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By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — I’ve said this before, but it always warrants repeating: When you’re in mixed company, never bring up politics, religion, or Tuukka Rask. The conversation will always turn ugly.

It may be a silly notion to those outside of Boston, but yes, the best goaltender by many measures in the 96-year history of the Boston Bruins long ago became a bit of a lightning rod for debate and controversy, bringing about the existence of the not-rare-enough “Tuukka Haters.

The reason for that, of course, is twofold. For one, he took over for Tim Thomas, who had a great postseason in 2011, ending a 38-year championship drought for the Bruins. Even though nobody had ever posted a shutout on the road in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final prior to Thomas doing it in Vancouver, the standard was set for Rask to equal that accomplishment.

The second part is that Rask hasn’t won a Cup as the starter. Granted, he was as good if not better than Thomas on the whole in 2013, and he was the Bruins’ best player on the 2019 run to the Cup Final, but he and the Bruins couldn’t finish the job either time.

Add it all up — and throw in an ill-timed stomach bug that still irks a lot of people, and an exit from last year’s bubble to tend to a family emergency involving his child — and the “anti-Raskers” are a loud and vociferous bunch.

The most logical stance on Rask — if I do say so myself — is that he’s certainly been good enough to win a Stanley Cup. But it is a team game, and the team has come up short. (The Bruins scored more than five goals per game in their four wins vs. Vancouver, you know? It is a team sport.)

Alas, that doesn’t cut it here with a lot of people, and it never will. Such is life.

That’s why it was awfully interesting when Rask was asked by WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche about how he handles all the criticisms in Boston — criticisms that are objectively over the top for a player who’s been as good as Rask has been for so long.

Here’s what Tuukka said:

“Yeah, well, I don’t — there’s a reason I don’t read social media or the news, really, because when you get caught up in that, it might be mentally tough. So I, it really doesn’t affect me because I don’t I don’t hear that noise. But I think I’ve said many times before, people have their opinions. They have the right to say whatever they want to say,  as long as it’s in some kind of a — there’s limits. But I respect them and it doesn’t affect my game. I feel like every time I go out in town or wherever, people have been really supportive.”

“And it’s not like, you know, I go to the grocery store and people are throwing eggs at me or yelling at me over there. You know, that that might suck.”

“So people nowadays, they talk in the social media — whatever the topic is, it seems like everybody has an opinion on everything. So it doesn’t bother me.”

Roche then asked a follow-up question about how Rask how he feels about his body of work with the Bruins, despite not winning the Cup as a starter.

“Yeah it’s … it’s one of those things that this is … the Patriots definitely haven’t helped anybody in that regard. They won championships every year it seemed like. And this city only recognizes champions as their heroes. And obviously, as an athlete, you want to win. And you want a chance to win every year. And I think we’ve been very close. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t, that we haven’t reached that goal yet, and I haven’t won the Cup as a playing goalie. But I feel like I played good hockey and gave us a chance.”

“It’s tough to win. There’s very few guys who win it. It’s not easy. We definitely tried. I just haven’t been able to close the deal, and that’s the way it is. I just have to deal with it. Maybe it will happen. Who knows?”

Tuukka Rask (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Given that Rask is such a hot-button issue around here, it was quite interesting to hear him offer this perspective, especially at this point in his career. He’s 34 years old, and he just revealed that he played the past season with a torn labrum in his hip. He’ll be undergoing surgery to repair the issue, and he doesn’t anticipate that he’ll be ready to play until January or February.

Considering Rask just played out the final year of his contract with Boston, and considering the NHL is planning on getting the season started in October, that doesn’t paint the rosiest picture with regard to his future with the Bruins.

An ideal scenario for the Bruins would be to have Rask for two or three more years at a lower rate than the $7 million he made annually from 2013-21 — call it $5.5 million — while also having Jeremy Swayman at under $1 million to serve the role previously occupied by Jaroslav Halak and Anton Khudobin. If all went well with that, the Bruins would have a solid goaltending situation locked up at under $6.5 million for two more years. And if Swayman develops the way the Bruins would hope, he’d be primed and ready to be the No. 1 in 2023.

Alas, the ideal scenario is already kind of shot. Rask won’t be ready to play until midseason, and he can’t even be sure of that just yet, as he hasn’t even gone under the knife. That means the Bruins — who will be Cup-hungry so long as Patrice Bergeron is centering the top line — will need another goalie on the roster for the upcoming season. Deciding whether the team wants a new No. 1 to fill that role or a quasi-No. 1 who can fill in temporarily before ultimately ceding the crease to Tuukka midseason figures to be a challenging angle to tackle for Don Sweeney.

So, certainly, it’s possible that Tuukka Rask’s Bruins career is over. If so, it will be remembered either as “he was great but didn’t win the Cup” or “he’s the singular reason why they didn’t win a Cup,” depending on your outlook on goaltending, the man himself, or life in general.

If it is indeed over, then those of us who try to navigate the waters of painful Tuukka Rask Conversations will be saved of many future headaches. And at the very least, it was nice to get Rask’s perspective on the truly unique interpretations of his play before it — potentially — ends.

Tuukka Rask (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

News Source: cbslocal.com

Tags: boston news it happens here boston next boston bruins michael hurley nhl sports news tuukka rask michael hurley that doesn’t it doesn’t didn’t win i’ve said perspective the bruins a lot of people for the bruins it is a team it is a team the cup whatever social media tuukka rask stanley cup i feel like people i just

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France Doesnt Stray From Its Championship Formula In Beating Germany to Open Euros

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Germany out-shot and out-possessed the reigning World Cup champions, but there was never a sense that France would be defeated in the two powers' opening Euros match.

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There is something slightly odd about this France side, in that the scores of its games so rarely reflect what has just happened. No team seems quite so often to hammer an opponent by a single goal. Germany may have won the shot count and the possession battle in Tuesday's 1–0 triumph for Les Bleus in the teams' first match of what's the competition's most difficult group. But this was rarely a game Germany looked like winning, with it never quite able to put France under pressure and always appearing vulnerable to the counter.

Ultimately, an own goal from Mats Hummels, who had scored the winner at the right end when Germany beat France in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals, was enough, but Adrien Rabiot hit a post, Karim Benzema had a goal ruled out for a tight offside and Kylian Mbappé did as well, albeit for a slightly more obvious infraction. The favorite and world champion began extremely impressively. For Germany, meanwhile, the sense, as it has been for so long, was of a team that is far less than the sum of its exceptional parts.

For France, the build-up had been dominated by Didier Deschamps’s surprising decision to recall Benzema, whom he had dropped before Euro 2016 after he was accused of involvement in a plot to blackmail his international teammate Matthieu Valbuena over a sex tape. That case goes to court in October.

Introducing any new figure into a successful unit is always risky, but particularly one who stirs such strong emotions as Benzema. He was then the subject of attacks from the French far-right, and became part of a row between Mbappé and the center forward Benzema replaced, Olivier Giroud, over claims Mbappé wouldn't pass the ball to the latter enough. Mbappé explained he had merely meant that the differing profiles of the two players meant he tended to interact more with Benzema, who drops deep, than with Giroud, who leads the line. Regardless, there was no sense of any discord Tuesday.

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Germany’s form since winning the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017 has been dismal. After a group-stage exit at the World Cup, manager Jogi Löw dropped Hummels, Thomas Müller and Jérôme Boateng. If anything, things got even worse over the following two years with a 6-0 defeat to Spain in the UEFA Nations League and a 2-1 home defeat to North Macedonia in World Cup qualifying. Almost in desperation, it seemed, Löw recalled Hummels and Müller, but 20 minutes in, he must have been wishing he hadn’t.

Löw, having switched to a 3-4-3 after the World Cup, reverted to a back four in November before readopting the back three in the pre-tournament friendlies, presumably in an attempt to shore up a defense that has looked extremely leaky. But that is a system that risks leaving space behind the wingbacks, especially in a team that is still learning the shape. The first French goal, though, was about a far more basic failure of organization as Germany’s marking collapsed at a throw-in just inside the German half, the two holding midfielders inexplicably caught in front of the ball.

Paul Pogba was granted an extraordinary amount of space and he fashioned a perfect pass with the outside of his right foot to Lucas Hernandez surging into space on the left. When he slammed the ball across goal toward Mbappé, a backtracking Hummels, having been caught in no-man’s-land, was unable to adjust his feet and shinned the ball into his own net. Whatever the shape, basic defensive organization continues to be a major problem for Löw's side.

France has no such problems. This was a classic French display under Deschamps. Solidity comes first, the two holding midfielders protecting a back four in which the fullbacks are, by modern standards, fairly conservative. And if a crack does open up, N’Golo Kanté can be relied upon rapidly to fill it. It is not the most thrilling side, perhaps underwhelms at times given the talent it possesses, but it can usually be relied upon to do enough, or at least to force an error. It’s an expediency that perhaps is better suited to international football than the more sophisticated patterns of the club game, in which coaches have more time to work with their teams, but it gets the job done.

Deschamps’s most awkward moment had come before first kick, when a Greenpeace parachuter, attempting to land on the pitch as a gesture of protest, clipped the wires sustaining the Spider Cam, and was deflected briefly into the stand before diverting back to land on the pitch. As he came down, a green plastic hoop fell from the sky and landed near Deschamps, who was apparently struck by a small piece of debris.

That aside, this was a surprisingly straightforward evening for Deschamps. France is up and running, not straying from the formula that got it to the heights it has achieved. For Germany, though, its next game, against group-leading Portugal on Saturday, looks vital for its chances of avoiding another group-stage exit from a major tournament.

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