Perhaps you could call it an early birthday present that the Boston Bruins got for their new starting goaltender, Tuukka Rask, when they scored three goals and then held tightly to the lead so he could get a 3-0 shutout against a Philadelphia Flyers team that once vexed him greatly in the playoffs.
Today, though, is Rask’s actual 26th birthday. Here’s a look back at his career so far and some of his biggest moments–yes, including the famous milkcrate incident.
Prior to his 2005 drafting, Rask had been ranked the top European goaltender by NHL Central Scouting as he climbed the ranks of Finnish hockey from their junior system to the top SM-liiga, playing for Ilves Tampere (where Daniel Paille went during the recent lockout). He was then chosen late in the first round of the ’05 draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, but actually never played for them. While still with Ilves, the Leafs traded him to Boston for Andrew Raycroft after having decided that a different goalie, Justin Pogge, was their goalie of the future.
Rask signed an entry-level deal with Boston in 2007 and was called up from AHL Providence for the first time in November 2007. He actually got his first NHL win on the road at–where else?–Toronto. In the 2008-09 season, he played just one game, but got a 1-0 shutout. The next season saw him named Tim Thomas‘ backup and he signed on for two more years. Also in 2009-10, he took the reins temporarily as starter when Thomas had some hip troubles.
This was the season where he had a goals-against average of 1.97 and a .931 save percentage, which both led the league, and yet he was snubbed for the Calder Trophy despite the fact that he was eligible.
When Thomas felt better for 2010-11, Rask went back to backup duties and didn’t play at all in the 2011 Stanley Cup run, though he was along for the ride and thus became the second Finnish goalie to win the Cup. At the end of the 2011-12 season, Rask was the one to have to sit out with injuries for a time, so he spent a lot of time in the community, occasionally wearing fun costumes, while the team filled his absence with call-ups from Providence and then Marty Turco.
But then everything changed again when Thomas decided to take a year off and so the duties of starting goaltender passed once again to Rask, who re-upped with a one-year deal and then kept his skills strong by playing in the Czech Republic during the lockout.
While with HC Plzen, he was instrumental in getting the team up the league standings and put up a 12-5-0 record with a 2.11 GAA and .924 save percentage. He left around Thanksgiving.
Now back in the starting role for Boston, he’s silenced the doubters who wondered if he was ready to, or able to, replace Thomas. As of his birthday, he has a 12-2-3 record, two shutouts, a .927 and a 1.97.
Here are some video highlights:
He makes a desperation move to get Max Pacioretty off a breakaway and Jack Edwards provides a measure of excitement.
This is some more aggression from Rask, this time during a shootout.
Here’s a quick-thinking leap from Rask–who’s been called Felix the Cat by Nathan Horton–to deny a big chance.
After winning the Cup, he is interviewed in Finnish. Since I don’t speak Finnish, I don’t know what’s being discussed, but it’s cool to hear foreign players speak their native tongue.
He stops a shot with his head and his mask comes off, but he’s alright.
A sequence so intense that Doc Emrick sounds like he’s about to have an aneurysm in the booth.
The famous milkcrate incident, which happened because of what he felt were some iffy shootout goals.