By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
OTTAWA It had been so long since Tuukka Rask had played a competitive game in an NHL rink that nobody would have blamed him if hed forgotten what it was like.
The 24-year-old goaltender became a spectator after taking the loss against the New Jersey Devils in the regular-season finale way back on April 10, and got a front-row seat to the Tim Thomas Show from then on.
It all ended well for Rask and the Bruins as they captured the Stanley Cup, which the young goalie was able to take back to Finland with him over the summer, but goalies want to get out on the ice and stop pucks.
Rask got his chance to warm up the puck-stopping muscles with the full start against the Ottawa Senators in Bostons opening preseason game on Wednesday night. He was brilliant while making 34 saves and pushing things to overtime in a game where the Bruins were badly outplayed in front of him, but once again came up just a little short in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Sens at Scotiabank Place.
Bruins coach Claude Julien correctly surmised that the game wouldnt have even made it to overtime if Rask wasnt so good, and determined that his tired-looking team needed a day of rest.
Tuukka played well tonight and he was a big factor in keeping it close, said Claude Julien. Ottawa was definitely the better team tonight. They played a more direct game and we didnt muster up much.
A Mika Zibanejad fluttering shot fooled the Bs goaltender for the game-winner, but it couldnt wipe out all the good work leading up to it. Rask looked sharp early, but saved some of his best stops for the sleepy middle of the game as his defense broke down around him.
The sprawling glove save on Mark Parrish as he bombed down the left wing was a thing of midseason beauty, and Rask kept things under control when a quartet of youngsters (Dougie Hamilton, Jordan Caron, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Tardif) started running around on a delayed penalty call for more than a minute, which put the goalie in a shooting gallery.
It was good to get some game action in and see a lot of shots, said Rask. I didnt feel too bad. Every game is kind of the same. You just cant approach it like its a preseason game or a playoff game.
You just kind of try and stop every puck. But its definitely messier. Guys dont make plays like they usually do in the regular season and pucks are kind of just bouncing off guys sticks. But its still a hockey game and you do your best at it.
Does Rask like the preseason action to be a little helter skelter, so its not so much of a shock to the system when the real bullets start flying?
Its probably better that way, said Rask. Obviously teams are trying different rosters and they dont have the lineups that they usually have and theres chaos. But thats preseason and its part of it.
Rask will need the chaos, the odd bounces and the fluttering shots here in preseason, but the young goalie is going to play more than his 29 games last season while backing up Thomas this season and he might as well be ready for it.