Tag Archives: Tuukka Rask

Bruins sign Johnny Boychuk to 3 year extension

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli got a head start on what is still likely to be a very busy off season in Beantown this summer, signing defenseman Johnny Boychuk to a 3-year contract extension that will carry a cap hit of $3.36 million. That still leaves Chiarelli with a sizable list of free agents, both unrestricted and restricted, to address before the 2012-2013 season, but it’s nice to see him being proactive and taking care of something that was clearly at the top of his to-do list early. After this season Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, and Joe Corvo will all be unrestricted free agents while Benoit Pouliot and Tuukka Rask will become restricted free agents.

Clearly there is still some work to be done, with Tuukka Rask probably sticking out as the most important guy on that list, but for now let’s focus on the Boychuk deal.

At first blush, I’m sure a lot of the reaction to the amount of money Boychuk got in this deal will be that of shock considering he got a pretty decent raise from his current $1.85 million dollar a year contract. Also, when you look at his offensive numbers since he’s become a mainstay in the Boston lineup 2009, it certainly doesn’t help make his case for such a hefty pay raise, as he had 5 goals and 10 assists in his initial year here, followed by a season of 3 goals and 13 assists. To this point in the season he has only managed to tally 3 goals and 7 assists. Certainly not lofty numbers. However I think it’s important to look at the entire makeup of a player, and especially a defenseman, before making a final judgement on whether he is worth the money he makes.

In the case of Boychuk, there are a few things about his game and what he has done in Boston that warrant the kind of contract he received, which is a fairly standard contract for a top-4 defensemen in the NHL these days. First, he is a guy that really fits in well in a top-4 role and is someone who can really eat minutes on the back-end. For the B’s, Boychuk actually slots in on the first pairing playing alongside Zdeno Chara and so far this season has averaged just over 20 minutes a night. Granted he’s numb three on the depth chart as I’d say Dennis Seidenberg is probably the number 2, Boychuk is still an extremely important part of the Bruins d-corps.

On top of his ability to log important minutes, he has also proven that he is by no means a liability defensively, as he’s been a plus player in each of his three years with Boston, and as of right now is a +23 which is good for 5th best among all NHL defensemen. I’ve really been a fan of his game since he’s been in Boston. He’s been a very steady presence on the back-end. He’s  an above average shot blocker, which is you look at a team like the New York Rangers, has become a pretty invaluable part of the game lately. He’s also someone who loves to bring a physical edge to the ice and has shown an ability for throwing those big, game changing types of hits.

And to be honest, I really believe there is a lot more offensive potential in his game despite the modest numbers he’s put up in three years with the Bruins. This is a guy who, in 2008-2009, won the award for best defenseman in the AHL playing with the Providence Bruins after posting an incredible season of 20 goals and 45 assists for 65 points. I also think he turned a bit of  a corner with his play during last year’s playoff run as he scored 3 goals and 9 assists during the B’s run to the Cup. Despite his slow offensive season thus far, I feel he certainly has the ability to become the kind of defensemen who can give you a solid defensive game, play some big minutes and score somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 goals. He has an absolute cannon of a slap shot and likes to jump into the play offensively when the opportunity presents itself. He also gets time on the power play, mainly because of his shot. A guy like that though is valuable in today’s explosive and offense-heavy NHL.

I think the main reason for Boychuk’s raise though, lies in his formerly impending status as an unrestricted free agent. He’s a guy who, at 28 years of age, still sits firmly in his prime. It was likely that had Chiarelli waited and allowed Boychuk to hit the open market he could have garnered offers north of the $4 million range. A comparable guy is the Hurricanes Tim Gleason, who plays a similar physical, stay at home type of game and probably is more limited offensively then Boychuk while being a bit more solid defensively. Gleason is currently in the middle of a contract that pays him just over $4 million a year. Also, you can look at guys like Tomas Kaberle ($4.25 mill) and James Wisniewski ($5.5 mill) to know that with Johnny B at $3.3 million for the next three years, the Bruins locked up a known commodity, someone who has entrenched himself into the Bruins top-4 and who has developed some really good chemistry with big Z, for a pretty reasonable price.

I for one am glad that Boychuk will be sticking around. Hopefully we can see a lot more of this over the course of the next three years:

 

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Bruins vs. Rangers – Battle for First in the East

It’s finally here. The matchup myself and likely every Bruins and Rangers fan out there has been waiting for since the two teams have maintained a stranglehold on the top two spots in the Eastern Conference since just before the Christmas break. Two of hockey’s top teams will square off on Causeway Street this afternoon, and despite the fact that in years past games between Boston and NYR have typically been classified as snooze fests, the implications on the standings and all of the build up for today amplify the excitement a bunch.

With extremely similar makeups, both the Rangers and Bruins have gotten to where they are in the standings by deploying near identical game plans. They each rely on a solid defense-first system with their steady defensive corps, backstopped by spectacular goaltending, and fueled by depth up front and a very balanced attack. One of the few differences between the teams comes between the pipes. While both teams boast excellent goaltenders, the Rangers are really a one-horse team as they ride Henrik Lundqvist, unquestionably one of, if not the top goalie in the world. At the other end, the Bruins are fortunate enough to have the best goaltending duo in the entire NHL as they can deploy either Timmy Thomas or Tuukka Rask on any given night and have confidence they are going to get a top quality performance. Continue reading

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Bruins need to regain swagger fast

It took a monster of a third period effort from the Bruins to knock off the Devils, who had been playing some very good hockey entering last night’s affair down in Newark, as the B’s ended their 4-game road trip with a 4-1 win.

I won’t lie though, I’m pretty alarmed by how lethargic the Bruins’ play has been as of late. Really, I think it goes back to the Stanley Cup finals rematch at the Garden 2 weeks ago with the Canucks. Granted that Saturday afternoon tilt was more of an emotional and physical battle that saw 2 separate game misconducts, a suspension, 4 power play goals and ultimately a buzz-killing 4-3 loss to the floppers from British Columbia. Continue reading

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B’s prepare for Bolts riding Tuukka’s stolen win

There’s no way to dance around the fact that last night would have marked the first time all season long that the black  and gold dropped two consecutive games at the hands of the Florida Panthers had it not been for a simply stellar performance in goal from the man known as Tuukka Rask. The B’s were welcomed into Sunrise, Fla by a slumping Panthers squad that had dropped seven out of their last ten games and seen their position atop the Southeast Division get taken over by the Washington Capitals over the weekend. Granted one could argue that all of these facts just made Florida that much hungrier for a win, and with the defending cup champions in town, as well as their dynamic top line of Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischman reunited, the stars were aligned for an emotional Panther victory.

What unfolded on the ice in front of a mostly pro-Boston crowd in south Florida was pretty much everything the Panthers were hoping for. The Panthers weren’t fazed when Patrice Bergeron put the B’s up 1-0 just under 2-minutes into the opening period. In fact they would battle back from two consecutive one-goal deficits to ultimately force overtime and then the shootout. For most of the game though, the Bruins really seemed to struggle with the team speed that Florida brought to the ice. The defense had a hard time handling the forecheck, which in turn caused the Bruins trouble in breaking out so their offense was never really able to use probably their most deadly weapon in their transition game. Rarely were the B’s able to muster much of a counterattack or build up much speed through the neutral zone, so their scoring chances were limited. Defensively, Boston just looked slow and Rask was forced to face 6 or 7 breakaways, not counting the shootout, over the course of the 4 period game.

Simply put, Rask was phenomenal and can almost single handily be credited with the win for Boston. Aside from Bergeron (who had both Boston goals in regulation), who has probably been the Bruins’ best player all season long, the B’s didn’t really deserve the 2-points last night.

This came just two days after the Bruins got outworked and ultimately beat by the lowly Hurricanes in Raleigh, and once again Boston just looked sluggish. Needless to say, I’m a little bit worried about the B’s, even though they are in the midst of a 5-2 January.

It won’t get any easier for them tonight though as they head into Tampa Bay for the finale of their Florida roadie. Despite their lowly position in the basement of the Eastern Conference, and a season that can only be described as a major disappointment after going all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, the Lightning always pose a matchup for the Bruins. They, much like Florida and Carolina, have plenty of speed to burn and I’m sure the memories of losing game 7 in Boston last summer still looms on the minds of most Tampa players.

The B’s will really have to regain their swagger and bring much more of the energy that we’ve become accustomed to during this season if they are going to sweep the two Florida teams before heading back up to the Northeast.

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Bruins one win away from Eastern Conference Finals

The B's game was the main attraction at Fenway last night during the Sox rain delay.

For the second time in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Bruins got off to a fast start and then cruised to a lopsided victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, this time at the TD Garden in front of their delighted home crowd. Coming into the night, the talk was about the game being a must-win for the Flyers who failed to get even one win on home ice. Bruins fans just had to look back to the B’s first round series with the Canadiens to see that winning the first two games of the series on the road didn’t ensure a series victory. The Flyers head coach, Peter Laviolette, talked after game two of the pressure all being squarely on the Bruins’ shoulders now that they had gotten the 2-0 lead, and that all his players were thinking about was winning one game. At the time, it seemed to be a smart psychological move as he was obviously trying to ease his players’ minds coming into game three.

It was all for not, though. The Bruins were the hungrier team from the very first drop of the puck as they were fueled by the energy of their home crowd. The trio of Bergeron, Recchi and Marchand continued their strong play as they pressured Philly right away before setting up Zdeno Chara for a blast of a one-timer that beat Brian Boucher high to the glove and put the home team up 1-0 just 30 seconds into the game. On the very next shift, the Krejci line, perhaps the hottest line in the series, struck again when DK one-timed a feed from Lucic past Boucher, and just like that the B’s were up 2-0 and the game was barely two minutes old.

From there, the B’s seemed to put things on cruise control and Philly barely put up much of a fight on their way to a third straight loss. The Bruins shut down the neutral zone, locked things down defensively, and when Philly was able to break through Tim Thomas continued to be stellar in goal. The fourth line of Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton got the most ice time they’ve seen all post season last night and made the most of it as they put together multiple strong shifts, capped off when they executed a perfect 3-on-2 break and Paille beat Boucher with a wrist shot to the glove side increasing the B’s lead to 3-0. Minutes later Nathan Horton chased Boucher from the net, much to the delight of the home crowd, when he slipped a wrist shot five-hole to make it 4-0. The chant from the Garden crowd on the following shift was “We want Boucher” as the veteran net minder sat on the Flyers’ bench, clearly angry with how his night had gone.

Philly got one back late in the second period, but it was far too little too late. The night was complete when a late 5-on-3 powerplay allowed the B’s to end their amazing 0-28 streak when Chara scored his second goal of the game and the first PP goal of the playoffs for the black and gold. It was definitely another banner night at the Garden, one of many thus far in these playoffs, as the B’s put themselves in good position to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1992.

So here we are again. The B’s up 3-0 in the conference semis over the Flyers. Obviously last year is not far from most peoples’ minds. We all know how last year played out after the Bruins jumped up 3-0 on Philly. This year feels much different to me though. I refuse to harp on what happened last year and worry about deja-vu. This years’ edition of the Boston Bruins seems to be much better built for playoff hockey. They are deeper. They’re healthy. Tim Thomas is in net this year, not Tuukka Rask, and as much as I love Tuukka he was not playing at the level Thomas is currently playing at during last year’ playoffs. The Bruins have three lines capable of putting the puck in the net this year as opposed to last year when Krejci was knocked out of the playoffs, Savard was playing at far less than 100%, Miro Satan was holding down the first line RW spot, Paille was elevated to the second line and Trent Whitfield was our third line center. Defensively they are much stronger. Seidenberg missed all of the playoffs last year and this year he has been arguably the B’s best defenseman.

I don’t know, I think things will play out much differently this year. Friday night they get their first crack at delivering the kill shot to the Flyers. I’d love to see it happen on home ice in front of a deserving Garden crowd.

– Fredi

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