It’s safe to say that the Bruins were able to stay afloat without Tim Thomas this year. It’s also safe to say that they found the right man for the job and that the only thing left is to put ink to paper and make it official.
Tuukka Rask stepped into the B’s No. 1 slot this season, filling Boston’s crease after years of Thomas keeping the TD Garden twine free of rubber. Rask answered going 19-10-5 with five shutouts and a 2.00 GAA during the strike-shortened season to go with 14 wins and a 1.88 GAA in the playoffs. Two of those wins were shutouts against the mighty Penguins in the B’s Eastern Conference Finals sweep.
In other words, the 26-year-old is pretty darn good — it’s something the fans in Boston knew and now it’s something his stats can finally prove.
Rask showed flashes of brilliance when he played 45 contests in the 2009-10 season when he split time with Thomas and took over for the injured starter at the tail end of the season and into the playoffs. That year, he won a career-high 22 games and posted a 1.97 GAA but was still in Thomas’ shadow.
Now, with Thomas gone, Rask stepped up his game and proved that he can handle the load no matter who’s around. He was finally able to answer the biggest question on Bruins fans’ minds.
“I don’t think I have to answer those questions anymore. I played good,” he said of his season. “Proved everyone again that I was capable of doing it. I mean you look at the numbers. They’re good. If I just analyze my game and by how I felt throughout the year I thought it was a great year.”
“Like everybody always questioned if he was a No. 1 goalie but obviously he answered that question with the way he played,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “His consistency was really good I think. He saved us a lot of games, he was strong every game, and you can’t ask more from a guy or from a No. 1 goalie. He played unbelievable all the way to the end.”
Unfortunately it did end on Monday, as the B’s were minutes away from forcing a Game 7, which was scheduled for Wednesday night in Chicago. Instead, they were packing up and saying goodbyes at TD Garden, just two days after losing a heart-breaker and missing out on a chance to call the Stanley Cup their own for the second time in three years.
But hoisting the Cup as the B’s starter wasn’t the only reason he was fueled this season. Rask needs a contract and he’s hoping this year has opened up some eyes and will open up some wallets.
“Yeah, for sure,” he said when asked if the contract situation was motivating him all season. “You always try to be good but then you are trying to get your average game level as high as you can. That the gap between a good game and a bad game wouldn’t be so big. I think I managed to do that this year and it motivates me for the next year to keep that level and keep getting better.”
Now, after Rask put up his numbers, it’s just a game of numbers on the Bruins brass’s side.
“I am going to go see [general manager Peter Chiarelli] right now. Have it signed by this afternoon,” he joked.
But there seems to be some sincerity in his humor.
“That would be an ideal situation, I think, to play here forever,” he said. “I hope we can make that happen.”