BOSTON — As the final horn rang throughout TD Garden on Tuesday night, a loud “Tuuk” chant resonated through the building.
Although the Boston Bruins had just dispatched the Minnesota Wild 4-0, it was the performance of Rask that seemed to have gotten the crowd’s attention above all else. The netminder had just earned his first shutout of the season, and the reception he got was much deserved.
Few athletes in Boston –and certainly on the Bruins — are as firmly planted under the microscope as Rask, fair or unfair. Any poor performance is picked apart piece by piece by his detractors, while those same folks often brush off his best showings as the product of good defense in front of him.
But in Tuesday’s win, Rask wasn’t riding anyone else’s coattails. He benefited from some pretty complete defense, sure, but he turned away 24 shots and it wasn’t by accident. The 31-year-old made multiple saves he had little business making, among them a stellar glove save on Eric Staal from near-point blank. A three-goal first period gave the Bruins a pretty comfortable cushion, but they mostly were outplayed in the back half of the game and Rask did his part in not allowing Minnesota to get back into it.
In addition to Tuesday’s win being Rask’s first shutout of the season, it was the 42nd of his career and his 250th career victory.
After the game, Rask gave a subdued response to a question about his play of late, instead indicating he’s felt good for some time.
“Results have been happening, yeah, so that’s good,” Rask said. “Yeah, felt good since November, I guess.”
Rask now has upped his save percentage to .920, and appears to be hitting his annual stretch where he goes scorched earth for a little while. That doesn’t appear to be lost on head coach Bruce Cassidy, who continues leaning on Rask more, although Jaroslav Halak will get the nod in net Thursday against the Washington Capitals.
“Well, (giving Rask more starts is) a bit of the plan going forward,” Cassidy said. “He played the last game, so now he has two. Washington coming in is a little different. We haven’t had much success against them, so we’re leaning towards, I’ll tell you flat out, Halak because he hasn’t started against them in a Bruins uniform, so kind of like Anaheim — throw a different guy in there and get a result. That would just be a switch and getting Jaro his games, but yes, Tuukka’s now earning the – I don’t want to say the net back. I don’t think that’s the appropriate term but more starts. So, we’ll see how he runs with it.”
With they way Rask has come around and Halak has played most of the season, a convincing argument could be made the Bruins have one of, if not the best goaltending tandems in the NHL. We saw last season how well the Bruins can play when Rask is on his game, and their current five-game win streak with him in net for four of them seems to indicate he is playing a substantial role in the recent success.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images