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Getting to know #40

by Dyan LeBourdais / Boston Bruins
Toronto Maple Leafs' Mikhail Grabovski, left, of Germany, tries to get the puck past Boston Bruins' Tuukka Rask, of Finland, in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Boston, MA -- “How old is he? Thirty? I don’t even know how old he is. That’s how mature he is,” said Boston Bruins defenseman Derek Morris recently about his rookie teammate Tuukka Rask.

In reality, Rask is 22, and as of this posting is the fifth-youngest rostered goaltender in the NHL (behind Steve Mason, Carey Price, Ondrej Pavelec and Semyon Varlamov).

“As a young goaltender, he is trying to make a name for himself,” said head coach Claude Julien after Rask’s 7-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday. “If you want to do that you have to be ready for anything when you are called upon.

“He came in late in the third period [on Friday, December 4 versus the Montreal Canadiens] and the reason for that was because I planned on using him [on Saturday].

“We didn’t have a morning skate so it was a good opportunity to put him in and let him get some playing action. He did a good job tonight and played well. It is unfortunate that he lost his shutout late in the third,” said Julien.

But Rask didn’t seem bothered by losing his shutout. In fact, nothing seems to bother the Finnish-born phenom.

“I just think it’s natural [to lose your focus when] you lead seven-nothing,” said Rask. “It’s not a good thing to give up those goals, but it’s something that’s natural and you just got to deal with it.”

It’s just that kind of maturity that has Boston and the NHL paying attention to Rask recently. But if you ask Tuukka’s teammates, they’ve seen those things right along.

“He’s very professional,” said the NHL veteran Morris of Rask’s attitude and work ethic. “He comes to the rink, works super hard, works as hard as anybody else, he gets mad at himself when he lets goals in the net that he should save, like we all do.
Tuukka's Time Off
So what is Tuukka Rask’s favorite thing to do on an off day during the off-season?

“Anything else the same age guys do, we just hang out, play Xbox...go to the beach, stuff like that.”

What’s his favorite game to play on Xbox?

“One [of my favorite games] has got to be NHL10,” said Rask. “But the other is Guitar Hero.”

Not shockingly, Rask is very competitive.

“I think we should have a competition of Guitar Hero because me and [David] Krejci used to play that when I lived with him at training camp and it’s fun.

“I used play that down in Providence...and I got pretty good at it. So it would be good to have a little competition some day."

What level would he play?

“I can [play on expert], but I like hard. Once I played on the hard level and I played through the game I was like, 'This is enough for me, I don’t need to go expert.'”

“I can play some songs in expert, but I don’t think I can play every song.”

As for his favorite song to play, he said, “There are tons of them, but the new Metallica Guitar Hero game came out a year ago and I bought that so pick any song from that game and it’s probably my favorite song.”

Can he play the real guitar?

“A little bit," said Rask. "I can’t play any songs but I could probably learn, it would take a few weeks, I went to music class when I was in school back in Finland.

“I play drums too, so I am kind of somehow musically talented as you would say, but I’m not as good as [former Bruin Matt] Lashoff or any of those guys.”

Good thing he can play goal!
-Dyan Lebourdais

“That’s hard to teach a young kid at his age.

“[Some] come in and think, ‘Well, that one went by me, whatever, I’ll get it in a game,’ he doesn’t think like that. He thinks, ‘If that goes by me now, that’s probably going to go by in a game.’ ”

Obviously that attitude has worked wonders for the Bruins wunderkind.

In 13 games played this season, Rask has eight wins, two losses and two overtime wins. He has just 25 goals against and as of Dec. 7 was placed second amongst all goaltenders with a 1.97 goals against average and .932 save percentage.

And so far, Tuukka's confidence has bred confidence in the rookie amongst his fellow Bruins.

“It doesn’t matter if the goalie is an eighteen-year-old or a thirty-year-old, I mean you have to be confident in your teammates, otherwise it would be impossible for us to play together,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “We respect each other, we have confidence in each other and we rely on each other. We are a big family obviously.

“Tuukka is basically part of it and like I said it doesn’t matter if it is Timmy [Thomas] or Tuukka, we all try to do our best and I’m sure they are trying to do their best for us.”

Morris seconded that notion and backed it up with a very high compliment.

“Fundamentally he’s the soundest [rookie goaltender] I’ve seen,” said Morris earlier this season. “I’ve played with Patrick Roy in Colorado who I thought was fundamentally sound…[and] very structured. You come in on him, you don’t see anything.”

Just like Rask who “In the third period [against Buffalo on November 20], a puck bounced over one of our guys sticks in the slot and I was like ‘Oh no, this is going to be a good opportunity’ and the other guy took a pretty good shot, but Tuukka just blocked it off to the side.

“He’s just fundamentally sound and very calm in there.”

The Bruins acquired Rask in a trade with Toronto for Andrew Raycroft on June 24, 2006. He played in Finland through the 2006-07 season and then made the transition to the American Hockey League’s Providence Bruins. Throughout his time in P-Bruins, Rask was called up to play in four NHL games during the 07-08 season and one during the 08-09 season -- a shutout against the New York Rangers.

This season Rask made the Bruins out of training camp and has helped forge a formidable goaltending tandem with veteran goaltender, and 2009 Vezina Trophy winner, Tim Thomas.

“It’s nice to have two solid, solid goaltenders, which can basically steal the games for us,” said Chara. “Both of them…are playing extremely well for us and that’s great for us.”

“Timmy is obviously very athletic. Timmy battles," said Morris in prais of the veteran part of the goaltending pair. "Timmy is one of those goalies that never quits on a puck, ever. He never quits on one.

"He’s very aggressive so sometimes you got to see him bounce back to that back door or make that dive across because he’s always out being aggressive, where Tuukka’s more on the goal line and square.

“So yeah, absolutely, and they’re both great goalies and…we know that Tuukka can step right up.”
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