Rask not sitting around feeling bad

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / June 5, 2011

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — It was a year ago that Tuukka Rask had all the attention, the news conferences and adulation. He had come into his first NHL postseason with the hopes of the Bruins riding on him, having stolen the starting job from the previous year’s Vezina Trophy winner, Tim Thomas, with play that rivaled the best in hockey.

This year, as the Bruins face the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final, Thomas is again Boston’s No. 1 goalie. And that leaves Rask sitting on the bench, watching Thomas turn in phenomenal performances game after game.

“I don’t think it’s been an issue because Tuukka Rask is a team guy,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “You hear that a lot, but he is. There hasn’t been a peep from him. He’s smart enough to realize that the guy that’s in net is having an outstanding year. In my mind, probably a Vezina Trophy winner.

“I also know he would like to play, which is what I want to hear. I also know if called upon, he would be ready. When you have Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask with him, since the beginning of the year we’ve felt really, really comfortable because we feel we have two elite goaltenders in our lineup right now.’’

One, though, hasn’t played in two months. Rask, who appeared in 45 games last season, has played only 29 times in 2010-11, and not since a 3-2 loss to the Devils April 10.

“It’s been different, for sure,’’ Rask said. “I’m not used to not playing for two months. But just try to enjoy it as much as I can. Obviously, it doesn’t matter what your role is. You’re still part of the group and you have to do your job. So it’s been nice for me, watching the games and practicing hard and enjoying it.’’

The difficult part is remaining ready. Because if anything were to happen to Thomas — whether injury or ineffectiveness — it would be Rask’s time, no matter how many months it’s been since he last appeared in a game. He practices hard, treating those workouts like he would a game in the Stanley Cup Final.

“He’s handled it great,’’ Thomas said. “He’s been a great partner for me, supportive the whole way. I respect that. I was trying to do the same thing myself last year. It’s not always easy because you want to be the guy who’s playing. We wouldn’t have got to this level if that wasn’t the case. But he’s just been awesome. We’ve had a good relationship since we first met each other like six years ago. That’s still carrying on.’’

It’s hard to argue with the play of Thomas, who had an excellent regular season and has been superb in the playoffs.

“You always want a guy like him, a teammate doing good, especially in the playoffs,’’ Rask said.

Still, though, Rask would love to play. He hasn’t gotten his chance yet, and he’s content to watch Thomas, having long ago accepted his role this season. And even though he’s been on the bench, this season has brought Rask a rare experience, his team playing for the Stanley Cup.

“I try to drink it in and enjoy it,’’ Rask said. “You don’t realize it when you’re on the run . . . you’re so focused on a game. These are the games you really have to enjoy, that you dream about when you’re a kid. You want to be in these kind of situations. Just drink it in every day, have fun, and work hard and try to get rewarded.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AmalieBenjamin.

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