bruins notebook

Tuukka Rask’s sharp play key to Bruins’ hot start

Tuukka Rask has picked up where he left off last season, stopping all but two shots in the first two games.
jared wickerham/getty images
Tuukka Rask has picked up where he left off last season, stopping all but two shots in the first two games.

The schedule sets up such that the Bruins should get a large dose of Tuukka Rask to start the season. That’s good news for the team.

Two games into the season, Rask appears sharp, despite not getting much ice time during preseason games. He has allowed just two goals — total — to two of the higher-powered offenses in the Atlantic Division in Tampa Bay and Detroit, while making 59 saves.

“Tuukka’s been Tuukka,” coach Claude Julien said. “He’s just been solid, played well, made the big saves when we need him.


“In that first game, I thought he did a good job of holding us in there when we didn’t have a good start. Last game, I thought we had a much better overall game, but against that type of team, you need good goaltending and he gave us that.”

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The Bruins don’t play a back-to-back set until Oct. 23 and 24. They play in Buffalo first, then come home for a game against a good San Jose team at TD Garden. That might be the first time that backup goalie Chad Johnson sees action.

“The beginning of the year, it’s a pretty easy schedule,” Julien said. “Tuukka only played a few games in preseason, so it’s an opportunity for him to get some rhythm going. But at the same time, you’re going to want to use your other goaltender, so we’ve just got to keep him sharp in practice and work that part of the equation in as we see fit.”

On a team that has had to make adjustments to new players and new pairings, Rask is one part of the lineup that has remained consistent — both in his presence and in his play.

He proved that during some of the more intense action in Thursday’s game against Tampa Bay, one that saw the Bruins kill off two five-on-three power plays, with a significant part of that due to Rask’s play in goal.


And though he didn’t get quite the same test against Detroit — the Red Wings looked a bit out of sorts playing their third game in four days — he stood tall then, too.

“The first one, we killed those five-on-threes, and I think [Tampa Bay] had more chances in that game than Detroit did,” Rask said.

“But I think as a team we got better through the first game, and the last game against Detroit was a really good example of how we need to play.”

Biding his time

Matt Bartkowski has been the hard-luck healthy scratch for the first two games, after being praised by Julien for coming into camp in the best shape of his career and leading the team in points in the preseason. Julien has gone with Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug over Bartkowski, though general manager Peter Chiarelli indicated at one point that the team might treat the defensive rotation like a baseball platoon with the three young players. “Just working hard in practice and waiting for my time, I guess,” Bartkowski said. “We’re all professionals, so you’ve just got to handle it. You always want to be out there playing, but whatever the team goes with, you handle it.” Bartkowski said for the moment he’s treating practices like games. And with the Bruins playing as well as they are, it would be difficult for Julien to alter the rotation. “I can only assume it’s not while the team is winning, and hopefully we keep winning,” Bartkowski said. “It makes it a lot easier when we’re winning.”

Reverse psychology

The Bruins had some fun in warm-ups Monday, going with opposite-shot sticks for the first 10-15 minutes of practice. That included a shootout, in which the highlight was Shawn Thornton beating Rask as a left shot. “Keep things light,” Julien said. “It was one of the things we’ve done before, give them a chance to loosen up and have fun with it. We’re three days away from the next game, so I don’t think we have to be too hard on them on a Monday morning practice.” . . . Carl Soderberg (ankle) was back on the ice Monday, skating before the Bruins began their official practice. Julien said the winger was “getting closer.” It’ll be tough for Julien when Soderberg is ready to return, given how well Jordan Caron has played in his place. Caron has been taking the puck to the net more aggressively, which the Bruins have long asked him to do. “He’s really catching on.” Julien said. “I think he’s done well in the two games he’s played. He builds confidence from it and becomes better.”


Sympathetic reaction

With Flyers coach Peter Laviolette getting fired Monday morning, just three games into the season, Julien was asked about the move. “You always feel that, no matter what, it’s an early dismissal,” he said. “As a coach, you always like to have the opportunity to right the ship. Obviously he didn’t get that. But there’s always things that maybe we don’t know about. You feel for coaches. It’s tough enough as it is.” Asked whether it is worse to be fired three games into the season, as Laviolette was, or three games from the end of the season, as Julien was in 2007 with the Devils, Julien said, “Both [stink].”

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.