Will the playoffs be the time for Tuukka Rask to shine?
|04.26.13 at 4:58 pm ET|
The last time Tuukka Rask started a playoff game was one all Bruins fans would like to forget.
It was May 14, 2010. Rask was spotted a 3-0 lead in the first period of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers. The Bruins would lose the game on a power play goal by Simon Gagne when the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice.
The game marked Boston’s collapse after going up 3-0 in the series and three goals in the final game on home ice. Rask was thrown into the spotlight that season when Tim Thomas was nursing an injured hip that eventually required surgery. Rask was 7-6 in the playoffs that season with a 2.61 goals against and a .912 save percentage. Not bad but a lot of Bruins fans felt Rask was exposed.
Of course, that was all forgiven 12 months later as Thomas and the Bruins won their sixth Stanley Cup in history.
Now, Thomas is gone. It’s Tuukka’s time to shine, and shine is exactly what Rask has done this season. He has five shutouts, including a 2-0 blanking of the Lightning on Thursday in which he turned aside all 30 shots. He is a leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy awarded to the top goalie, sporting a 19-9-4 record with a sparkling 1.97 goals against and a .930 save percentage.
There’s no doubt he’s the goalie going into the playoffs. Still, there were questions about Rask and the Bruins in the last three weeks, as the team has struggled with consistency.
How important was Thursday night in terms of confidence? Even Rask isn’t sure it means all that much.
“I don’t know. I guess you always try to take the positives no matter how it goes, but the playoffs is a different season,” Rask said. “Everybody knows that. I just try to feel comfortable out there and play the game one at a time.”
What exactly is difference in intensity between the regular season and the playoffs?
“Everybody crashes the net a lot harder,” Rask said. “Every goal counts. Every win counts. It’s sometimes a really big scramble in front of the net. The battle level and the intensity level, I think it’s a bit higher. And for me, I think the biggest thing is fight for those loose pucks and take care of those.”
Now Rask has turned in two shutouts in the last week.
“Well, it’s better than letting in five or six goals for sure. I don’t know,” Rask said. “Every game is different. Sometimes you just get the bounces. They had a post or two. Sometimes the puck just bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. I just try to feel good about myself every single game and feel comfortable out there. If it’s a shutout or not, it doesn’t matter as long as you play good and you win, like [Thursday].”