Shutout is more proof that Tuukka Rask is doing something special

Shutout is more proof that Tuukka Rask is doing something special

COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s not overstating things to say that Tuukka Rask is turning the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs into his own personal statement.

He’s certainly not doing it with his words and has never really been a guy that needs to say “I told you so,” or finds it necessary to clap back at past criticisms. It was fair game to criticize his play in big games for the Bruins and openly wonder whether the Finnish netminder would be able to carry the Bruins to the Stanley Cup as his former partner Tim Thomas memorably did back in 2011.

But his play in the first two rounds of these playoffs has spoken volumes for the B’s goaltender, and Game 6 was another resounding on-ice statement with a 39-save shutout effort in a 3-0 win that closed out the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Rask stood on his head, became a Black and Gold brick wall and was any other goaltending cliché for awesome while holding down a desperate Blue Jackets team that threw plenty of vulcanized rubber at the Boston net.

So is he happy people are talking about him terms of being a big game goalie based on these current playoffs?

It’s better than sucking, I guess,” said Rask, with a smirk. “You play enough in this league and you gain that experience in the regular season and the playoffs. You just tend to learn that it’s not all about you. You don’t have to do anything spectacular, and it’s a team sport. We play for each other. That’s helped me a lot. You just keep trying to carry it on.

“It’s a step toward the main goal. You try to battle hard every series, and you try to be the best that you can be as a team. Sometimes it’s enough and sometimes it isn’t. So far it has been and we’re trying to carry it on.”

In fact, Bruins fans shouldn’t be blamed if they’re starting to get a raging case of déjà vu with Thomas in 2011 while watching what Rask is doing in this postseason. This is quite simply the best that Rask has ever played when it mattered most, with a 2.02 goals against average and a .938 save percentage in the postseason, and a blistering .948 save percentage in a second-round series when he outplayed the outstanding Sergei Bobrovsky.

Thomas had a similar .937 save percentage after the first two rounds of the playoffs with the Bruins during their 2011 Stanley Cup run, but still had an epic Stanley Cup Final performance vs. the Vancouver Canucks ahead of him.

Just like Thomas all those eight years ago, those are Conn Smythe kind of numbers for Rask right now with a couple of rounds to go.

“You need your goaltender to deliver, and I think it’s stating the obvious that he did,” said Bruce Cassidy, of Rask’s sixth career playoff shutout on Monday night. “He looks really composed. They’d been bumping him and hitting him hard, and tonight they got called for it. I think there was some gamesmanship [John Tortorella’s “dent” comments] that most teams go through to try to get a goalie off his game. But he kept his composure. He was able to play through that and did a real nice job for us.

“He was definitely our most consistent player throughout the whole series. We had some guys that gave us really good performances within the series, but Rask was there every night. He deserves whatever accolades come to him. I’m proud of him.”

Certainly Rask is going to need to finish out strong and take the Bruins all the way to the Stanley Cup to completely answer the questions and permanently vanquish the critics, this humble hockey writer included. But he’s well on his way while admitting that his maturity and experience are difference-makers when it comes to approaching big playoff games, or even dealing with an annoyance like Columbus head coach John Tortorella claiming that Rask was “dented" after giving up a couple of late goals in Game 5.

Instead of being dented, it looks like Rask is having his signature Stanley Cup playoff run where talent, age and experience all morph into something special, and his performance finally starts consistently living up to the talent that’s been there all along.

There are still a couple of rounds to go for Rask with the Carolina Hurricanes next starting later this week in the Eastern Conference Final, and perhaps an even bigger challenge against whichever team may await them in the Stanley Cup Final if they’re lucky enough to get there again.

But these are glorious days for the Bruins, where Rask has been their best player through the first two grueling rounds of the playoffs, and his biggest moments have been in the biggest games — whether it was Game 7 vs. Toronto or Monday night’s Game 6 banishment of the gritty Blue Jackets to their offseason plans.   

Some will use this postseason to chirp Rask for not being this goalie in the past (cough, cough Felger), but that’s monumentally missing the point that Boston’s goalie is at a transcendent stage of his career where past experience, a strong situation with a very good backup and a young, improving defense are all coming together at once for him.

If Rask continues to play at his current clip with the Bruins still performing strongly in front of him, then the blue sky above is the limit in a wide open Stanley Cup playoff field. But at the very least, he has momentously shut up those critics who always dinged Rask for not being a big game goaltender when the stakes were at their highest.

Rask is a big game goaltender now, and only needs another month’s worth of big games to put Stanley Cup-worthy goalie next to his name as well.  

Bruins' Jake DeBrusk 'more aware of what to expect' as RFA after watching McAvoy, Carlo

Bruins' Jake DeBrusk 'more aware of what to expect' as RFA after watching McAvoy, Carlo

BRIGHTON, Mass. — Jake DeBrusk will be one of 10 potential free agents for the Bruins when this upcoming hockey season comes to a close, and further complicating things, the 22-year-old will be a restricted free agent. DeBrusk is coming off a career-high 27 goals scored during the regular season and a fairly disappointing postseason when he managed just four goals and 11 points in 24 playoff games.

Of course, the hindsight breakdown of DeBrusk’s postseason also includes that he may have been playing through a bit of a fog after absorbing a Nazem Kadri cross-check to the face in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Still, after averaging 21 goals and 42 points in his first two NHL seasons, DeBrusk will be looking at a substantial raise next summer provided he can put together another season with those kinds of numbers. So the Bruins left winger was watching things fairly closely with Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy this summer knowing that it will be his turn a year from now when he’s a part of another talented restricted free agent class.

“Obviously that’s going to be my situation [as an RFA]. Hopefully not [as a holdout], but maybe, possibly next year just looking around the league you see different things with guys dragging it out,” said DeBrusk, who will be joined by Brett Ritchie and Matt Grzelcyk as next summer’s restricted free agents for the Bruins. “It’s one of those where you ask questions on the business side of it. Things change and different stuff happens with talks, but at the same time I mostly just try to stay out of it. I try to stay dialed in to get ready for training camp and the season. I guess when that time comes, though, I’ll be more aware of what to expect.”

Certainly guys like Carlo and McAvoy will be more than happy to pass on whatever pearls of wisdom they derived from their RFA situations with the Bruins this summer.

“I’d say just to remain calm and don’t be shocked by different things with the back and forth, and how long [the entire] process might take. For me I didn’t expect it to be that long. I was excited when the season was over to sign back real fast, but it took a little bit more time than anticipated,” said Carlo. “You just try to be as patient as you can, but it’s really hard to be patient in that scenario with your first larger deal off your entry level. [At the end of the day] you’ve done everything you can do up to that point, so just stay calm [in negotiations].”

One would expect that DeBrusk saw a couple of guys from his draft class, Brock Boeser (3 years, $17.625 million) and Travis Konecny (six years, $33 million), both top $5 million per season on second contracts they signed less than a week ago, and knows that kind of payday awaits him as well. Boeser is in a bit of a different class given his upside and production, but DeBrusk and Konecny are pretty comparable players provided DeBrusk surpasses 20 goals and 40 points this season.

B's focused on improving 5-on-5 this season>>>>>

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Highlights of the Bruins' 3-2 preseason loss to the Blackhawks

Highlights of the Bruins' 3-2 preseason loss to the Blackhawks

FINAL SCORE: Blackhawks 3, Bruins 2 (OT)

IN BRIEF: Swedish free-agent signee Par Lindholm scored his first goal with the Bruins but Patrick Kane's goal in overtime gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 preseason victory over the B's in Chicago. Ryan Fitzgerald scored the other Bruins goal. BOX SCORE 








Vs. Flyers, Monday, 7 p.m., NESN Plus

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