Despite playing on one of the top clubs, in one of the top markets, in the Eastern Conference, Tuukka Rask has sort of flown under the radar in his first full season as the unquestioned starter between the pipes for the Boston Bruins. It’s a shame, because he’s been something brilliant.
Rask has made former goaltender Tim Thomas an afterthought for the B’s, turning in a Vezina Trophy worth season. He finished the regular season with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. That latter figure came in third in the league among starting goaltenders. His five shutouts were also tied for the league lead.
Even though he had started at least 20 games in each of the last four seasons, including 39 starts back in the 2009-10 season, Rask came into 2013 as a starter without a whole lot of playoff experience. He started 13 playoff games for Boston in that ’09-’10 season, but had not appeared in the playoffs since.
Many were unsure of what to expect from him heading into the playoffs with the Bruins as the no. 4 seed. Through two games, the results have been mixed. He was very good for Boston in Game 1, allowing one early goal before shutting down the offense of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Game 2 wasn’t really the same story, as he allowed four goals in a 4-2 Bruins loss, which took away their home ice advantage. If there’s one thing we’ve seen Rask do this season, though, it’s bounce back. He hasn’t had to bounce back from poor showings too often this year, but has shown that he can.
Five times in his 34 starts this year, Rask surrendered at least four goals. Two of those starts came back to back. Outside of those two, each time Rask allowed four goals, he followed up with a start of allowing two or less goals. In two such starts, when he allowed four or more goals, he recorded a shutout the following start.
Is it a small sample size? Absolutely. It in no way guarantees a shutout or a dominating performance for Rask, particularly on the road. But it does prove that he has a short memory and an ability to bounce back in a start following a poor outing. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where you’re playing nearly every other day, he’s going to need that.