Tuukka Rask has been the Boston Bruins’ best player since the calendar turned to 2015, and he gave another fantastic performance Tuesday night in a 3-1 road win against the Dallas Stars.
Rask stopped 36 of 37 shots for a .973 save percentage to improve his January record to 5-1-2. The reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender also owns a .946 save percentage (.943 when the B’s are shorthanded) and a 1.62 goals against average this month, while the Bruins have taken points from 12 of his last 14 starts.
Rask’s play Tuesday night is even more impressive when you look at how many shots he faced. The Stars earned a 51-39 shot attempt edge at even strength (83-57 in all situations) and a 37-27 advantage in shots on goal.
The Bruins gave up plenty of scoring chances, with several coming from the Stars’ top duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn — the second-highest scoring tandem in the NHL — which tallied 17 shots on goal.
Rask thwarted nearly every scoring chance that Dallas created and shut the door in the third period with 16 saves on 16 shots (Stars also had a 23-8 shot attempt edge in the final 20 minutes of regulation).
Rask also played an important role in Boston’s excellent penalty killing display Tuesday. He made 16 shorthanded saves to help the Bruins go 6-for-6 on the penalty kill and improve to 33-for-35 in nine January games. The Bruins ranked eighth in penalty kill last season and this unit has been a strength of the team throughout Claude Julien’s eight-year tenure as head coach.
The penalty kill struggled at times and was inconsistent during the first three months of the 2014-15 campaign, but the return of penalty killing defensemen such as Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid from injuries, along with Rask playing at a high level, have led to better, more consistent penalty killing from the Bruins.
The Bruins are a team built on a foundation of excellent goaltending and good special teams. Even though the B’s aren’t as high in the standings as many would have predicted at the All-Star break, Rask’s return to elite form and the improved penalty killing are encouraging signs as the team prepares for the second half of the regular season.
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