Throughout the Boston Bruins 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night the team was repeatedly bailed out by the steady hand of Tukka Rask, who markedly outplayed counterpart Cam Ward. For the entirety of the game, Rask stopped 23 out of 24 shots, helped Boston kill of four Carolina powerplays and was eventually rewarded for his efforts with the game’s No. 2 star.
While for some outplaying a star goaltender such as Ward would be a major accomplishment, it has become somewhat of an expected occurrence for Rask. Throughout the 2013-14 season he has started 17 of the Bruins 21 games, compiling a 11-5-1 record with a 1.64 GAA and .944 save percentage, making him arguably the best goaltender of the early part of the 2013-14 NHL season.
But this start has been no fluke, as it is the second year in a row that Rask has been a dominant force as the Bruins starting goaltender. In the lockout shortened 2012-13 the goaltender appeared in 36 of 48 regular season games, racking up a 19-10-5 record, 2.00 GAA, and .929 save percentage that made one only wonder how he did not win the Vezina Trophy.
As if this regular season contribution was not enough, Rask played every minute of the Bruins playoff run, starting compiling a 14-8 record with a 1.88 GAA, .940 save percentage and three shutouts. While this run ultimately ended in a Stanley Cup loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, there was no doubting that the goaltender put on an impressive display in outplaying world class goalies Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury just to get that far.
There is also no questioning whether or not Rask has the skill set to maintain this prolonged level of success for the long run. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound goalie is absolutely magnificent moving side to side, which is aided by incredible reflexes that also allow his glove hand to rank aside any goaltender in the world. In addition to this there is no doubting that he seemingly always finds a way to stop pucks that seem destined for the back of the net, and at only 26 years old it likely not done progressing even yet.
Bruins management recognized this skill last summer by signing Rask to an eight-year $56 million deal, which made his cap hit tied for the highest amongst any goaltender in the NHL with Pekka Rinne. Many people questioned this deal, arguing that it would come back to bite them in the long run and that they were never going to get proper value for that massive contract.
Well after watching the early portion of the 2013-14 season it is quite clear that the Bruins made the right decision, and that there is not a single goaltender in the NHL better than Tukka Rask today.