The Finnish rookie netminder was highly touted, but no one could have expected that on April 1, Rask would be 19-11-4 with a 2.02 GAA, a .929 save percentage (both tops in the NHL) and five shutouts. That's why Bruins fans rewarded him with their votes for the NESN 7th Player Award.
Rask was presented with the achievement during a pregame ceremony, but after allowing the only goal in Boston's frustrating 1-0 loss to the Panthers on Thursday night, Rask wasn't too excited to bask in the glory of the award.
"You know, it's an honor," a deflated and obviously frustrated Rask told the media after the game. "It's something you really have to appreciate, and what else can I say? It's an honor."
But right now, Rask would also appreciate some offense in front of him after failing to stop Keith Ballard's game-winner just 7:15 into the game. The Bruins missed another chance to pull away from the pack, as both the Flyers and Thrashers lost as well. But instead of sitting in sixth place alone, they remain in a three-way tie with Montreal and Philadelphia, all of which have 82 points.
"I think it was a [defenseman] who jumped in the play — he got the puck and I saw the shot, thought I had it and I started to squeeze it in, and suddenly it was in the net," Rask said. "It went through my armpit, and that's one of those goals you want to have back."
But Rask can't be perfect every night, like he was for 1:21:42 leading up to Ballard's goal. Rask was clearly frustrated that his team couldn't find a way to beat his counterpart, Scott Clemmensen, who made 36 saves for his first shutout of the year. The Bruins remained the lowest-scoring team in the NHL, averaging only 2.36 goals per game.
For Rask and the Bruins, it has become painfully evident that even one little mistake — like the one Rask made Thursday night — could be enough for the opponent to win. This was the fourth time the Bruins have been shut out this season (the second time against Florida), and even when they get a decent amount of shots, they can't make them count.
"I think at this point, you're used to it," Rask admitted. "It's not the first time it's happened to us, but you try to just think about your own game and focus on the next shot. When it's a 1-0 game like that, you put a lot of pressure on their goalie, and suddenly, they come back to you and have a good chance. You don't want to give them a two-goal lead, so that's all I was thinking the whole time."
Another chance to move ahead, another chance lost. But why is that this Bruins team struggles in a game they should win on paper after winning one they shouldn't at New Jersey on Tuesday?
"It's funny how it goes," Rask said of what has become an agonizing phenomenon for the Bruins and their fans. "We always win when we have to win, and these kinds of games — with a team that's out of the playoffs — they come in our home building and we just can't win. It's frustrating, and I hope it doesn't cost us too much at the end of the day."
On Thursday, it cost them another two points, a chance to get closer to the playoffs and the chance for Rask to properly celebrate going beyond what is expected of him.
If only the team in front of him could do its job, too.
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