BOSTON -- Tuukka Rask continues to put together arguably the best start of his Bruins career, and is doing it while continuously playing through pain and discomfort.
The Bruins goaltender stopped 32 shots in a 4-0 shutout win over the Buffalo Sabres, and moved into sole possession of third place all-time on the B’s franchise shutout with the 32nd shutout of his Black and Gold career. The B’s No. 1 goaltender is off to the hottest start of his career, and naturally just wants to keep it going behind a Bruins team that needs him to be dominant every single night.
“If you look at the stats probably, it’s got to be one of the best starts [of my career]. Usually I think the starts are the worst part of my season,” said a chuckling Rask. “That’s at least something I can look back at the year-end meeting and say I was good at.”
Unfortunately for Rask and the Bruins, the 29-year-old also showed signs that a lower body injury continues to dog him as he shoulders a heavy burden for his hockey club with Anton Khudobin still out of commission.
Rask made a couple of stellar saves in the first couple of periods with the game still hanging in the balance, including a post-to-post stop on Kyle Okposo after a cross-ice pass from Ryan O’Reilly and a second period sprawling stop on Brian Gionta on a shorthanded breakaway chance. Immediately after the Gionta save Rask slammed his stick down to the ice, and confirmed to CSNNE.com that it was out of frustration at the twinges of pain he felt while making the butterfly stop.
It would be wise for the Bruins to avoid any temptation to play the Finnish netminder against Montreal on Tuesday night in the second half of back-to-back games, but Rask said he was willing to do whatever the team needs with the goalie situation still in flux.
“It’s tough. It’s still early in the season and you definitely don’t want to burn yourself out,” said Rask, who is 7-1-0 with a 1.74 goals against average and .941 save percentage while essentially carrying the Bruins to a winning record. “Obviously with Dobby [Anton Khudobin] being hurt too, I realize I might need to play more than planned and I’m fine with that. I’m sure there’s going to be a time to get some rest.
“It’s not my [decision on whether to play vs. Montreal]. It’s one of those games I don’t think any player really wants to miss because it’s a big rivalry, and they’re a great team. I definitely don’t want to miss that but we’ll see.”
There’s a ridiculous notion among some pockets of Bruins fans that Rask is looking to duck the Canadiens given his struggles vs. Montreal (5-15-3 with a 2.69 GAA and a .910 save percentage in 24 career games vs. the Habs) throughout his career, and Boston’s No. 1 goaltender will have missed the Habs twice already this season if rookie Zane McIntyre gets the call at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.
But that’s the right call given that Rask is playing through a lower body injury that keeps tweaking him right now, and that the Bruins need him to remain healthy enough to play rather than risking a greater injury for some kind of short term result against the hated Habs. With Monday night as the start of five games played in seven days, the Bruins and Rask need to be smart about his usage with an eye toward winning the war for the Black and Gold rather than the seasonal battle against their biggest divisional rivals off to a great start this season.