BRIGHTON, Mass – While so much of this first encouraging couple of weeks has been familiar for the Boston Bruins, one thing is a little different when it comes to the start of the season.
For the first time in a while, goalie Tuukka Rask is getting off to a strong start in the month of October. Last season Rask, of course, battled through a rough first month that ended with a personal leave of absence at the start of November. The numbers over the last five seasons of Octobers for Rask have been pretty brutal.
Whether it was last season’s 3.15 goals and against and .902 save percentage, or a 1-3-2 start with a 2.93 goals against average and .896 save percentage in 2017-18, or a 3.29 goals against average and .889 save percentage in 2015-16, it’s pretty clearly the worst month of the season for him. Over the course of his career, October features his highest career goals against average (2.49) and his lowest career save percentage (.915) of any month in the NHL regular season.
Even Rask has admitted in the past that it takes a while to get the engine going, particularly as a 32-year-old goalie preparing for the rigors of an entire regular season.
But that is not the case this time around.
Rask has been excellent in the first two weeks of the regular season and sits fourth in the entire NHL in both goals against average (1.33) and save percentage (.957) at this early juncture of the year. It’s something that has not gone unnoticed by the Bruins with Boston up at the top of all the defensive and goaltending categories along with the Anaheim Ducks team they will face on Monday afternoon.
“We’re still working on our game like every other team, and I thought that’s where Tuukka [Rask] really stepped up,” said Bruce Cassidy of Rask, who stopped all 31 of the shots he faced for his first shutout of the season Saturday night in a 3-0 win over the Devils. “That’s when he should get the credit. In a game like this, I thought that’s when he earned his paycheck tonight. We broke down a lot there, trying to break pucks out and had some loose play. He was really good.
“Our goaltending has been solid. We knew that coming in [with] two veteran, professional guys.”
Is there anything that Rask himself attributes it to after traditionally struggling so much to get going early in the season?
“I don’t know. We’re playing good,” said Rask. “When you finish your season in June it helps everybody to give you that feeling in the back of your head that you want to play this game. System-wise I think we’ve been pretty solid, so I’m just tagging along there.”
Certainly there is more there than Rask casually saying that he’s “tagging along” with the rest of the Bruins off to a 4-1-0 start. The real question now is just how good can Rask be this season if he doesn’t have that traditional subpar month of October to drag him down as he’s well on his way to blowing up that well-worn narrative about him during his time in Boston.
Now he just needs to keep going for a few more weeks until the calendar turns to November and December, which have always been among his months as an NHL goaltender.
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