Rask happy for rest after heavy workload

Rask happy for rest after heavy workload
December 2, 2013, 6:15 pm
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WILMINGTON – If there’s one man that won’t be complaining about the current stretch of four days without a game, it’s Tuukka Rask.

It was even a surprise that the Bruins goaltender was out on the ice for Monday’s optional practice with so many of his teammates doing dry land workouts, but it was the rare chance for Rask and backup netminder Chad Johnson to work with B’s goalie coach Bob Essensa.

The Bruins’ fourth line acted as the shooters on their own goaltenders, which provided its own challenges.

“Freakin’ Goalie Bob comes here and tells us to go out [on the ice],” said Rask with a smile. “He’s trying to be a hero. I haven’t had any really good goalie skates, so it was good to go out there and get a sweat while seeing some shots. It isn’t as hard physically as it is mentally when you get scored on by [Shawn Thornton].”

So Rask and the rest of the goalies were the heroes on Monday, and the Finish netminder has been something close to a caped crusader for the first 1/3 of the NHL season while starting 22 of the team’s first 27 games. Rask is fourth among all NHL goaltenders with a 1.90 goals against average and .935 save percentage in those 22 games, and admitted to CSNNE.com over the weekend that he wasn’t quite feeling 100 percent mentally and physically at the end of November.

His numbers were also slightly up from October (1.73 GAA and .940 save percentage) to November (2.06 GAA and .929 save percentage), but clearly the Bruins would take four or five more months just like either one of those.

“I’m obviously not as fresh as the start of the year, but it’s not too bad,” said Rask. “We’ve got some days where we won’t be playing, so it’s time for me to get some rest. I try to take it wherever I can. Your body takes a beating over the course of the year, that’s for sure . . . and you’re going to feel tired. I’m just trying to manage it as best I can.

“There’s no way you don’t get mentally tired at some times because you’ve played a lot of hockey over the course of a couple of years. But then again we’re all professionals and we can’t just sit down and talk about how tired we are. We have to go out there and perform. I don’t think it’s affected us too badly, but there’s no denying a lot of us have played a lot of hockey over the last few years.”

While Rask was able to get the win on Friday afternoon against the Rangers, it was pretty clear some of his ability to explode from side-to-side in the crease was a tad slower, and his angles were just a little bit off their normal perfect precision.

Four days off and away from the grind of playing games – or technically five days since Johnson manned the pipes Saturday in the win over Columbus -- should do wonders for Rask as he takes his Vezina Trophy worthy first two months into Montreal on Thursday night. He’s clearly going to maximize his rest time this week while pacing for a career-high 67 games after never having played more than 45 NHL games in any season prior to this year.

“We’ll see . . . I hope so. I’m trying to do the best I can to feel rejuvenated out there going into Thursday,” said Rask. “I think as long as you focus on the right things and try to get your rest, then you should be fine.”

Some of it is an unknown as to how Rask will respond to the true, heavy workload of a No. 1 NHL goaltender, but the Bruins already made their evaluation when they made him the highest paid goalie in the NHL at $7 million per year until well past the 2020 season.

Now it’s a matter of determining how best to manage Rask and his rest situation to get the best out of him during the regular season, and make sure there is plenty in the tank for long playoff runs.

It’s so far, so good given the season that the 26-year-old is enjoying just a few days into December.