Haggerty: Tuukka to have more time this season

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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.

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

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Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while hoping everybody on this Memorial Day takes some time to appreciate all of those that made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. We should also take a moment to say thanks to people like the three heroes in Oregon that stood up to a hateful bigot earlier this week, and in doing so reaffirmed what the majority of people living in the US believe we are all about while trying to live up to that ideal every day.
 
-- A number of NHL legends are shaking their heads at the dirty play that we’re seeing in these playoffs, particularly those plays targeting the superstars that people pay big money to see in the postseason. Why should anybody be shocked by this? The rooting out of enforcers, and fighting, has taken accountability out of the game for the cheap-shot artists and dirty players, and leaves little real deterrant for players looking to take out opponents with dangerous plays. I wrote about this a couple of years ago when the NHL threw the book at Shawn Thornton for going after Brooks Orpik, and in doing so chose to protect somebody trying to hurt opponents (Orpik) and punish somebody trying to protect his teammates (Thornton). It was a sea change for the league, and something players didn’t forget as more and more enforcers were quickly weeded out of the NHL. This is what the rule-makers and legislators wanted, and now it’s what they’re getting just a couple of years later with dangerous stick-work, cheap shots and a general lack of respect for fellow players.
 
-- Here's why the Tampa Bay Lightning would consider trading a player like Jonathan Drouin, and the major impact that could have on the offseason trade market.
 
-- Down Goes Brown has a Stanley Cup Final rooting guide for the other 28 other fan bases now that Nashville and Pittsburgh are in the final series.

-- So which goaltender has the edge in the Stanley Cup Final: Nashville's Pekka Rinne, or Pittsburgh's two-headed monster of Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury?
 
-- Scotty Bowman says winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles has become monumentally difficult since the advent of the salary cap.
 
-- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are pushing each other to be betters, and showing exactly how a team should be led by its superstars in the salary-cap era for the league.
 
-- For something completely different: We can confirm through this report that a lot of hot dogs are eaten in the summertime. So glad we have people to research these kinds of things.