Boston Bruins

Rask getting chance at lifelong goal of starting in net

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Rask getting chance at lifelong goal of starting in net

BOSTON -- Tuukka Rask has never played more than 45 regular-season games in a single year for the Boston Bruins, and hes always had to share the goaltending picture with the more established, oft-times brilliant Tim Thomas.

But now Thomas has walked away from the Bruins and the NHL, and the 25-year-old Rask suddenly finds himself as the guy between the pipes in Boston. Hes already proven how good he can be while leading the NHL in goals against average and save percentage during his rookie season, and Rask actually finished with better numbers than Thomas when last season (2.05 goals against average and a .929 save percentage) was finally in the books.

But now Rask gets the keys to the car after playing two years in the AHL with the Providence Bruins and sharing things with Thomas for three more seasons.

All my life this has pretty much been the goal. I played some games my first year consistently, but the year after was a step back in terms of playing time, said Rask, who was in Boston to visit the children getting treatment at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute prior to speaking with the media. Ive been waiting for a few years and its going to be interesting to see how I handle it.

Its going to be a challenge, but Im always up for a challenge. Im going to make the most of it and have some fun.

The 6-foot-2, 171-pound Rask is going to have to prove he can handle a 60-plus game workload and maintain his performance deep into the playoffs, but the only way to prove any of those things is by going out and actually doing them. There will be plenty of pressure on Rask working on a one-year deal worth 3.5 million for the Bruins, but the former first round pick has his own expectations.

Rask wants to prove hes the one and only starting goaltender for the Bruins franchise for the long haul, he wants to prove hes one of the best young goalies in the NHL and he wants to show that the Bs wont skip a beat as he replaces Thomas.

Those are lofty aims for Rask, but all the pieces are in place for him to excel surrounded by a defensively responsible group of teammates and a coaching staff that preaches good two-way hockey.

If Rask does all of that then his future in Boston will take care of itself.

Im sure Im going to get every chance possible to play, but if I cant get the job done then there will be more guys coming in, said Rask. We figured that the one-year deal is best for both parties, and then if I have a good year Ill get signed to a longer deal. If I suck then kick me out, you know?

It wasnt tough. We just needed to sit and talk about a few things. The decision to go one-year was a 5050 decision.

Rask was, of course, joking about sucking next year for the Bruins, but fellow twenty-something goalie Anton Khudobin will be around to push the Finnish netminder every step of the way. Most are expecting some difficult moments for the Bruins next year with Thomas out of the picture.

But the sight of a confident, healthy exuberant Rask with training camp six weeks away gives hope hes ready for the responsibility about to be dropped onto his slight shoulders.

Kuraly 'keeping it simple' in camp after playoff success with Bruins

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Kuraly 'keeping it simple' in camp after playoff success with Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – Just a few months ago, Sean Kuraly was the talk of the NHL world after a clutch two-goal performance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The 24-year-old suited up for four of the B’s playoff games against the Senators after spending most of the season in Providence, and memorably scored a pair of goals – including the double-overtime winner – in an epic Game 5 win that took the series back to Boston. That’s not too shabby for a kid that had played just eight NHL games for the B’s during the regular season, but then really clicked with David Backes and Noel Acciari once the playoffs got rolling.

MORE: Thoughts and observations from first weekend of B's camp

Unsurprisingly, Kuraly now hopes to parlay that playoff confidence into carving out a roster spot for himself at the NHL level to start this season. It remains to be seen if that will happen in a crowded field of forwards, but Kuraly certainly has raised expectations heading into his second NHL training camp.

“For me the first thing is to put the [playoffs] behind you, realize it went well and then maybe realize that there’s another training camp and another year to go here,” said Kuraly, who said the coolest part of the Game 5 heroics was getting recognized for the first time while out to eat in Boston. “It’s just sticking to my game, knowing the things that worked and really keeping it simple. I think I just had a really clear role and it was communicated very clearly to me how I can help the team in the playoffs.

“It was pretty cool to see that I could help the team, and that a simple North/South kind of game is something that the team could use. Just use my body, use my speed and get pucks behind their ‘D’ while playing a good puck management game. Everyone is here to win a job, and I’m no different. I was trying to do the same thing last year, and I’m going to do the same thing this year [trying to] make the team. I’m hoping to do that in this camp.”

It’s easy to forget just how effective Kuraly was at the end of the season, but the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder finished with 10 shots on net in the four playoff games for the Black and Gold. Not only was he strong and heavy on the forecheck, but he was skating with great pace for a big man and seemed to have knocked all of the hesitation out of his game. That’s exactly what the Bruins coaching staff is looking for as they put together their roster to start the season.

It sure sounds like Kuraly has a good shot to least start the season as the 13th forward on the NHL roster, and it will be hard to keep him off the ice if he’s playing with the same determination he showed during the postseason. If Kuraly can summon a large percentage of what he showed in the playoffs, then it will be pretty difficult for the Bruins coaching staff to turn away from him.

“It’s hard to put a lot [of expectation] on him because it was a short window. It’s a different situation to me than Charlie [McAvoy], but it’s more of an excitement for me like ‘Can he bring that for us again this year from Day One?,” said Bruce Cassidy of Kuraly, who finished with 14 goals and 26 points in 54 games for the P-Bruins last season. “He brought a lot of energy and gave us an identity at the bottom of the lineup that was going to be hard to play against.

“And he created in the offensive end, and we didn’t know if that was going to come right now. It’s a bit like Noel [Acciari] where all of a sudden they were scoring and it was like ‘Wow.’ Those kinds of players are invaluable in April and May. Sometimes they get lost in the shuffle during the regular season. He went to Providence after the [Bruins elimination] but he wasn’t really able to play. Sometimes then you really see growth in players when they go out there with that kind of confidence. That’s the part we weren’t really sure about this summer, but he looks really good right now [in training camp]. Like a lot of guys these preseasons will be big to see what kind of steps they’ve taken.”

Kuraly won’t be in the lineup for Monday night’s preseason opener against the Canadiens, but it shouldn’t take long to notice him in the preseason if he’s playing the same heavy, high-energy game he did while elevating his game in the playoffs. 

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Morning Skate: The need for speed is taking over the NHL

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Morning Skate: The need for speed is taking over the NHL

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while it’s the start of a new week.

* FOH (Friend of Haggs) Josh Cooper has a piece on new Buffalo Sabres head coach Phil Housley as he gets ready for his first season behind the bench.

* Joffrey Lupul has apparently called out the Toronto Maple Leafs, in since-deleted Instagram posts, for some shady dealings with injured players. This is certainly not unique to Toronto, but it’s not often you see a player actually come out and say it.

* It was time for the Boston Bruins to get previewed by Sportsnet as part of their league-wide season preview, and they sound an optimistic tone about the Bruins returning to the playoffs provided they can fix their backup goaltending situation. I’d say that’s pretty fair, though I’d also say the Bruins need a couple of their young forwards to really step up as well.

* The letters to everybody in NHL training camp is a pretty amusing example of the different avenues that the NHL Athletic can go with their content.

* Interesting story out of Florida that Panthers GM Dale Tallon tried to trade back for Erik Gudbranson with Vancouver, but was nixed when Jason Demers used his no-trade clause to veto the deal

* The days of bulk and oversized NHL players is ending, and the need for speed is taking over the entire league. I can say with certainty that has been a point of discussion with some Bruins players early in this year’s training camp as well.

* For something completely different: I can honestly say I’ve never really thought very deeply about the sound of a woman’s voice announcing sports when I’ve heard it during a broadcast. I guess I can be glad about that after reading this New York Times piece.