How soon is too soon to start getting fired up for Sochi 2014?
It may be four years away, but nights like last night make a hockey fan wish it were coming sooner, especially for fans of team Finland. In 2014, Finland will be out at least one superstar in Teemu Selanne and probably Saku Koivu as well, but how about this – there are two young Finnish goaltenders right now who are absolutely pushing the upper limits of awesome in the NHL right now. One of them happens to be our very own Finnish Boy Wonder, Tuukka Rask, who posted a glorious shutout of the Thrashers last night, kicking them back down away from our 8th-place playoff spot. That shutout also meant he got to add a league-topping save percentage to his already league-topping GAA record!
Far outpacing the rest of the league in goals allowed against, Tuukka is being touted as the most positionally sound goaltender Boston has seen in years, his style vastly different from Tim Thomas’ flaily floppy fish style. While Tim’s style is fairly effective, it’s also heart-attack-inducing at times. Tuukka’s style is much more calm; he never seems to exert more energy than he absolutely has to, and he is lightning-quick sliding from post-to-post. Although we have seen some rookie mistakes, he’s only giving himself room to grow.
Elsewhere in the league last night, Antti Niemi, Chicago’s version of the young Finnish prodigy, posted a shutout, and is right behind Tuukka (and beating American Hero Ryan Miller, by the way) in goals allowed against. Through 29 games played this season, SIX of Niemi’s games have been shutouts. Only five goalies have that many or more this season, and all of them have played close to or more than twice as many games as Niemi has.
RASK/NIEMI GOALIE TANDEM FOR SOCHI. Can I order my jerseys now, please?
Andrew Ference, glass groin extraordinare, has apparently just signed a contract with the Bruins for the next 3 years. The 31-year-old will make $2.25 million per year. Andy plays an interesting role on this team; he hasn’t played more than 60 games for each of the past two seasons, giving baby defensemen from Providence the opportunity to get their shot at the big club (see: Boychuk, McQuaid, Hunwick last year, etc). It’s not a great contract; personally, I would have preferred one or two years. Three is a bit crippling, unless somehow Ference comes out as a star next year, which is unlikely.
The Bruins now need to lock up Mark Stuart, Johnny Boychuk, and even Adam McQuaid, all RFAs at the end of this season. Then, and only then, should Bruins fans think about being satisfied with this signing.
Congrats on the new contract, Andy, we’re listening to this song all day in your honor! We know it’s your favorite…or…something.
YOUR DAILY PROSPECT UPDATE
In the ongoing dramatic saga that is the P-Bruins’ push for the last playoff spot, defenseman Jeff Penner and forward Trent Whitfield were recalled to the NHL club today. Can you imagine if the Bruins were like the Sharks or Oilers, and had to waste a day flying AHLers back and forth every time they needed a callup? Instead, the baby B’s can shuttle back and forth in about an hour. It’s very convenient.
The PBruins have games against Manchester and Portland this weekend – not easy games at all. Both teams are top seeds in the conference, and with as much as Whitfield has contributed offensively and Penner has been solid at the blueline, going into these games without the two of them is a bit nervewracking.
HOWEVER. There is hope on the horizon!
It’s become a well-spoken-about fact that Max Sauve, Jordan Caron, and Michael Hutchinson will probably head to Providence to contribute as soon as their playoff runs are over. Sauve is set to be the first one to head south; his Val d’Or Foreurs dropped a 1-0 decision to Caron’s Huskies last night, and the Huskies now only need two more wins to advance. Caron scored the only goal; his work in the postseason is getting exciting. He’ll definitely be a player to keep an eye on. Joe Colborne’s Denver Pioneers are headed to the NCAA postseason as well; although there have been rumors of him signing when his team’s run is done, it’s possible that the AHL regular season could be done by the time he’s eligible, and there has been no known communication between Chiarelli and Colborne at this time.