Despite the fact that the Bruins were playing their second game in as many nights, and despite the fact that Tuukka Rask had made 17 of the team’s first 20 starts, Julien went back to Rask on Tuesday in New York. The Boston starter was impressive Monday in a win over the Carolina Hurricanes, but that was nothing compared to what he did against the Rangers.
Rask stopped 43 of the 44 shots he faced on the way to a 2-1 win over New York.
The Bruins certainly needed Rask to be at his best, and despite the fact he played 24 hours earlier, he certainly gave them what they needed. The Rangers dominated play for much of the evening, and they took advantage of some sloppy, lethargic play from the Bruins in the first matchup between the two teams since their playoff series last year. The Rangers peppered Rask all night, outshooting the Bruins 44-22, but Rask was just too darn good.
To say the goalie stole one for the B’s probably doesn’t do it justice.
“He’s the one who kept us in,” Julien said. “That’s the positive thing about tonight was how he kept us in — and the win. Other than that, I think we made a lot of mistakes. We didn’t seem at the top of our game tonight.”
Of course, Julien deserves some credit for sticking with his goaltender on back-to-back nights. But in hindsight, it was probably an easier decision than it seemed. Rask has been dynamite this season and he’s turned it on as of late. With Tuesday’s showing, he’s now 4-1-0 in his last five starts with a 1.34 goals against average and a .957 save percentage, which is obviously including a 4-2 loss to the Senators on Friday.
Rask now finds himself among the league’s top five in wins, goals against average, save percentage and shutouts. Unofficially, he’s also among the league leaders in game-turning saves.
He had plenty of those Tuesday night against the Rangers. Just ask Chris Kreider. The New York forward, who seems to be doing quite all right for himself now that John Tortorella is out of the picture, was arguably the best player on the ice Tuesday night. Well, the best player not wearing 40 in white. Rask ended up stoning Kreider at least three times, with the first big save serving as the most important.
Kreider was hooked on a power-play breakaway by Johnny Boychuk at 6:16 of the first period. The referee quickly signaled for a penalty shot, and it looked like the Rangers had a chance to take an early lead. Kreider skated out far to the right before coming back across the ice as he entered the zone only to see his shot turned away by Rask’s right pad. The penalty-shot save set the tone for a frustrating night for Kreider and the Rangers while seemingly just adding to the confidence for Rask.
“They came hard and played an extremely good game,” Shawn Thornton, who scored the Bruins’ first goal, said. “Tuukka, he played unbelievable. I don’t know how many breakaways he had tonight including a penalty shot, so I think if it wasn’t for him again, it would have been a completely different outcome.”
“He was huge, he was pretty much the reason we won tonight,” Patrice Bergeron added. “He stood tall all night. Too many breakaways, too many breakdowns in our zone, but you gotta take the two points and regroup for the next one.”
This is why the Bruins gave Rask the contract they did this offseason. On a night where the rest of the Bruins looked like they had played the night before, Rask looked as fresh as he’s ever looked. The Bruins were sloppy, and they were even down a defenseman after Dennis Seidenberg left with an injury just a minute or so into the game.
That’s the mark of a franchise-type player, and it’s certainly becoming tough to question that Rask is anything but. At the very least, no one will be questioning the decision to give Rask a start, no matter the circumstances, for a long time.