Boston Bruins

Haggerty: Rask steals win, climbs goaltending ranks

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Haggerty: Rask steals win, climbs goaltending ranks

GLENDALE, AZ. It would have been understandable if Tuukka Rask had forgotten how to react when giving up a goal.

After all, the 24-year-old Finnish netminder had gone more than three weeks without allowing a goal and had more than 170 straight minutes of scoreless hockey under his belt when crafty Ray Whitney finally solved him at the end of the first period Wednesday night.

It was a prototypical Whitney goal with the ageless forward knifing through the Bruins defensive pair of Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk before sliding a shot through Rasks leg pads. But Rask was able to shake it off quickly and instead made 21 out of 22 saves en route to the 2-1 victory over the Coyotes at jobing.com Arena. Bostons elite goaltending tandem has allowed the Bruins to pull out some games they probably shouldnt have while going 21-2-1 over the last 24 games.

That was the case again against a Coyotes team that continuously pierced the Bs defense in the neutral zone. Rask capped off an amazing December with a 5-1 record in six games to go along with a .975 save percentage and a microscopic 0.75 goals against average.

He was our savior tonight, said Dennis Seidenberg without a hint of overstatement when asked about Rask.

Its by no means a gaudy save total for a nights work between the pipes, but nearly half of the Coyotes 22 shots were legitimate scoring chances where Bostons defense had been pierced. Rask was the final line of defense through three periods and overtime, and was at his best while standing on his head in the second period.

I didnt have that many shots out there, but they had some good chances, said Rask. It was just kind of a mental grind when you dont see that many shots and youre just trying to stay sharp for 60 minutes.

We always try to say to ourselves that good teams find a way to win these kinds of games. Today we proved it again. Its a good sign for our hockey team and we just have to build on it and get better.

Rasks best arrived on Phoenixs only power play of the game with Johnny Boychuk off for tripping Ray Whitney on a partial 3-on-1 breakaway. That led to another Whitney breakaway during the Coyotes man advantage, and this time Rask was forced to kick out his left leg to block one of Whitneys handful of scoring opportunities.

Minutes later Whitney fed Phoenix defenseman David Schlemko for a one-time hammer from the right circle, and Rask deflected that puck toward the slot area. With the Desert Dogs swirling all around the net, Zdeno Chara cleared the puck from the front of the net when Rask had left the crease area to aggressively attack the shooter.

All of those little saves and instances led up to Seidenbergs overtime game-winning shot, and handed Rask his fifth win in six December games after back-to-back shutouts against the Kings and Panthers.

The 22-save gem from Rask also pushed the netminder into the NHL lead in both the goals against average (1.61) and save percentage (.945) while continuing to push the Bs goaltending into the NHLs top-ranked spot in nearly every imaginable goaltending category.It's pretty amazing howmuch things change in a year: almost a year ago to the day Rask was pulled after the first period against the Buffalo Sabres and was hitting a career-low nadir in confidence and performance. Thatvalley has turned into a monstrous peak this year for the Finnish goalie.

Rask is happy with the run hes been on and the masterful month of December thats now complete with Tim Thomas getting Saturday nights nod against the Dallas Stars.ButRask doesn't havemoves like Jagger, anddoesnt want to utter the satisfaction word.

Im not proud really. You always try to do your best and stop every shot, said Rask. The month or whatever Ive had where Ive been in low-scoring games and Ive managed to keep the scoring down. Thats something you want to do. Back-to-back shutouts are a good sign, but you cant get too satisfied. Youve got to keep concentrating on your job and the future.

That future is looking incredibly bright once again, and thats a familiar feeling for the Finnish netminder. Rask is starting to feel that same groove he had two years ago when he wrested the starting job away from Thomas, and theres no way hes going to allow complacency to creep into his game.

Tuukka was good and he made some big saves. Both goaltenders had chances to win the game for their team, and I thought Tuukka was outstanding, said Claude Julien. Weve seen this before. He took over a couple of years ago because he was playing that away. All he needed was a little playing time, and hes got that and hes making the most of it.

Ive been talking about the goaltending as a real position of strength and right now were showing it rather than talking about it.

The Bruins have allowed more than two goals only once during 11 games in the month of November, and theyre pacing to allow the fewest goals of an NHL team since coming out of the lockout. The B's goaltenders lead the NHL with an amazing 1.85 goals against average and a gaudy .941 save percentage that's higher than Thomas' NHL record-setting mark from last year.Plenty of those numbers go toward Julien'sconcept and the teams defensive-minded players. But its largely about the leagues best goaltending tandem that once again took home two points they might not have deserved in a road victory over the Yotes.

Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

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Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

BOSTON – It was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but it looks like Boston’s favorite Little Ball of Hate is stepping up his game on social media.

Brad Marchand is known as much for his rabble-rousing and trash-talking on the ice as he is for massive offensive production while serving as Boston’s top scorer in each of the last few seasons. So Marchand has the perfect mixture of good humor and clout as a star NHL player, and that usually combines for a pretty powerful voice on Twitter.

Marchand has been noticeably more active on Twitter in recent days with a wide-ranging group of tweets, and the big winner is the hockey fan that gets a little more exposure to some classic Nose Face Killah wit. Some of the tweets have been as a Bruins team leader where he’s praising the talented young crop of B’s prospects that he’s watching during training camp:

Some have been about chirping the NHL for their decision to skip the Olympics this winter where Marchand most certainly would have been primed for a chance at a Gold Medal:

Some have been engaging with “fans” and dropping classic pop culture references from children’s books while showing the nasty edge that routinely drives opponents up a wall:

The Charlotte’s Web reference is a devastating classic from Marchand, a noted longtime fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes it’s just telling a quick story in a tweet that gives you an inside look at the kind of chirping that goes on when Marchand is on the ice:

A social media platform like Twitter was made for a personality like Marchand, and a stepped-up presence is good for him and good for hockey fans. So why all of a sudden is No. 63 tweeting with greater frequency over the last few days?

It sounds like it’s a combination of training camp boredom and a genuine interest in amplifying his voice on all manner of subjects.

“I’ve just been kind of lying around with nothing to do and I jumped on [twitter]…thought it was kind of funny,” said Marchand. “I thought I’d get a little more involved. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time to do it every day, but it’s fun.”

As fun as it’s been for Marchand, it’s no doubt even more fun for the fans that might get a chance to interact with him even if it’s as the unwitting foil for one of his well-placed chirps. 

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

BOSTON – Fresh off a strong performance allowing just a single goal on 31 shots in his preseason debut, Tuukka Rask looked close to the top of his game and exactly where he needs to be with the regular season a couple of weeks away. Nearly as important as Rask’s state as the regular season nears, the Bruins coaching staff has been keeping a keen eye through camp on the all-important backup goaltender position as well. 

It’s important that the Bruins have a quality backup goalie in place as they hope to start Rask in just 55-60 games this season, and manage the slender puck-stopper in a way where they can get the best out of him from beginning to end. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated Anton Khudobin has the inside track on the backup job after finding his groove in the second half of last season, and it would appear he’s well on his way to retaining his job with a Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem in Providence.

“Tuukka looks good, and looks good in practice and healthy. So that’s reassuring,” said Cassidy. “[Anton Khudobin] I thought played very well in his game. He had the one unfortunate goal, but I thought he was rock-solid the rest of the game. He’s in very good shape and he’s practiced well, so he’s got a leg up on the other [goalies] based on his experience.

“We know that going in, but he’s going to get pushed. Zane [McIntyre] was good in a game, and Malcolm let in a couple where he could have been more aggressive. But it was a first game, so right now they all look good. That’s a good problem to have if they all push each other, but to get direct to the point Anton has done nothing to lose that backup spot.”

At this point, it would likely be McIntyre rather than Subban that would challenge for the NHL backup job if Khudobin did stumble at all in training camp or early in the regular season as he did last year. There will be no backup controversy, however, if the 31-year-old plays like he did in stopping 20-of-22 shots in Tuesday night’s win vs. the Red Wings or as he did going 6-1-0 with a .922 save percentage after the All-Star break last season.  

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