Considering the performance that Tuukka Rask turned in for the Boston Bruins during the Eastern Conference Final series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, there’s no way that he could possibly be passed up as this series’ MVP. Granted, I named him MVP for the quarterfinal series, but he deserved it then and he deserves it now.
This series exposed Rask’s good work, the breadth of which Bruins fans knew about all along, to a much wider national audience. It was impossible to ignore #40, there in the net, turning aside even the most complex and tricky shots with a casual ease. When the mask came off–and the scraggly beard and mustache he’s trying to grow were exposed–he proved entertaining in another way, telling reporters that he didn’t listen to coach’s pregame message prior to the decisive game four.
But for his part, coach Claude Julien knows that his netminder is a little quirky, since pretty much all of them are, though he does know how to get through to Rask. Actually, Julien said that Rask is the most normal goalie he’s ever coached. Maybe normal is relative.
Coach is one of the many voices heaping praise upon Rask for his work so far in the playoffs.
“Right now he’s in a zone that you hope he can hold on to…Without that kind of goaltending, you don’t get a chance at winning a Cup,” he said.
Even officials above the head coach are making positive notes. General manager Peter Chiarelli is echoing his bench boss.
“He’s been terrific, he’s been really good. And he’s got a level head about him, which is important in the heat of the action. You need top end goaltending to win this thing – and he’s been giving us that,” he said.
Meanwhile on the ice, Rask’s teammates know about his role as well: he always does what he can, he does his best, he keeps them in the game even when they might not be playing their best. (That was a problem at some points during the regular season, especially.)
“He’s been playing phenomenal and he gives us a chance to win every night even if we’re not playing at our best – and, he’s Tuukka,” said Johnny Boychuk.
Yes, exactly: he’s Tuukka, the guy who is in the top five for all four goaltending metrics across the league–he’s actually pretty evenly-matched with Corey Crawford in every measure except number of shutouts, which could make the upcoming Stanley Cup Final a netminders’ duel. Tuukka, the guy who had an unbelievable 0.44 goals-against average when facing a team that had the league’s best firepower. (Had being the operative word. That stat is just too great to refrain from using pretty much all the time.) Tuukka, the guy who gets his second shot at the Cup in just three years, although this time he’s playing a starring role instead of just opening the door.
Here’s to the days and games to come!