BOSTON – As Tuukka Rask goes, so go the Bruins right now.
At least that’s been the case lately as a refocused No. 1 goaltender and his surging hockey team once again were in synch together during a quality win over a playoff-level opponent.
The Bruins No. 1 goaltender has won four games in a row, while the Bruins have captured right wins in their past 10 games. The team's last win was a 3-1 triumph over the high-octane New York Islanders on Saturday night. Rask stopped 30-of-31 shots in the victory, and was at his best in the third period when the Bruins killed off a pair of five minute major penalties. Tuukka provided the steady goaltending they had been looking for.
Bruce Cassidy said the settled play and approach from his goaltender helped tell him the story of how his Bruins team was going to play that night: smooth, confident play that never allowed the Isles much room or time to operate their offensive game.
Contrast Rask right now with the frazzled, overactive goalie from the first six weeks of the season, and it certainly paints a picture of why he was inconsistent.
“Tuukka [Rask], you can usually tell by how calm and composed he looks – and it means we’re generally calm and composed in front of him for the most part. It’s not scrambly, so he doesn’t have to become scrambly,” said Bruce Cassidy. “That’s usually a good indicator, and I thought Tampa he was, Philly, and so we’re getting the result for him, playing in front of him well and scoring a few more goals. He’s earning his breaks in nets now, too.”
Clearly Rask was on top of his game by the time the third period rolled around, and he was flashing the pads and maybe even a little Finnish swagger when he swallowed up a Mathew Barzal wrist shot clean from the face-off dot. It was one of 12 saves that Rask made in the final 20 minutes as the Isles attempted to make a hurried comeback, and the Bruins needed their No. 1 goalie to start making all manner of saves while the B’s defense refused to buckle despite killing off penalties most of the period.
The Bruins did give up a goal to Anders Lee as one of the penalties expired to keep things tight, but they did all bending, and no breaking, in this one, and that’s all they needed.
“We played a great game. It started in the first period, we had our legs, we were skating, had a lot of jump, didn’t give them anything,” said Rask, who is sporting a .946 save percentage over his last six games. “A lot of power plays they had but we shut them down pretty good. That last one there, they made a last play there but other than that I thought we did a really good job blocking shots and keeping them to the outside."
“I’ve had good rhythm to my game. Guys are doing a good job eliminating the second chances and obviously if you don’t get rebounds all the time it helps too. But we’re skating back so hard that we are kind of forcing them to take shots in bad spots. When they don’t have all the time in the world to pick the corners up, it’s kind of easier for me too. I think that’s played a huge part of that, coming back to our own zone and shutting them down the slot area and also blocking a ton of shots.”
Clearly there’s still some work to do for Rask as he’s still tied for 22nd in the league in save percentage (.912) and ninth in the NHL with a 2.43 goals against average, but his sluggish start is beginning to fade as he strings together a strong stretch of goaltending. It all started with some time on the pine for four games in a row amid his struggles, and since that point he’s been the No. 1 that the B’s need if they’re going anywhere this season.