Toronto first-round draft pick Tuukka Rask never played there. He never attended a camp. He never even pulled on a blue-and-white cap. The only piece of memorabilia he owns to commemorate his 12 months with the Maple Leafs is the “RASK 05” jersey they sent to Finland the summer they made him their would-be future franchise goaltender.
“That’s still at my lake house,” Rask said. “Nice memory.”
He has many more of them involving the Leafs, more than 13 years after they traded him to Boston, straight up for Andrew Raycroft. The most notable memory: three playoff wins. Rask also stopped 30 Toronto shots in his first NHL game, a 4-2 win there Nov. 20, 2007.
Another date to remember comes Tuesday.
When Rask leads the Bruins (5-1-2) onto the ice against the Leafs at TD Garden, he will play his 500th game. Rask, 32, will be the 72nd goalie to reach that number, the first to do it all with Boston.
“They say it’s like 1,000 games for a player,” Rask said. “It’s a big milestone. To play 500 games as a goalie, it’s going to take some years. Just goes to show how old I am getting, I guess.”
Of more than 7,100 skaters listed on Hockey-Reference.com, 335 have played in 1,000 games. So, about 4.7 percent of NHLers make it that far. Slightly more than 10 percent of the 700 goalies listed have hit the 500 mark.
“He deserves the accomplishment and everything that comes with it,” said captain Zdeno Chara, who signed with the Bruins a week after the Rask-Raycroft trade June 24, 2006. “He’s been playing high-quality hockey for a long time.”
Still chasing his first Stanley Cup as a starter, Rask remains among the very best to wear the Spoked-B. He is the franchise leader in games (499), wins (268), and save percentage (.922). Barring a jaw-dropping finish to his career, he will remain No. 2 in shutouts (currently 46), behind Tiny Thompson (74).
“It goes by so quickly,” said Rask, who teammates say is calmer as a veteran ’tender, owing in part to fatherhood. Rask and longtime partner Jasmiina Nikkila have two daughters, Vivien, 5, and Adelie, 3.
“You don’t pay attention to how many games you’ve played total, until you’re reaching some kind of milestone,” Rask said. “Then you start looking back and think, ‘Holy crap, 500, and it’s been 11 years or whatever.’ Time flies, definitely. Just grateful I’ve been part of this team so long, and still in it. It’s awesome.”
He was the starter in Providence when Bruce Cassidy joined as an assistant in 2008. He figured it wouldn’t be long before Rask challenged Tim Thomas for the Boston net.
“Did I think he’d be a No. 1? Yes,” Cassidy said. “He had terrific technique already, at 20, 21 years old. He was good athletically, competed. For him it was just a matter of getting your reps, paying your dues [as a] goaltender, learning the little details of being a good pro, practicing well.”
His biggest issue, Cassidy recalled, was achieving the level of conditioning and stamina to play back-to-back games in the AHL, then the NHL. “Nowadays,” he noted, “they don’t even do back-to-backs, so that’s ironic.
“He had all the other things: compete, technique, good athlete, good hands. It was only a matter of time.”
No Krejci in sight
The Bruins will play their fourth game in a row without No. 2 center David Krejci, still listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
“Not really,” Cassidy said, when asked if he had any more information on why Krejci didn’t practice Monday, or when he might return. “He won’t play [Tuesday]. We’ll see how it works out for later in the week, Saturday.”
If and when Krejci returns — ideally before the Bruins host the Stanley Cup champion Blues on Saturday — the club hopes he’ll stabilize an offense that has gone all but missing beyond the top line.
Karson Kuhlman, who absorbed a Jake DeBrusk shot Saturday in Toronto, did not practice Monday. He and fellow right wing Brett Ritchie, who practiced with Charlie Coyle and DeBrusk on the second line, are still under evaluation, nine games into the season.
“They’ve had pockets of good play,” said Cassidy, who hoped to have his No. 2 and No. 3 right wing spots settled by now. “We’re still trying to sort through what we’d like Ritchie’s identity to be. I thought he was good in Toronto. He had some good plays with the puck, was better at establishing position down low.”
After seeing less than a year of the speedy, puck-hungry Kuhlman, Cassidy knows what to expect. He just hasn’t delivered every night (0-0—0 in eight games). “His foot speed’s been there some nights, other nights he doesn’t have as high a motor,” Cassidy said. “That is, has to be his identity.”
Kuhlman is a game-time decision for Tuesday, Cassidy said.
Elsewhere on the injury front, Pa r Lindholm and Joakim Nordstrom (lower body) practiced in red (no contact) sweaters. Lindholm “looks good to go,” Cassidy said. “Nordy, probably not as far along.”
Time for some shutdown
Granted, they play mostly against top lines, and Boston already has seen some good ones: those of Vegas, Colorado, Tampa, and Toronto. But Cassidy isn’t OK with seeing the scoring chances pile up against his first-string defensive duo of Chara and Charlie McAvoy.
According to Natural Stat Trick, Chara and McAvoy rank fifth and seventh overall in scoring chances against at 5 on 5. The names on the list ahead of them — Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse (90), Calgary’s Travis Hamonic (88) and Noah Hanafin (87), and Dallas’s John Klingberg (86) — are defensemen who trade chances. Chara (82) is not used to being in their company, and neither is McAvoy (80).
“They need to be better,” Cassidy said. “They know that. They can get better there.”
It’s also on the forwards, he added, “but I don’t think they’ve truly found their game that it’s that shutdown mode yet.”
David Backes, who logged 6:42 on Saturday and was on the ice for two goals against, practiced on the third line with Lindholm and Danton Heinen . . . David Pastrnak was named NHL first star of the week after posting a 7-2—9 line in three games. Pastrnak entered Monday tied for the league lead in goals (nine). No Bruin has had more in the first eight games since Charlie Simmer had 10 in 1985-86.