doesn't have a specific goal in mind, with regards to the number of starts he'd like to make as the team's bonafide No. 1 goalie. Regardless of the number, his teammates in front of him are confident he'll be able to handle the workload, after seeing this type of start to the season.

"I think he is a pretty competitive guy, knowing that he's stepping into the No. 1 spot," said Ference. "He's going to put a lot of good pressure on himself, so I think everybody has full confidence in him."

Celtics late rally falls short, Bulls hold on to win, 105-99


Celtics late rally falls short, Bulls hold on to win, 105-99

It was only 24 hours earlier that the Boston Celtics learned a valuable lesson about what can potentially happen if you let up on an opponent too soon.

The Chicago Bulls made the same mistake on Thursday as the Celtics wiped out a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter and made it a one-possession game for the last couple of minutes.

But like Boston did against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night, the Bulls managed to fend off a late rally by Boston in handing the Celtics a 105-99 loss.

Boston had multiple opportunities to tie the game or take the lead in the fourth, only to consistently come up short.

Their last shot came with less than a minute to play and Boston trailing 101-99.

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown had the ball and seemingly had a mismatch with Nikola Mirotic guarding him.

Brown dribbled into the lane, spun away from Mirotic and left his feet and landed without anyone to pass to.

It would prove to be a critical turnover as Dwyane Wade came down afterwards and drained a 3-pointer, his fourth of the night, to make it a 104-99 game with 26.3 seconds to play.

That would be the Celtics’ last chance at a victory.

The Celtics trailed by as many as 15 points, but made it a game courtesy of a slew of baskets by Isaiah Thomas.

He finished with 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting.

As well as Thomas shot from the field, he’ll most remember this game for the shots he didn’t make; his free throws specifically.

A career 86 percent free throw shooter, Thomas was just 2-for-6 from the line on Thursday.

Boston (1-1) also got a strong game from Avery Bradley who had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists.

The Bulls, playing their season opener with a newly-formed Big Three of prodigal son Dwyane Wade, ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo and All-Star Jimmy Butler, didn’t waste any time establishing control of the game.

Chicago opened the game with an 8-2 run and led by as many as 15 points. Boston had moments in which it cut into Chicago’s lead, but the Bulls’ control of the game remained strong throughout the night.

Things got a bit chippy in the second quarter when Jae Crowder was called for an offensive foul against Jimmy Butler, a good friend of his as well as a former teammate at Marquette.

After Butler hit the ground, he used his legs to tie up Crowder who fell to the floor afterwards. Crowder then forcefully put the ball in Butler’s chest.

That led to some back and forth trash talk between Isaiah Thomas and ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo.

Officials reviewed the play and called all four players – Crowder, Thomas, Butler and Rondo – were called for a technical foul.

Tempers cooled down afterwards for both teams as the Chicago Bulls continued to stay red-hot from 3-point range.

The Bulls were especially impressive in the first half when they were 7-for-13 on 3s.

And leading the 3-point barrage was Wade who rarely looked to score beyond the 3-point line a year ago. He would finish with 22 points which included a trio of 4-pointers which was the first time he made that many 3s since the 2012-2013 season when he played for the Miami Heat.

Chicago’s top scorer was Butler who had 24 points and seven rebounds.

Chicago Bulls sign former Boston Celtics guard R.J. Hunter


Chicago Bulls sign former Boston Celtics guard R.J. Hunter

Minutes before they opened their regular season Thursday against the Celtics, the Bulls announced the signing of shooting guard R.J. Hunter.

Click here to view the compete story on CSNChicago.com