Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has now firmly planted himself as the starter after a magnificent season that was rewarded with a huge contract this offseason. Now the pressures of doing well will be on him. The question is no longer if he can fill in for Tim Thomas, but if he can continue to play well and prove that he is worthy of the money he will be getting.
Rask had a legendary season this past year, posting some of the best save percentage and fewest goals allowed in the NHL. When it all counted during the postseason, he shined by shutting down opponents, even those with great offensive firepower like the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It is hard to say that he did not earn a big contract after his performance. His eight-year, $56 million contract is now among the highest in the league for goalies. In the Bruins’ case, the investment to secure Rask in Boston for the long term future also came at the cost of shaking up the team and losing some players to free agency.
Now these season numbers, for better or for worse, are going to be the benchmark for his tenure in Boston. When a player is paid on par with Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan Miller, the best is expected out of them. Cam Ward found himself in a similar circumstance, and it became difficult for him to live up to a huge contract that put a daily expectation on him to be superhuman in front of goal.
It is a mixed bag for Rask to have. One on hand, he has a long-term job that will pay him well. On the other hand, if last season is a fluke, fans will be clamoring for his head.
There is no doubt that Rask is a good goalie, but his contract has raised expectations of him dramatically for next season. It will not be enough to have great games, because he will now have to have great seasons — whether he likes them or not. The Bruins seem to believe that he can do it, but time will tell how things are going to go for him. Hopefully for his sake, he can take his game to the next level.
Tim Nikolouzos is a Boston Bruins writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @timnikolou