Amid losses, Rask sees 'comfort zone'

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Amid losses, Rask sees 'comfort zone'

WINNIPEG, MB. Tuukka Rask is still looking for answers, and still seeking his first win in more than a month.

The 24-year-old Finnish goaltender earned his first start since getting pulled against the Buffalo Sabres more than a week ago, but couldnt do enough to prevent his personal losing streak from reaching five games in a 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the DTS Centre.
Rasks defense failed him in the final period when the Bruins collapsed after David Krejci managed to tie it in the opening minute of the third period, but the Bs netminder was admittedly far from good in the second.

He allowed four goals on the first 17 shots he faced in the game, and could have accepted fault on both Winnipeg scores in the second period. Rask has now allowed three or more goals in each of his last five appearances.

Alex Burmistrov started Winnipegs scoring by firing a puck from the right face-off circle that beat Rask while the Bs goalie made a futile swipe with his glove hand. The shot bounced Rasks water bottle straight off the top of the netting and immediately sent him into second-guess mode with the choice of glove save over a shrugging shoulder save attempt at the puck.

I saw it. It was a pretty good shot. I was more unhappy about the second one because it went through me, said Rask, referencing Blake Wheelers goal. The first one wasnt the hardest shot ever, but it caught me in a good spot. I used the wrong save selection there because I probably should have gone with a shoulder save.

I made a couple of good saves in the game, but its all about the timing I guess.

The real point of frustration for Rask was the Blake Wheeler goal that whistled through his leg pads on the way to the back of the net. The Bruins had won some measure of momentum back on Jordan Carons second-period goal, but Rask gave it right back with the soft goal surrendered to Wheeler.

That led to Krejcis game-tying score, and a pair of Bryan Little rebound strikes in the final period that handed the Jets a needed win.

The four goals leave Rask 0-4-1 in his last five games with an .855 save percentage and a goals against average over 3.00. Best of all, its coming at the worst possible time this season. The Bruins desperately need Rask to be effective as they reach the densest, road-heavy portion of their NHL schedule, but the confidence index in Rasks ability to stop pucks is rapidly eroding away with each underperformance.

Its always tough when you lose and youre trying to find your game. But you cant get down on yourself, said Rask. You just need to work hard and try to find that rhythm youre looking for. You need to find that comfort zone, but sometimes you just cant find it.

Its a tough battle but I think were going to come out as winners when it matters most.

Claude Julien admitted Rask needs to be better than he was Friday night in Winnipeg during the 21-save effort, but there were as many problems with irresponsible defenders breaking down in the third period.

I think weve seen Tuukka better. Everybody has to be better. The goaltender is the easiest one to criticize because hes the last guy standing there, said a frustrated Claude Julien, who answered two questions before ending his post-game session with reporters. Our goalies can be better as the rest of the team can.

While Julien can talk a good game about the ease of blaming a goaltender for a teams woes, actions will speak louder than words as they always do. The Bs coach will show exactly what kind of confidence he holds in Rask with the choice of his next starting assignment between the pipes.

The losing performance to the Jets didnt inspire much in the way of strong belief in Rask, but his coach still has a chance to augment it by going right back to him again on Sunday against the Minnesota Wild.

Morning Skate: Another setback for Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick

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Morning Skate: Another setback for Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering what Melissa McCarthy is going to do now that Spicey is gone.

*The debut for Philadelphia Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick has been scratched due to “an infection in his face.” Boy, this kid can’t get healthy, can he?

*Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill is 100 percent sure that the Winged Wheels will be making a return to the playoffs this season.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough has hope returning to the city of Houston that they might get an NHL franchise one of these days.

*Travis Yost delves into shooting percentage and some of the nuances when properly trying to break it down statistically.

*There are new season ticket charges for Habs fans in Montreal, and boy are they pissed off about it. Feels like the kind of thing that could push them to riot in the streets or flood 911 emergency lines if the Canadiens aren’t too careful about it.

*Young Blues defenseman Colton Parayko signs a five-year deal with St. Louis to avoid salary arbitration while the D-man taken exactly one pick before him by the Bruins in the draft, Matt Grzelcyk, is going to be hard-pressed to move past the AHL level this season.

*For something completely different: What would Ivan Drago have been doing with his life after his showdown with Rocky in Mother Russia?

 

 

Vaakanainen lives up to skating reputation in first camp with Bruins

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Vaakanainen lives up to skating reputation in first camp with Bruins

Urho Vaakanainen was billed as a smooth-skating, solid defenseman when the Bruins selected him in the middle of the first round in last month’s draft.

That’s exactly what the 18-year-old D-man put on display at his first chance to participate in Bruins Development Camp earlier this month as one of the younger players taking his first paces with the B’s organization.

Vaakanainen skated with ease and smoothness and didn’t have much in the way of panic when he was breaking the puck out of the zone during workouts. To be sure, it was clear that many of the tools are there for the Finnish prospect. Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley had likened him to Hall of Famer Paul Coffey for his skating ability in the days after he was drafted last month in Chicago, and Bruins player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner used the equally impressive Devils player comparison of Scott Niedermayer when discussing Boston’s top pick.

The bottom line is that Vaakanainen would appear to be well-suited to an evolving hockey league where the skating game is arguably the most important quality and it’s pretty much a prerequisite for success if you’re going to be a D-man in the NHL.

“I think it’s the effortlessness that he skates with, it’s smooth," Langenbrunner said. "I think Scott [Bradley] had mentioned to me yesterday, Scott Niedermayer. That’s obviously high praise with a guy that is effortless and can skate

"[All] around the rink,” said Langenbrunner. “He seems to have a little bit of those tendencies that kind of floats on his skates a little bit. That’s something that I don’t believe you can really teach. Some guys have that and some guys, it’s a little more work.

“You’re talking about a 17-year-old kid that played in the Finnish Elite League. For him to put up huge offensive numbers, I think would be pretty tough. I think now, going into his second year there is a little more confidence. Obviously, you hear more growth. You’ll see maybe a little more of an uptick there. He’s a smooth skater. He sees the ice well, he’s got good size, and he can make plays. So, I think as the confidence grows, numbers will grow just if you’re making the right plays over and over again.”

Clearly, there is some polish still to come to Vaakanainen’s offensive game after watching him in drills with his fellow prospects at development camp. That’s reflected in the two goals and six points in 41 games for JYP in the Finnish Elite League last season as well, a level of production that caused some to question just how top-end he’ll be offensively in the NHL when he does mature into his 6-foot, 183-pound body.

Vaakanainen showed a decent, accurate shot from the point and some solid instincts when it comes to making plays with the puck, but it’s also clear he doesn’t have quite the same level of pure offensive as Charlie McAvoy. The good stick, solid defensive instincts and strength for his size were all there as advertised. The skating game will cover up a lot of the things that Vaakanainen still needs to work on.

Some of the young player’s lessons can be learned and improved with greater offensive experience afforded him when he returns to Finland for the upcoming season. Some of that may mean a modestly effective offensive player in Vaakanainen once he’s met his NHL potential. It’s simply too early to tell and a lot could be learned based on his level of improvement in Europe this season and the preview everybody will get when he plays in the World Juniors for Team Finland around the holidays.  

For his part, Vaakanainen had a great week at development camp learning the streets of Boston, meeting his fellow Bruins prospects and officially making a good first impression in his first action as a first-round pick.

“As the camp went on you felt so much better and relaxed, and I had so much fun,” said Vaakanainen, who actually stayed with Langenbrunner and his family at his house after the draft. “You’ll learn new things and you get to know all the new people that are in the Bruins organization. It’s going to help me in the future to know everybody.

“I think maybe they want to see more of my offensive game because there hasn’t been so much of that the last couple of years. The role might be bigger now and more offensive, so it’s coming. Of course, you have to work hard for that, but when you play more minutes it absolutely helps to get more comfortable with what you’re doing.”

The bottom line with this pick hasn’t really changed even as Vaakanainen showed what he could do in a week of practices at Warrior Ice Arena. The Finnish teenager is a fine D-man prospect who looks like he’ll going to enjoy a solid 10-year career once he actually cracks the NHL roster and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The one thing we’ll all see over the next few years is whether or not the Bruins could have done better for themselves with the No. 18 pick in a draft class with an admittedly shallow talent pool as compared to the past couple of seasons.