Haggerty: Tuukka to have more time this season

191545.jpg

Haggerty: Tuukka to have more time this season

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs

BOSTON -- Those looking for a frame-by-frame repeat of last seasons Herculean efforts by Tim Thomas again this season might end up a little disappointed.

Thomas rewrote the record books and defied conventional wisdom in the modern NHL with one of the best goaltending seasons in the history of the league. Thomas also became the first big name goaltender to truly carry his team to Stanley Cup immortality in the last decade and in doing so began to etch his name into the pantheon of all-time great puck-stoppers through the years.

When people look back and talk about the 2010-11 season, they will reference it as the Year of Tim Thomas. No questions and no doubt about any of that.

The two-time Vezina Trophy winner has already vowed his goal is to capture the Vezina, Stanley Cup and Conn Smyth again this year with his Bruins squad. Its not impossible, but that will be some kind of feat for the Black and Gold goaltender.

While its clearly a positive that Thomas is coming off a healthy offseason filled with normal workouts, the seasoned goaltender also played a combined 82 games (regular season and playoffs) last year en route to a Cup victory. Thats a significant body of work and the most games Thomas has played in during an NHL season, and there could be a future physical price to pay.

Thomas admitted the playoff grind was more mental and emotional than physical when it came time for offseason recovery, but it remains to be seen if the long playoff journey has any fatigue effect on the Bs goaltender this season.

If anything, Im in better all-around condition than last year. At this point I dont feel the 82 games from last season, anyway, said Thomas, who nonetheless knew the exact number of games played off the top of his head. Physically I dont feel too bad. Mentally and emotionally you give so much energy that those are the harder parts to deal with.

Youre in battle mode for two months straight because thats what the playoffs are. Plus the whole season youre kind of in that mode, but it gets stepped up in the playoffs. To have it suddenly be over that was harder than the physical things . . . for me anyway.

The 82 games is no small workload and Bruins coach Claude Julien said the team will tailor playing time adjustments for Thomas and Tuukka Rask with a proper amount of rest in mind.

In other words, expect Rask to come back fully from last summers left knee meniscus surgery and expect the Finnish goalie to play significantly more than the 29 games he appeared in during a star-crossed sophomore season.

I think its pretty obvious that Tuukka has to take a bit of a bigger bite this year. Thats not a secret and dont plan on making that a secret, said Julien. Tim is a great goaltender, but Tim is a goaltender that understands that he cant play 70-plus games in the regular season. Hes had a long playoffs and I think Tim is going to be just as happy as we are to have Tuukka here and paying some of his best hockey.

I liked Rasks practice today, I thought Tuukka looked sharp and he came in great shape, so hopefully hes ready to take on that load. Well certainly make sure that we share the goaltending workload. You just want to make sure you keep your goaltenders as sharp as you can and Tim had such an outstanding year last year. Wed love to see him duplicate it, but he might be able to duplicate with some help from Tuukka by keeping him as fresh as we can.

Its got to be tempting to simply keep calling Thomas number after he set the NHL goaltender world afire by recording a .938 save percentage during the regular season, and then elevated to a .940 save percentage and a 1.98 goals against average in 25 Cup playoff games.

But it was only one year ago when everyone around the Bruins team expected Rask to be the workhorse coming out of training camp, and the 24-year-old stands ready to claim more ice time this season.

Im always ready for that. Youve just got to go day-by-day and game-by-game, but well see what happens, said Rask. Its a new season and weve all got to work even harder to prove things.

Julien is normally tight-lipped about his goaltending rotation through any given season, but its pretty telling that hes already letting everybody know the inside scoop on his plan this year. The Bruins proudly proclaimed they were choosing between a pair of No. 1 goaltenders last season, and this year theyll be living it.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons. 

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while hoping that Purple Passion doesn’t try the same comeback as Zima.

*A Seattle investor says that an NHL team coming to that city is much more likely than a return by the NBA to the Pacific Northwestern city.

*Gare Joyce writes eloquently about the loneliness of a hockey scout, and how that world can sometimes come to a crashing halt.  

*Good piece from Arpon Basu giving the sights and sounds of Claude Julien’s second stint behind the bench with the Montreal Canadiens.

*The agent for Russian player Maxim Shalunov says there is a “10 percent chance” that he’s going to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks.

*Mike Babcock says not to expect any big trade deadline deals from the Toronto Maple Leafs as they push for a playoff spot.

*Henrik Zetterberg reflects on a difficult season with the Detroit Red Wings where it looks like things might finally come down to a crashing halt.

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/nhl/red-wings/2017/02/17/red-wings-zetterberg-reflects-tough-season/98064530/

*The Minnesota Wild have underrated depth on their team, and the Hockey News says it might just be their scariest attribute.

*For something completely different: as referenced above, it looks like that Zima drink of the 1990s is trying to make a comeback. I was in college when the Zima people were seemingly flooding campuses with advertising and samples back in the day.