Tuukka Rask carrying the Bruins into the postseason

Rask3.jpgWashington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins
Noon EST – Sunday, April 11, 2010
Live on NBC

You have to wonder how the Boston Bruins’ season might have gone had they known what they had in Tuukka Rask just six months ago. He has always been decent in the AHL, but never exactly dominant. In fact, a few years back I would have told you his success in Providence was a direct result of playing for an incredibly efficient defensive team.

Now the Bruins are paying a 35-year old goaltender $5 million a season for the next three years (four including this season), and he’s already been passed up by younger a much cheaper goaltender who has held this team together through an insane amount of late-season adversity.

It’s tough to exactly fault the Bruins, however. Here they have a goaltender who was coming off an incredible, Vezina-winning season who did everything he possibly could to carry his team in the playoffs. Sure, the warning signs were there — yet, the Bruins finally had some solid goaltending on a team that was ready to contend once more.

So they give Thomas the big contract, and gave Rask the modest two-year extension after just nine total NHL games.

Rask has since taken the starting goaltender’s spot from Thomas, and will be starting for the Bruins once the playoffs begin. With just 45 games under his belt this season, it’s tough to directly compare him with the other goaltenders in the NHL — but Thomas won the Vezina with just 54 games last season, so what the heck.

Rask leads the NHL in both goals-against average (1.97) and save percentage (0.931), but more importantly he’s winning more than losing. Thomas wasn’t exactly putting up bad numbers this season; he just couldn’t win. For a team that had high playoff hopes after last season, it was a tough pill to swallow that their champion goaltender was seemingly unable to win any games.

So now we have Rask, with two shutouts and a 8-5-1 record since the Olympic break as the Bruins lost some their most important player (Marc Savard) and faced a drought of  scoring. The Bruins will be the least-offensive team in the playoffs and Rask will be called upon to be the savior for the Bruins as he’s been all season long.

And the $5 million goaltender who can’t win any longer? He’ll be on the bench, ready to jump in if needed and watching his much cheaper counterpart in net.

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    Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

    Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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    Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

    Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

    Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

    The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

    “I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

    He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

    WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

    Ryan White, Matt Martin
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    You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

    Here are the handy links for the two contests.

    First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


    After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


    Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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    The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

    Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

    “Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

    Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

    Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

    Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

    Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

    Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

    Ryan Johansen
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    One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

    You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

    — Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

    — GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

    — Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

    So there’s that. What’s next?

    At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

    Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

    So, consider the similarities now:

    — Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

    — Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

    — Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

    — Both are Overhardt guys.

    — The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

    — Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

    For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

    And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

    And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.