Rask accepts his role, finally gets first win

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Rask accepts his role, finally gets first win

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- It was the longest Tuukka Rask had ever gone without a win.

He said so himself after earning his first of the season Thursday night at the TD Garden, shutting out the Florida Panthers with 41 saves.

Prior to that, Rask held an 0-4-1 record in five appearances this year. Because of Tim Thomas' 10-1-0 hot start, Rask has been used as Boston's backup, just months after taking the B's within one win of the Eastern Conference Finals as the team's No. 1 'tender.

Regardless of his youth, the 23-year-old Rask is in the midst of quite a learning process. He's had to deal with going from being a No. 1 to being a goalie who's had to keep himself ready while no longer playing in consecutive games.

It's not an easy task, and he's even admitted that he's had to change his mindset.

But he hasn't allowed himself to become a distraction to the team . . . and that's a rare trait in this day and age in professional sports.

When players become stars, they don't want to be put on the bench. They want to continue to thrive as the go-to guy. They want to continue to be a star. And Rask pretty much earned star status last year as a Bruin.

So far this season, Rask's star doesn't have as much shine. But that doesn't have anything to do with how he's played, even if his record doesn't necessarily back that statement up.

It's been all about Thomas, and how he's returned to his Vezina-Trophy self.

But Thursday night's win against the Panthers was all about Rask.

"This game was mostly for him," said Milan Lucic, who scored the Bruins' first three goals in Boston's 4-0 win over Florida. "We wanted to go out there and give him a good effort, and give him a win, because he's been such a great guy in the locker room. He's such a great goalie and we're happy that we were able to get this win for him."

"I mean, we've got a lot of good guys in here, but he's definitely one of the best team guys around," said Shawn Thornton. "So, it's pretty disappointing in the first few games that we couldn't get a win for him, couldn't get the goals we needed.

"He keeps an upbeat attitude the whole time," added Thornton. "He's happy for what's going on here. He doesn't put himself ahead of anyone."

Rask also put himself in front of 41 pucks on Thursday night, marking his seventh career shutout. He is now 1-4-1 in six appearances because of it.

"It feels good to not let your team down, because we're on a winning streak now, and we keep that thing going," said Rask. "But it's just a win. It's not the first game I've won with the Bruins, but it feels good."

After the game, Rask refused to make a big deal about his first win of the season. Certainly, you would think the first one would lift a huge weight of his shoulders. But he said there's not much sense of relief, an attitude that shows he has a lot more to prove, even if he wasn't all that bad in his first five appearances.

"I felt good in all the games I've played," said Rask. "I just didn't get the bounces. Obviously today we scored four goals. That helps a lot, too."

Rask held a 1-0 lead late into the third period. That's when things began to open up, as Lucic scored his second and third goals 15 seconds apart, with just over five minutes left in the game.

It gave the Bruins plenty of breathing room, for sure. But on this night, with Rask having accepted his role, having continued to be a team player, and having been at his best, the Bruins didn't necessarily need it.

"Probably the game that we were hoping to see from him, for all the right reasons," said coach Claude Julien. "It was a grind, especially early on, and he really kept us in the game with some big saves, big, timely saves. So it was good for his confidence, and it was good for us to see him play that way. If you're going to get your first win, then what better way than a shutout."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard

Chara on slumping Bruins: Players shouldn't have to be told to work hard

Chara on slumping Bruins: Players shouldn't have to be told to work hard

BRIGHTON -- The on-ice portion of Bruins practice kicked off about an hour later than scheduled at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday morning.

The B's are reeling, having lost four games in a row for the first time this season after getting dumped by the Penguins, 5-1, in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon. Their standing in the Atlantic Division, and the playoff picture, is tenuous at best with so many other teams holding games in hand over them, and it truly looks like they're going to slide out of the race if they can’t reverse their fortunes.

So Claude Julien, saying "desperate times call for desperate measures," summoned the players to a video session where flaws, mistakes, half-hearted efforts and bad systems-play was pointed out in front of everyone. The team then took the ice to iron out those problems in an hour-long practice that the embattled Bruins coach hopes will lead to better results in the final two games, against Detroit and Pittsburgh, before the All-Star break.

“He was showing details that we were doing well early on in the season to have success, and little things that we’ve gotten away from that we need to correct,” said captain Zdeno Chara. “We need to start doing them again. It’s a game of little details and we need to make sure we do them right.”

While Chara wouldn’t comment on the tone of the video session, it’s clear that things like effort, determination and desperation were probably talking points just as much as fine-tuning Julien’s long-held offensive and defensive systems.

“It’s commitment," said Chara. "That’s for sure, that we need to have everybody doing that. We shouldn’t . . . at this level, at this time of the season, [have to be] asking guys to work hard. We’ve got to make sure that everybody is working hard, and everybody is paying his dues to be in the lineup and earn a spot.

“That’s the No. 1 priority: You have to compete and you have to work hard. Usually when you do those things, good things happen. We’ve got to back to those little things [with] hard work, commitment and competing every shift.”

Will an honest, direct video session between head coach and players be the key to stopping the team’s most demoralizing stretch of the season, and lead to a prolonged winning streak? Only time will tell.

But the Bruins need something to get spinning in an entirely different direction. 

Monday, Jan. 23: Yandle endorses Coyotes

Monday, Jan. 23: Yandle endorses Coyotes

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while sorting through all the Bruins-related alternative facts out there.

*Matthew Tkachuk is having some disagreements with his parents about his mouth-guard usage with the Calgary Flames.

*Former Yotes D-man Keith Yandle says that the Arizona Coyotes “know what they’re doing” despite their decent to the cellar in the Western Conference.

*Insights on every goaltending situation in the NHL from the crack ESPN.com staff breaking down the fantasy rankings.

*The struggles continue for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they can’t seem to gain any traction in the Atlantic Division.

*Wayne Simmonds took the blame for a late penalty that led to Philly’s undoing as they battle for playoff position in the East.

*Sounds like Patrik Laine might be nearing a return to the lineup, and that’s a very good thing for the Winnipeg Jets.

*For something completely different: We have a title for the next Star Wars film. It’s going to be called “The Last Jedi.”