BOSTON – The Boston Bruins appear to have a motivated and inspired No. 1 goaltender on their hands ready to finish up strong at the end of the hockey season.
Tuukka Rask made it back-to-back strong performances with a 27-save effort in securing his seventh shutout of the season, and led the Bruins to a 2-0 win over the Dallas Stars at TD Garden on Thursday night. Rask was at his best in the third period when he stopped 11 shots and didn’t give an inch while his teammates battled in front of him to protect a two-goal lead.
There weren’t many golden scoring chances for the Stars among them, but Rask held strong to his angles and didn’t allow for any lapses in concentration or focus at a point in the season when the Bruins need perfect execution from everyone.
“I thought he earned his keep tonight. He was our best player. When we broke down, he was there,” said interim Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “They were off net a few chances, and I think from my vantage point his angles were so solid that there wasn’t much net to shoot at. He [had it] under control. So it certainly makes it easier, but when you’re in your end that much it’s taxing on the goaltender.
“I think if you asked him, he enjoys when the D are working so hard to get sticks in lanes and willing to block shots without taking away his vision. That’s a fine line there and I think we’ve done a good job with that.”
In two games since sitting out last weekend’s win over the Islanders, Rask has stopped 51-of-52 shots for a .981 save percentage. Meanwhile, the Bruins' defense has blocked shots, played good positional defense and managed the puck with a purpose. That’s all translated into some pretty good hockey with a No. 1 goalie that’s playing like he’s trying to prove a point to those that have cast doubt on his abilities to come through in late season big games.
“They had a lot of chances, but I saw them so that makes it easier,” said Rask, who is one win away from tying his all-time career high in wins (36) in a single season. “Positionally, I tried to be in the right spot and as I said, we blocked shots and then took care of the second [shot] and the rebounds. [The ones] that were there we cleared them and that’s a big difference. [The three-game win streak] was something we needed to do and something we need to continue to do. Other teams behind us are not, you know, they’re breathing on our necks for sure. So we have to keep on plugging away and keep winning. That’s the only thing we can control, but obviously after a four-game losing streak, we needed to change and so far, so good.”
Plugging away and winning is what the Bruins have to do as a team, and it’s what Rask must continue to do as an elite goaltender with just five games remaining and everything on the line for a top shelf Bruins goalie that sure looks like he’s playing with a fire lit under him right now.