As summer begins to wind down, Boston Bruins fans like me eagerly await the start of the next season and seeing some of the players make their way back to Boston just heightens the anticipation. Recently, Tuukka Rask, Torey Krug and Shawn Thornton have all been back in the Hub of Hockey for one reason or another, but they always find time to give an update on their preparation for the first puck drop.
Rask came to Boston to visit young patients at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where he even made a new friend, and then met with the press for the first time since he re-signed at the end of June. He discussed the one-year term of the new deal and said that the length is basically a test to see how he'll perform this next season. Then, if he doesn't do well, the club can proceed from there. He said that they would "kick him off" if he didn't do well, but I highly doubt that would actually happen.
Rask has always struck me as being his own harshest critic sometimes and he can be a little hard on himself. Sometimes, he radiates confidence, like when he said that he's never really been bad at what he does. But sometimes he talks about what he thinks could happen if he doesn't do well and the confidence recedes.
Besides, he has done well before now. Look at his stellar performance in 2009-10, when he played more than half of the regular season (45 games) and put together a 22-12-5 record with five shutouts. His 1.97 goals against average was the lowest in the league among any goalie who played more than just a handful of games. He has played about 30 games in both seasons since, but now it's time for him to rise up and become the starter.
Of course, he's inheriting the starting title because of Tim Thomas' decision to take a year off from hockey. (At this point, though, I am starting to personally feel that the year off might eventually turn into retirement.) Rask said that he found himself both surprised and not really surprised at his fellow goalie's decision. He understood the rationale, but admits it's tough to see a friend leave.
Still, I think he's ready for the challenge.
Krug has been doing his summer training in Connecticut, but made the short drive to Boston and took in a baseball game at Fenway Park, somewhere he had never been before. He tied the experience back to learning the NHL game, especially during the recent Bruins development camp. Already having a little pro experience gave him a unique perspective that he discussed with the other campers. But even though he made friends at development camp, he knows that training camp is coming up soon and that everyone will be competing to get noticed and get playing time.
He's fairly short, especially for a defenseman, so he will have to distinguish himself in some way other than a big physical presence. I think he could become an offensive defenseman in the model of Erik Karlsson and build off the scoring ability he established while playing college hockey. He scored at least 20 points in all three of his college seasons and was the top-scoring defenseman in his conference during his last year of play at Michigan State University.
Thornton is in Boston for a good cause, the Putts and Punches for Parkinson's charity golf tournament, which is in its third year. He, Rask and Daniel Paille are all playing and Thornton praised the results of the charitable effort so far.
He added that he's been seeing the strength coach and that he is stronger than he was last year. Speaking of Paille, he said he's happy that the full Merlot Line is still together following Paille and Gregory Campbell getting new deals this summer. The three of them work well together and he said that sometimes they don't even need to communicate verbally to relay messages to one another.
He recognizes that the Bruins' reputation of being tough is still well-known--and I think the rest of the Northeast Division is bulking up a bit more to try to meet Boston in that regard--and also said he thinks Rask is ready to take on the starting goalie position.
The eagerness, hard work and support for teammates are three of many reasons why I am happy to see Bruins in Boston talking up their summer routines, their teammates and their excitement about getting next season started.
Emma Harger is a Boston Bruins fan who now eagerly awaits the surprises that Bruins training camp will surely bring.
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