Veteran goalie Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins didn’t enjoy his best season in 2015-16, finishing with a 91.5% Save % and a GAA of 2.56. Both those rates constituted the worst of Rask’s career to date but as Joe Haggerty writes, the Finnish goalie is using that experience as a learning tool to prepare for the ups-and-downs likely to come in 2016-17.
With the Bruins in the midst of a transition, Rask is likely going to face more adversity this season but he feels the experiences of a year ago have made him “mentally tougher,” and less likely to let a soft or fluke goal affect his game. Rask has already demonstrated this new approach in the Bruins first regular season contest. As Haggerty notes, the Columbus Blue Jackets scored the game’s first goal, a floater from just inside the blue line, and would tally again later in the opening period, but Rask rebounded by stopping 21 of the final 22 shots he faced to earn the victory. Last season the outcome might have been different, but the work Rask put in on the mental aspect of the game paid off for one night at least.
Elsewhere in the NHL:
- While things didn’t end well in Edmonton for Nail Yakupov, the talented winger is off to a great start with St. Louis and he’s impressing his new head coach and teammates, according to Norm Sanders of the Belleville News-Democrat. Following a two-point performance in the Blues’ 3 – 2 win over Minnesota, Ken Hitchcock had this to say about his newest player: “Much better defensively than I thought. He’s got great outside speed. What I liked more than anything was his conscience. His conscience was there. We’re not trying to overwhelm him by having him do a bunch of things. We’re just going to keep it five on five for the first week to 10 days and see how much he can absorb there.” Veteran scoring forward Alex Steen has been impressed with Yakupov’s decision-making in the early going: “Smart decisions with the puck (and) he’s obviously individually very skilled and makes plays in tight areas. We’re happy to have him.” Yakupov has a ways to go to alter the negative reputation he earned as a member of the Oilers but so far he has done everything the Blues have asked for and may finally be on his way to fulfilling his vast potential.
- The Ducks, already without blue line stalwart Hampus Lindholm, who remains unsigned as a RFA, could be without fellow defenseman Simon Despres as well. Despres left Thursday’s game against the Stars with what is being called an “upper-body-injury,” and his status is unclear, as noted by Eric Stephens of The Orange County Register. Ducks GM Bob Murray said this about Despres: “He was not feeling good last night. We’re trying to figure out what’s going on with him. … Something’s wrong here and we’re going to get to bottom of it here.” Stephens relays that Murray also referenced Despres’ past issues with head injuries, which seems to hint that the Ducks are concerned this may in fact be another concussion.