The long wait finally came to an end for Tuukka Rask Monday night.
The 28-year-old goalie made his 2015 preseason debut after watching the likes of Jonas Gustavsson, Jeremy Smith, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre fill the void over the first four games, all wins.
Monday night wasn’t about the final result, a 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. It was about getting Rask’s feet wet for the first time in game action since the regular season finale last April 11 at Tampa Bay. That night, the Bruins were eliminated in the middle of the game. Monday night, in a game with far less significance, Rask stopped 21 of 24 shots in getting his first taste of action.
“Good to get it out of the way,” Rask said. “You kind of forget how tough it is out there. It doesn’t matter how much you workout or skate, it’s always different when it’s a real game and I definitely felt it. It’s good to get that first one out of the belt and to keep moving on that.
“I think at this point I focus on myself and getting my game where I feel like it needs to be – it’s just with the feel and everything. Today I felt that timing was sometimes a little off, angles were a little off at times ‘ not natural all the time. Those are the things I need to work on, but I think in the bigger picture too, looking at the breakouts we did a pretty good job today and communication was pretty good too. The first period I had to handle it a couple times, the first one of the game I just made a bad pass, but after that I made a couple good passes. A couple guys talked to me where they wanted the puck to be and I think they did a good job in front of the net, clearing some sticks and some players. I think it was good.”
Rask realizes that improving Boston’s breakout this season begins with him.
“Whenever the team dumps the puck to me I think in the perfect world we would like to breakout and then communication becomes a big thing,” Rask said. “That’s what we’ve been talking about. Then again, when the defense gets the puck, I need to be talking too. Those are the things we need to be on top of right off the bat because you want to get off to the good start. That’s going to be a big key.”
One of those young defensemen trying to communicate with Rask was Zach Trotman.
“He made saves when he needed to,” Trotman said. “We’ve got to help him out a little more. Tuukka is Tuukka. He’s one of the best if not the best. He’s good, it’s his first game.”
Even with Rask back in net, Trotman said he was trying to take care of his own job without relying on the top goalie on the roster.
“I’m not really that kind of guy that takes too many chances,” Trotman added. “I try and take care of my own end first, obviously, so just because he is that good I don’t need to make him prove it all the time.’”
Rask was beaten three times Monday, once by Drew Miller on a perfect shot from the right dot over his right shoulder, once by Tomas Jurco on a backhander short side that Rask might have wanted back and finally, just 48 seconds into the third, on a controversial goal by Andreas Athanasiou. Replay was not available Monday night but it might have overturned the final goal because of a leg in the crease behind Rask before the puck crossed the line.
“We obviously talk about those things we know what we need to do,” Rask said. “I think for example, we played a pretty good defensive game, we had a couple breakdowns, but those things happen. As far as protecting our net and getting the puck out, I thought we did a pretty good job and I think a lot of times last year it was poor from us, we were just scrambling around in our own end. There was that one phase for about a minute in our own end that ended up costing us a goal, but other than that pretty good.”
What did Rask’s coach think?
“He was fine,” Claude Julien said. “I think that, again, that third goal is probably something that I’ll look at, could be a reviewable during the league, during the regular season I should say. I’m going to look at it a little bit closer. But some of those shots were really top shelf. They were good goals, it’s his first game so like anybody else he’s entitled to have those games. Not those games ‘ it wasn’t a bad game on his part at all. I think he’s our number one goalie and we’re not here to evaluate him, we’re here to evaluate the others. For him, it’s to find his groove. First game and no doubt he’ll feel even better in the next one that he plays.
“We had some young D’s here and we’ve got some spots to fill and spots to win and spots to lose. So we’re looking closely at those guys on the back end so that’s the evaluation process. So you look at some of those goals tonight, we didn’t get much help and, you know and that first goal the guy walks right into the slot and [Drew] Miller had a pretty good shot there that hit the corner. That’s not to absolve Tuukka from anything but it’s his first game. We know what kind of goaltender he is. He’s not the guy that we need to talk about and start worrying about.”