New York Islanders left wing Josh Bailey (12) prevents Boston Bruins left wing Loui Eriksson from getting to the puck in the crease as Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin (60) protects the net during the third period of an NHL preseason hockey game in Boston, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. The Islanders won 5-3. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
BOSTON - It's still difficult for Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask to take pride in his Vezina Trophy win from a season ago.
Rask led the league in shutouts with seven, finished second in save percentage at .930 and fourth in goals-against average with a 2.03.
But the Bruins, who won the Presidents' Trophy with 117 points in the regular season, failed to get by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, losing in Game 7.
Rask knows he will have to replicate or improve on his play from last season if the Bruins are to fare better by the end of the 2014-15 season.
"Well, I mean, it's always a team sport. So you lose as a team and you win as a team," said Rask, who led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup finals in 2013. "Then obviously we evaluate individual performances, too. I had a good season. I wasn't able to take the next step in the playoffs and help the team out to carry those series. But you know, you can't really expect to do that every series and every year either. Everything has to be in sync. But I thought I had a good year. So I just try to keep that up and stay consistent."
Entering the season, the Bruins' roster is fairly consistent. The Bruins lost unrestricted free agent forwards Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton, and backup goaltender Chad Johnson.
At forward, the Bruins are still built around centres David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, who won the Selke Trophy last season. Wingers Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic are also vital members of the forward corps. The Bruins hope Loui Eriksson, acquired before last season in a blockbuster trade that sent centre Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars, will bounce back from a 10-goal season in 2013-14. Eriksson will get the chance to prove he can replace Iginla, who scored 30 goals last season, on a line with Lucic and Krejci.
"It's definitely going to help point-wise," said Eriksson, who missed 21 games because of injuries last year. "And if you're playing with that line you're going to get more ice time. So hopefully we can get up the points and get back to where I was a couple years ago."
Forward Reilly Smith will try to build on his 20-goal season after re-signing late in training camp as a restricted free agent. Swedish centre Carl Soderberg, playing his first full season in North America, hit his stride in the second half of 2013-14. The Bruins will also look to some returning veterans and upstart prospects to fill in among their bottom six forwards.
On defence the Bruins have strength in numbers starting with captain Zdeno Chara, veterans Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg, and third-year player Dougie Hamilton. Although a trade seems inevitable before the start of the regular season or early into the schedule, the Bruins currently have eight defencemen who have contributed to the team's success the past few seasons. Only six can play on a given night, but Chara says it's not the worst thing to have several options.
"It's a good problem to have," Chara said. "No matter how you look @ it, to have that many players capable of playing gives you obviously an advantage. And like I said it's a good problem to have and it would be obviously a different situation if we would be on the other side of it. So sometimes things are out of your control as far as trades and other things but as a player you ... have to do your best to make the team and the lineup. And the rest of it is up to the management."
In goal, Niklas Svedberg is projected as the replacement for Johnson behind Rask. The Bruins have ranked near the top of the NHL in goals against the past six seasons, and that doesn't figure to change with another strong duo of goaltenders to carry the load.