By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Dont expect it to take very long before Tuukka Rask gets the call for the Bruins between the pipes. T
he 24-year-old Finnish netminder started only 29 games last season, and hasnt played in an NHL game non-preseason division since an April 10 loss to the New Jersey Devils in last years regular-season finale. He watched from the bench as Tim Thomas backstopped the Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship.
Like last preseason, when Claude Julien proclaimed the goaltending job a competition between a pair of No. 1 goaltenders, the coaching staff is approaching it the same way this season. That eventually led to the hot Thomas taking over the gig, but some forget the season actually began with Rask earning the opening night start in Prague against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Rask lost that first game in Europe, and Thomas never looked back after pitching a shutout in the second game of the season.
Fast forward to this season. Thomas was solid while giving up only two goals behind a leaky defense in the opener. While he will be 38 years old once the playoffs begin and played a whopping 82 games last season (regular season and playoffs), he's still the best goaltender in the world as the year begins.
So the temptation is to force-feed Thomas plenty of games to get the Bs off to a good start, but the reality is Rask will be getting the starting nod sooner rather than later.
I wanted to make clear from the get go that were going to utilize our goaltenders and utilize them properly, said Julien. Tuukka has had a great camp and played two really good exhibition games. I think he needs to play and youll see him in the lineup really soon.
He was great being supportive in the playoffs. But you want to make sure he still has that battle in him for ice time and not let the other guy get comfortable. Thats what competition is all about. You want to be ready. You dont want to say, This guy is playing so well that Im just going to give you the stage here. You want to be supportive when youre not playing, but you want to battle to stay on the ice. That doesnt just need to exist with the forwards and the defensemen, but it needs to exist with the goaltenders as well.
While theres a possibility Rask could play as soon as Saturday night against the Lightning, it might make more sense to slide Thomas back in against his Eastern Conference Finals foes and then call on the Finnish goalie for the Colorado Avalanche in the Columbus Day matinee.
Its imperative Rask play more games than he did last year to give Thomas the breather hell need, and that starts with the younger netminder being better than he was last season.
Rask acknowledges that, but hes not buying into any of the goalie controversy stuff.
Im just focusing on going out and playing hard every night, said Rask. The goalie rotation questions happen every year, right . . . whatever. You guys talk whenever you need to talk and we dont really care. It's fun for the audience, I guess.
Were just trying to do our job as well as we can and well see what happens. Its been a while since the last NHL action that Ive had in the regular season. So Im hoping to have a good start to the season. I shouldnt be too rusty. Well see.
Whether its Saturday or Monday, Rask will be getting the call more often this year and that will be a good thing for both the goaltender and the Black and Gold team he stops pucks for.