By Joe Haggerty
OTTAWA Tuukka Rasks confidence level shouldbe at an all-time high this season after pitching a 33-save shutout against the Ottawa Senators following a season thats been full of adversity.
The young Finnish netminder came out of the gate slowly this year, but has caught fire with a four-game winning streak over the last two weeks punctuatedby a 1-0 shutout of the Sens at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday night.
Rask captured wins during the first two games of the road trip against the Islanders and Senators, and finished off his week strong with back-to-back wins against the Oilers and Senators over thefinalthree days of Boston's last big road swing of the season. Its no coincidence that the second game of each of those consecutive pairs ofstarts turned out to be the better effort its a pattern thats manifested itself since he was tending the net for the Providence Bruins in the AHL.
Ive always been that way in my career, said Rask. Even in the AHL, I was always better on Saturdays than I was on Fridays. I dont know why?
I guess I cant really blame it on old age, so Ill just say that Ive got to get my engine going a little earlier.
Rask captured his second shutout of the season and improved his record to 9-11-1 on the season, and also has combined with Tim Thomas for an amazing nine NHL shutouts this season. Its no surprise that Bostons goalies lead the league in save percentage and rank second in goals against average, and the ThomasRask tandem has lived up to every bit of hype they garnered before the season started."For him it's great. He had a tough start to the season and the winloss column has not been in his favor, but lately he's been doing a lot better," said Claude Julien. "His game is obviously getting better, and I'm sure the shutout is something that's really going to help his confidence."
The game essentially turned over in the second period when Rask stuffed center Jason Spezza on a breakaway attempt in a scoreless game, and proved that Bostons netminder was up to the challenge in one of the few spots where the Boston defense broke down.
It seems that Tuukka Time is finally enjoying its very first prolonged run of the season, and it couldnt have come at a better point for a Bruins team needing to find some rest for Thomas. Claude Julien indicated he wasnt sure if Andrew Ference would quite miss the two weeks that Peter Chiarelli had estimated on Monday, and said the Bs wouldnt have any hard answers on the lower body injury until the team arrived back in Boston.
Ference was scheduled to see team doctors on Wednesday, but the Bs coach indicated that the Boston defenseman felt much better with 24 more hours of rest and rehab.
We dont need another defenseman right now, said Julien. I know what Peter said, but we need to get Ference evaluated in Boston because hes feeling a lot better today than yesterday and that four hour flight usually isnt very good.
Its hard to really tell at this point, but well know a lot more tomorrow. Itll be easier to be a little more definitive about it after that.
Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic and Bobby Orr were among the Bruins players and alumni involved in the new Dropkick Murphys music video for Going Out in Style that was premiered on rollingstone.com Tuesday afternoon. In the video Thornton is sitting at a bar with NESN's Heidi Watney while the band plays the song, and at one point he menacingly stares into the camera just as he might before a hockey fight. The B's enforcer had a great time filming the video, but said it was shots of Diet Coke and water for the 9 a.m. shoot during the All-Star break."We had a really good time. They asked me if I wanted to come down and be involved, and of course I was happy to," said Thornton. "Originally they were going to have me as thebouncer in the bar, but we went with this instead. I think the whole video was so good it came out even better than I thought it would, and I had some pretty high expectations."Thornton said that the video-makers got the angry look into the camera after Lenny Clarke went nose-to-nose with the B's tough guy, and started yelling in his face. It took three takes to finally get the shot that made the video."The first time Lenny's face was too far away from me," said Thornton. "The second time he got right in my face, and I couldn't help but start laughing. The third time was the one that they ended up using right after Lenny was done yelling at me."Amazingly, the Bruins power play went 0-for-2 on Tuesday night, and is 1-for-13 in five games since Tomas Kaberle has joined the Bruins. Despite the raw number, Claude Julien likes the increased puck movement and easily achieved scoring chances produced by Kaberle and the new-look Boston power play that time.The way Julien sees it, it's only a matter of time before Boston cashes in on the power play. The NHL War Room actually reviewed a Zdeno Chara one-time slap shot during Boston's first power play that appeared to cross the goal line, but it was eventually ruled "no goal" on the ice and in the review booth after Craig Anderson made the tardy glove save. Its been an interesting 24 hours for Steve Kampfer.The 22-year-old defenseman was scratched for a pair of early games on the current road trip after Tomas Kaberle arrived from the Maple Leafs, but hopped back into the lineup Sunday in Edmonton after Andrew Ferences lower body injury.Kampfer was a minus-1 in 13 plus minutes of ice time and appeared a little rusty in Sundays win after more than a week away from game action, but thats just the tip of the iceberg. Kampfer also got a call from his agent Monday morning that he was being sent down to the AHL, but it certainly wasnt as close to dire as it originally seemed.Kampfer was designated to the AHL during an entire afternoon spent in Ottawa, and then recalled at 5 p.m. in a paperwork move that now allows the young defenseman to qualify for an AHL playoff roster should Bostons season end sooner than Providences. The youngster is highly unlikely to spend any time in Providence through the rest of the regular season or during Bostons playoff run, but its a move similar to the paper transaction the Bs made with Phil Kessel during his rookie season in Boston.Kessel never ended up playing in any AHL playoff games during that 2007-08 campaign.Once Kampfer was assured the paper transaction didnt mean anything to his immediate future in Boston, he could instead concentrate on implementing the little blueline nuances he picked up while watching the game from up in the press box last week.It was great to get back into the lineup. You dont like sitting out at all. Its a relief to get back in, but you also know youve got to play well to keep your spot, said Kampfer, who was much better in Tuesday's win over the Senators. Right now Im just taking it day-by-bay and earning a spot back. When you sit out you see areas where you can make a play, or see you guys patience. You realize you were rushing when you could have really taken more time to make something happen.Kampfer said one of the biggest pluses while serving as a healthy scratch was simply watching the skill set Kaberle brought to the table as the puck-moving defenseman. Its something the young Bostonian hopes to develop into someday.One of the things that Claude talked to me about was really watching how some of the other guys on our team, and in particular how a guy like Kaberle handles himself in the defensive zone and moves things around in the offensive zone, said Kampfer. Its one of those things where you can really pick some things out from other guys that can help you out in your game.I couldnt ask for anything better. You can see how Kaberle moves the puck and the plays he sees. At the same time you want to be back in the lineup, and youre still learning by watching him whether its in practice or at other moments. There are so many areas he can make plays where you wouldnt see it otherwise.
Joe Haggerty can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs