Tuukka Rask’s Return To Elite Form Propelling Boston Bruins Up Standings

BOSTON — The Boston Bruins are trending in the right direction as 2015 draws to a close, and Tuukka Rask is the main reason why.

The Bruins’ No. 1 goaltender turned in another excellent performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night, stopping all 34 shots he faced for his fourth shutout of the season.

Rask, much like his teammates, got off to a rough start in October. He gave up 5-plus goals four times in his first eight games and had a .879 save percentage over his first nine contests.

Since then, he’s been one of the league’s top goaltenders.

Rask earned his first shutout of the season in a 4-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 27. From that date, his .936 save percentage is the sixth-best among all goalies. His even-strength save percentage of .951 over that same span is the second-highest in the league. He’s also given up two goals or fewer in six straight appearances.

“(Rask’s) a guy that when he’s on his game he’s one of the best,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “He’s feeling it in the last little while or whatever, last month, maybe even more. But he’s been the goalie that we all know he can be. And that’s how we felt about him at the beginning even though he struggled, we knew he’d find his game, and he has.”

Rask’s return to Vezina-level form makes the Bruins a very dangerous team. Unlike last season, this B’s squad is having little trouble scoring goals. It ranks second in goals scored per game and first in power-play percentage.

More importantly, the Bruins have found their defensive identity over the last 15 games or so. There are fewer mental mistakes, the defensive coverage is improving, the penalty kill is more efficient and Rask is cleaning up most of the other mistakes being made, evidenced by his sparkling .912 save percentage on high-danger shots at even strength in the last 17 games.

“We’re not trying to win 4-3 or 5-4. We’re just kind of being patient and getting our chances and capitalizing on those, but defensively we’re getting so much better,” Rask said.

“We take pride in that and we finally understood that that’s what our bread and butter is, and it has given us a lot of success.”

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Tuukka Rask

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