Bruins

Morning Skate: Dream come true for 10-year-old Babson 'rookie'

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Morning Skate: Dream come true for 10-year-old Babson 'rookie'

Here are all the links from around the hockey world while passing along all the happiness at the great start for the Vegas Golden Knights to start the season.

*Congrats to the Babson College hockey team and 10-year-old Coleman Walsh after Coleman was made an honorary member of the Division III team on Tuesday in an “inspirational draft day” organized by the non-profit Team IMPACT. Coleman has endured a pair of open-heart surgeries after he was born with Williams Syndrome, a developmental disorder that affects numerous parts of the body. Doctors now constantly monitor his cardiac condition.

He also developed a deep love of hockey in those sometimes difficult times and even spends time in the summer watching hockey highlights on YouTube and has memorized all 31 of the goal horns in arenas across the NHL.

“I can’t wait to be involved in the practices and the games,” said Coleman, a fourth-grader who lives in Walpole, Mass., with his parents Nanci and Matt and his older brother Andrew. “I love all the excitement [of hockey] and lots of stuff. I love the hitting and the fast-skating, and I really like the Jumbotron too.”

Coleman’s favorite hockey player is Zdeno Chara (“I like how strong and smart he is”), and he said he faithfully goes to one Bruins game a season with his family. 

Now, he’ll be seeing a lot more hockey as the connection with the Babson team means he’ll be spending practice and game time with the young men at least a few times a month. In a cool touch, Anaheim Ducks forward and Wellesley native Chris Wagner made a video for Coleman and his family welcoming them to a Babson team that includes his younger brother, Paul.

“We’re so excited to be able to do this as a family,” said Nanci Walsh. “Things that are important to Coleman are being a part of the community and doing the things that he’s interested in, and it’s not as simple for us as signing him up for something considering his disabilities and health. 

“For him to be able to be on a team, see what teammates do for one another and be around these young men that are so giving and generous with their time, it’s really exciting for him and for us. Hockey is his real passion, and it’s the one sport that he thinks about all the time and talks about all the time. It’s the one thing that carries through as a big part of him.”

To hear Team IMPACT Executive Director Seth Rosenzweig tell it, while Coleman becomes a member of the team, his whole family gets drafted by the program and will become part of that unique, bonding that only sports can provide.

“The ultimate goal is for [Coleman] to not only come out of with some good stories but also to develop his goals around confidence, coping mechanisms and the tools that will allow him to have his most successful life possible,” said Rosenzweig. “We also know this will have a huge impact on the family that will all be actively involved in the program and that it will have a big impact on these college athletes around character, integrity, empathy and perspective while also hopefully getting them thinking about philanthropy and civic-mindedness. It’s kind of a win, win, win.

“We’ve had a lot of success with hockey. It’s the right-sized team where everybody that’s on the team can develop a relationship with the family. It’s not too big and not too small. [The hockey players] have that fight and grit in them which is a common characteristic, and I think we’ve found that the hockey teams will go a little above and beyond what’s required in the partnership with the kids.”

According to Rosenzweig, Team IMPACT has almost 1,300 kids like Coleman in the program and more than 500 colleges and universities in 47 states partnering with them. Rosenzweig said the challenge at this point is getting the word out to families with children battling life-threatening or chronic illnesses to let them know that these opportunities with college teams and college athletes are there if the timing is right. For more information about Team Impact, people can go to www.goteamimpact.org if they’d like to get involved.  

*Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Claude Julien is saying the Canadiens are having a hard time putting the puck in the net after another loss to start the season. And the power play is dreadful too. Man, it doesn’t sound good in Montreal right now.

*Elliotte Friedman has his thoughts from around the NHL after the first week, including the future arena hopes for the New York Islanders.

*Here’s a philosophical question for you: Did a hockey team really visit the White House if their team Twitter account basically ignored the whole thing? It was such a weird approach to this whole thing by the Penguins.

*Alex Burrows got a nice hand from the Canucks crowd in his first trip back to Vancouver since becoming a member of the Ottawa Senators. I wonder if he bit anybody in celebration of the big moment.

*The Edmonton Oilers are finding that things are a little difficult this time around after last season’s success.

*For something completely different: Here’s another hilarious episode of “The Camera Guys” with Moose’s beard playing an inspirational role.

 


 

Haggerty: With Jaroslav Halak in place, dealing Tuukka Rask shouldn't be out of the question

Haggerty: With Jaroslav Halak in place, dealing Tuukka Rask shouldn't be out of the question

There are a couple of inalienable facts about next year’s goaltending situation with the Boston Bruins.

The first is that the B’s have most definitely upgraded in that area with 33-year-old Jaroslav Halak as the backup to Tuukka Rask. Halak is a flat-out better goalie than Anton Khudobin, and should be a little more consistent than the Russian backup, who was admittedly excellent last season while racking up a 16-6-7 record as Tuukka Rask’s understudy.

Halak, on the other hand, has won less than 18 games in a season only twice in his 10 full seasons at the NHL level, and has been a starter with the Canadiens, Blues, Capitals and Islanders with a career .916 save percentage over his NHL career. In case anybody hadn’t noticed that’s also been Tuukka Rask’s save percentage over the last three seasons for the Bruins.

Which brings us to inalienable goaltending fact No. 2: Halak is going to push Rask like he hasn’t been challenged since truly taking over as the top goalie in Boston.

The last truly competitive situation with Rask between the B’s pipes was in 2011-12 in Tim Thomas’ last season with the Bruins when the Finnish goaltender was backing up a reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Rask had temporarily taken Thomas’ job away from him two years prior during the 2009-10 season when he was a rookie goalie, and that sparked the best season of Thomas’ NHL career where he led the Black and Gold to a Stanley Cup victory.

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Since then Rask has had “just another guys” like Chad Johnson, Niklas Svedberg, Jonas Gustavsson and Anton Khudobin backing him up, and none of those backups had the kind of juice to truly take Rask’s job away from him. The best Khudobin could do was start four straight games for the Bruins back in November of last season, and that turned out to be one of the turning points in a 112-point campaign where Rask was significantly motivated from that point onward.

Halak could legitimately get on a hot streak in the regular season and force the Bruins coaching staff to sit Rask for weeks, or even a month, at a time, and that’s something no backup has ever been able to do behind Boston’s Franchise Finn. That should be a good thing and that is something the B’s are already counting on to happen for next season.

“We’ve talked about internal competition. Maybe it puts Tuukka in a better mindset. There were nights when Tuukka [played] back-to-backs. That’s a lot of stress on the goaltender knowing… I think two years ago we didn’t have a win by our backup at Christmas time,” said Don Sweeney, on July 1 after signing Halak to a two-year contract. “I’m not sure you guys wrote about it, but I did, and I lost sleep about it.

“I think we have two guys that have carried the ball for their teams, [and] that will push each other, that will complement each other, and we feel good that now going in every night. That is an area we aren’t going to be concerned about, hopefully. Obviously, it’s [about] the performance now.”

Now here’s the fork in the road where the inalienable Bruins goaltending facts and some good, old-fashioned speculation go their separate ways.

It doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen, but the addition of Halak for multiple years also opens up the possibility of trading away Rask if the right deal comes across Sweeney’s desk. The $2.75 million per season that the Bruins are paying Halak is the going rate for a top-of-the-line goalie, but it now also means the B’s are paying just under $10 million per season over the next two years for their goaltending tandem. That’s a whopping 12.5 percent of the $79.5 million in salary cap space, which is much less than either of the teams in this spring’s Stanley Cup Final (Vegas paid $6.4 million for their goalies and Washington paid $7.6 million for the Braden Holtby/Philipp Grubauer combo) shelled out for their goaltending.

In fact, only Montreal is spending more money on goaltending than the Bruins this season thanks to the awful Carey Price contract, and – along with the Bruins -- only the Panthers, Canadiens and Avalanche are paying north of $9 million in cap space for their goalies next season. For a Bruins team that was just barely in the NHL’s top-10 in save percentage and where the goaltending wasn’t really a demonstrable strength in the playoffs, that feels like a lot.  

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Rask has a limited trade clause for this upcoming season where he can be traded to eight NHL teams, and that “can be traded to” list gets bumped up to 15 teams in the following season. The Bruins did everything possible last season to make sure that Rask was mentally and physically rested with the 54 appearances, which was right around the targeted 55-60 games the Bruins had him penciled in for at the start of last season.

But even after all that rest and being given the high maintenance treatment, Rask still responded with a shaky postseason that was the worst statistically of his career. The 2.88 goals against average and .903 save percentage were the worst playoff marks of his NHL career, and Rask was an absolute disaster in their Game 7 showdown with the Maple Leafs. If the Bruins hadn’t completely shut down Toronto in the first half of the third period where they didn’t allow a shot on net (and didn’t allow Rask to even be a factor in the balance of that game), they probably wouldn’t have even advanced beyond the first round prior to their second round smack-down at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Rask was better in the second round vs. Tampa and added to his career highlight reel when he angrily fired a broken skate blade at the boards, but there are still some of the very same, nagging questions about Boston’s top goalie when it comes to big games.   

So why not start to explore what Rask could yield in a hockey trade, and even pull the trigger if the price is right given that Halak is there as a proven starting goaltender? There has been plenty of talk about Torey Krug being on the move if the right trade comes up to fit Boston’s needs, and there’s no reason why Boston’s All-Star, $7 million a year goaltender shouldn’t be part of that roster improvement conversation as well.

Nobody is saying to ship Rask simply for the sake of doing it, and clearly the Bruins would need to find themselves a young goalie they could groom as the eventual No. 1 guy to go along with the older, declining Halak. But the signing of Halak officially opened the door for the Bruins to at least toy with the idea of moving Rask in a good hockey trade to a team desperate for goaltending help (Carolina, the Islanders and the Flyers immediately come to mind), and that might not be such a bad thing for the Black and Gold.  

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