Boston Bruins

Rask feels 'great' after 13 games in Czech Republic

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Rask feels 'great' after 13 games in Czech Republic

Tuukka Rask returned from the Czech Republic as the bearer of good news.

No he isnt ready to pronounce the NHL lockout over. But the 25-year-old Finnish goaltender did pronounce himself perfectly healthy after his 13-game stint for HC Plzen.

Rask had a slight scare when his groin muscles tightened on him in first game with his new team back in October, but he was able to play regularly after that without any hint of problems. That was a relief after Rask was knocked out for the final six weeks and 19 games of last years season with a strained groinabdomen and didnt get into any playoff games after he was medically cleared to resume action.

Rask was able to play at a very high level, posting a .936 save percentage and 1.85 goals against average for Plzen before leaving at the end of last week.

"I feel great physically," Rask said. "It was a good experience for me. It was pretty fast-paced and offense oriented with a lot of odd-man rushes, 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s . . . so I got plenty of work. It was exactly what I needed to do to get ready while waiting for things to get worked out here."

The Bruins goaltender said hes back in Boston for good until theres a decision made on the 2012-13 NHL season one way or the other. Hell be rested and ready if a deal is done in the next six weeks and Rask might just return to the Czech Republic if the nightmare scenario plays out with the season being cancelled in mid-January.

The Czech action was good for Rask, who signed a one-year, 3.5 million deal with the Bruins to prove he could be their franchise goaltender capable of playing 55-60 games and doing it while performing like he did in his 2009-10 rookie season when he led the NHL in save percentage (.931) and goals against average (1.97).

I came back because I think this is around the time when the decision will get made one way or the other, said Rask. I didnt want to have to rush back to the United States and jump right into training camp if I stayed over in Europe. I got some games in and now I can rest up a bit hopefully for a season.

It stands to reason that the NHL and NHLPA will either come to an agreement in the next few weeks for a shortened season followed by a full round of playoffs, or the NHL Board of Governors could start the clock on potentially cancelling the season with a Dec. 5 meeting in New York City.

Rask said he enjoyed playing against David Krejci and Andrew Ference in the Czech League, and that it was a nice change of pace from Ilves Tampere and the Finnish League he played in as a teenager. Thats the same Tampere that just signed Bs forward Daniel Paille.

I played in Finland when I was younger and I go back to there in the summertime, so I wanted to try something a little different, Rask said. It was definitely the right choice for me.

Now Rask is back in Boston skating with a handful of his Bruins teammates and waiting things out just like other hockey fans all around the world.

Haggerty: Not many fans of face-off changes among Bruins

Haggerty: Not many fans of face-off changes among Bruins

BOSTON – It may just be that all of these slashing penalties and face-off violations will become a training camp fad of sorts and the preseason period of adjustment will give way to business as usual once the regular season opens.

The NHL can’t possibly hope to sell fans on games like the Bruins' 2-1 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night at TD Garden that included 16 penalties and 12 power plays that completely marred the normal game flow. Some of it was about the seven slashing penalties handed out by the officiating crew and the ensuing special teams flow that never allowed either team to truly find their 5-on-5 footing.

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Even more prominent, however, is the frustration that many players from both teams are feeling for the strict enforcement of the face-off rules and the impact it’s having on the flow of the game. Brad Marchand called it “an absolute joke” a couple of days ago after watching the first night of preseason hockey. He doubled down on his criticism after watching it play out in a game.

He said it was so bad that players from both teams were laughing at the sheer absurdity of the standstill face-off posture and just how much it’s taking away from the enjoyment, whether it’s fans, the media or even the officials, of a free-flowing NHL game.

“It’s really taking a lot away from the game. You can’t have a winger taking all the face-offs. I mean if you look at the percentages of how many times guys got kicked out tonight, and what it’s taking away from the teams, it’s not worth what’s coming with it,” said Marchand. “Literally both teams were laughing out there about how bad the rule is. It’s becoming a big joke, so there’s got to be something tweaked with it.

“These games are painful. I thought it was a bad rule before I played, but it’s even worse after going through it and actually seeing what it’s like. It’s basically an automatic [face-off] win for the other team. The only thing you’re worried about is not moving before the puck is shot.”

The choppiness resulted in some pretty bad nights in the face-off circle for the Bruins. Ryan Spooner lost 9 of 10 draws and Riley Nash 12 of 19 face-offs while Claude Giroux somehow won 20 of 25 draws despite the difficulty all around him. While Patrice Bergeron was a solidly respectable 9 of 18 in the face-off circle for the evening, the four-time Selke Trophy made no bones wondering aloud what exactly is the point of all this.

Bergeron is rarely critical of anything despite his standing as a prominent, respected player in the league, but he seemed to take major umbrage with rules that are totally messing with his considerable face-off skills. The Bruins top face-off man likened it to Pee Wee hockey when he was 12 where everybody would just stand perfectly still in the face-off circle until the puck was dropped. That little tweak wrings every last bit of competitiveness and 1-on-1 battle out of the ultimate hockey showdown and has left Bergeron with a bad taste in his mouth.

“I think that the face-off is definitely an adjustment. I think that the face-off is a skill and you work your whole career to develop that and you work on your hand-eye and timing and everything and try to take that away. You have to adapt I guess. It’s something that I’ll definitely do, but I don’t think I’m a huge fan,” said Bergeron. “I wonder what they’re really trying to get out of it. I understand that it’s feet above those lines and sticks and whatnot. That being said it also kind of sucks. Hockey is a fast game and they’re really slowing it down.

“Faceoff is a skill and you work on timing, you work on hand-eye, and you know when the linesman is going to drop the puck. And I was thinking more about him kicking me out than dropping the puck. That’s what makes you second guess. It just makes you hesitate and everyone is just standing there. There’s no battle right now. It’s like face-offs when I was 12 years old. Everyone is just standing still and no one is really moving.”

So what’s the ultimate answer from an NHL that wasn’t tremendously forthcoming with these preseason tweaks and now has a stand-up, influential player like Bergeron kicking it around just like everybody else? It might be time for the league to revisit their face-off crackdown and perhaps get a little more advice from accomplished players like Bergeron for the next time around. But Bergeron, Marchand and others aren’t exactly holding their breath for any more changes. Instead, they simply hope that some of the referees apply a common-sense approach once the regular season begins. 
 

Belichick on CTE following Hernandez news: 'I'm not a doctor'

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Belichick on CTE following Hernandez news: 'I'm not a doctor'

FOXBORO -- In wake of Aaron Hernandez’ estate filing a federal lawsuit against the NFL and the Patriots over the late tight end’s head trauma, Bill Belichick was expectedly mum when asked Friday about CTE. 

Hernandez, who died in prison of an apparent suicide in April shortly after being acquitted of a 2012 double-murder, had “the most severe case” of chronic traumatic encephalopathy that researchers had ever seen in a 27-year-old, according to his lawyer. 

Belichick, who drafted Hernandez in 2010 and coached the player until his 2013 release, reiterated his September 2016 quote about not being a doctor on Friday. 

“That’s really, the whole medicals questions are ones that come outside my area,” he said Friday when asked what the team tells players about CTE. “Our medical department, our medical staff cover a lot of things on the medical end. It’s not just one specific thing. We cover a lot.” 

Asked if he feels the NFL does a good enough job of warning players about CTE, Belichick repeated his answer. 

“Again, I’m not a doctor. I’m not a trainer. I’m a coach,” he said. “The medical part, they handle the medical part of it. I don’t do that.”

Hernandez was listed as having one concussion during his NFL career.