Essensa gets in some goalie work

NEW YORK -- With Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask getting the morning off from the game-day skate, backup netminder Anton Khudobin still had some help during the optional twirl.

Former NHLer and current Bruins goalie coach Bob Essensa, 48, was in full equipment and practiced with the team as it prepared Tuesday morning for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said Essensa had to loosen the strap in order to get his goalie pants on.

“I’m not sure, but Claude shouldn’t be throwing shots there,” Essensa said with a laugh. “We loosened it up a little bit, which was nice.”

The equipment Essensa used was a little of his, a little of Khudobin's and some of Rask’s.

“Felt like it’s been 11 or 12 years,” he said. “But like the old adage goes: If you never had it, you can’t lose it.

“The groins were saying, ‘What are ya doing?’ I only had about five or six butterflies but I went down one time and the hamstring was like, ‘no.’ So I was back on my feet, old-school again.”

Essensa has been Boston’s goalie coach for seven seasons and has strapped on the pads for practice in the past.

“It beats hopping on the bike or the treadmill,” he said. “And it builds up someone’s confidence, theirs or mine.”

Per Julien, his assistant coaches are not allowed to speak to the media, so in this rare occasion, reporters took advantage of the situation and wanted to hear what Essensa had to say about New York’s ability to block shots and how that effects Rask.

“It’s a challenge for goalies and goalie coaches to find new and different techniques in terms of tracking pucks and it’s going to be a challenge from here on in. I’m sure our guys will tell you, and their guys will tell you, it’s not always easy.”

With traffic in front, some goalies like to stay low in order to see the puck, but that’s not the philosophy with the Bruins.

“Every goalie coach tries to get to use the strengths of their individual netminder, and that’s not the strength of our guys. They both move real well, so we want to try to keep them on their feet, keep them moving and attack from that standpoint,” Essensa said.

Essensa played a total of 446 games in the NHL from 1988 to 2002 with Winnipeg, Detroit, Edmonton, Phoenix, Vancouver and Buffalo.

“I wish back in the 80s and 90s we had as many shot blockers back then as we’ve got now,” Essensa said. “That’s just the nature of the beast, everybody wants to get in front of shots. If a shooter’s got to shot through two or three sets of legs, it makes a goalie’s job, should be more easier, but you have to track it as well.”