After a rough start to his 2015-16 campaign, Tuukka Rask is beginning to look like … well, Tuukka Rask.
Rask began the season with — quite literally — the worst three-game stretch of his NHL career, surrendering 14 total goals in blowout losses to the Winnipeg Jets, Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. A week into the schedule, he ranked second to last in the league — 41st out of 42 qualified netminders — in both goals against average and save percentage.
The 28-year-old put forth a respectable effort in Arizona to earn his first win, but he followed it up with a five-goal clunker as the Bruins suffered a third-period collapse and lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime.
Leaky defense in front of Rask had more than a little to do with his bloated early season stats, but was the goalie living up to what a team should expect from a Veniza Trophy winner? No, he was not.
After those five uninspiring starts, however, have come two brilliant ones.
Rask stopped every Coyotes shot he faced Tuesday night to lock down his first shutout of the season, then allowed only one goal in his most impressive showing to date: a 3-1 win Friday night against a Florida Panthers team that threw everything it had at the Boston net.
The Panthers peppered Rask throughout the contest. They got free for two first-period breakaways, earned a pair of 5-on-3 power plays in the second and outshot the Bruins 18-9 in the third. Nick Bjugstad lit the lamp on the first of those two-man advantages, but that ended up being the only blemish on Rask’s record.
“Well, he was outstanding, if you ask me, tonight,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley after the game. “He made some unbelievable saves. He kept us in the game. They really pushed hard in the third period, and we got into some penalty trouble there throughout the game, whether it was those 5-on-3s or even near the end there with those penalties. And I thought that as good as our penalty kill was, (Rask) was just as good, if not better, and that made a big difference for us.”
Rask allowed 22 goals on the first 151 shots he faced this season. He has allowed only one in the last 56.
“He had two great games back to back,” Bruins center David Krejci told reporters in Florida. “Especially in the first period — two breakaways. He kept us in the game. He was huge again, and it’s good to see him starting playing well.”
Thumbnail photo via Joel Auerbach/Associated Press
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