Considering the Boston Bruins were without captain Zdeno Chara, got two points each from Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, received strong play from Providence call-up Zach Hamill and enjoyed shutdown goaltending by Tuukka Rask, most coaches would have found the decisive victory over the Los Angeles Kings fairly impressive.
Maybe that's why Julien's praise for his goalie was downright effusive, by his standards.
"He was good," Julien said of Rask, "arguably our best player."
Rask's "good" play was good enough for his first shutout of the season and dropped his goals against average to 1.82, third-best in the league and slightly better than teammate Tim Thomas, who has a 1.92 GAA.
Rask had to earn every inch of his shutout, too. Without Chara, the Bruins had difficulty matching up with the size of the Kings' front line, which includes 6-foot-3, 225-pound Anze Kopitar, 6-foot, 210-pound Dustin Brown and 6-foot-4, 242-pound Dustin Penner.
"They're a heavy team, and when you look at their front line with the Kopitars and their Browns and so on and so forth, they're a big team, so they're not easy to handle," Julien said. "It's that much of a bigger challenge, so our guys responded well to that and whenever called upon Tuukka was making the big saves."
"He stood tall," the coach added later. "They threw a lot of shots at him and certainly not easy shots to stop. There was traffic in front of the net, screens, yet he had quick feet going. He made saves from close range. Like I said, he was probably our best player."
The size advantage seemed to wear on the Bruins. Despite not being known as a strong offensive team, the Kings put 41 shots against Rask. The number grew every period, from eight in the first to 13 in the second to 20 in the third. (Kings goalie Jonathan Quick faced 22 shots in the entire game.)
Without knowing the exact statistics, Rask said he felt the pressure.
"I don't think you have time to watch the shot clock or anything, but you definitely feel the momentum changing at times," Rask said. "They had a lot of chances in the third, and maybe we weren't at our sharpest, but they came at us pretty hard."
As the final minute of the game wore down, the TD Garden crowd loudly cheered for Rask, who has been a valuable goalie alongside Thomas. The crowd wanted a shutout for Rask, but Rask said that wasn't on his mind.
"I was just trying to save every puck," Rask said, and that's exactly what he did.
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