BRIGHTON, Mass. — Any Bruins/Maple Leafs matchup will have plenty of juice to it given their standing as divisional rivals and based on their recent playoff matchups against each other.
But Tuesday night’s B’s/Leafs rematch at TD Garden in the home-and-home series will also feature Tuukka Rask reaching an important milestone for goaltenders: 500 NHL games played. For goaltenders it represents the same as position players hitting the 1,000 games played mark as both Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron have done to much pomp and circumstance.
It’s appropriate that it comes against a Toronto team that drafted him in the first round and traded him away to Boston in exchange for Andrew Raycroft in one of the worst trades in the distinguished, star-crossed history of the Maple Leafs.
“It was the lockout draft, so I never went to the draft and I never even wore the [Maple Leafs] jersey. They sent me my draft jersey, so it’s still in my lake house as a memory,” said Rask, who is 268-150-59 in his career and holds the Bruins franchise lead in games played (499), wins (268) and save percentage (.922), among other categories for the Original Six team. “It’s a milestone game, so it’s good and fun. I played my first [NHL] game against the Leafs and now it’s a milestone game against them. It’s kind of cool.
“They say it’s like 1,000 games for the [position] players, so it’s a big milestone. You play 500 games as a goalie it’s going to take some years, so it just goes to show you how old I am, I guess. That’s about it. It goes by so quickly. You don’t pay attention to how many total games you’ve played until you’ve reached a milestone and then you start looking back and say, ‘Holy crap — it’s 500 games and 11 years or whatever.’ Time flies. I’m just grateful I’ve been part of this team for so long and that I’m still in it.”
Rask is also off to one of the best starts of his NHL career with a 3-0-1 record along with a 1.72 goals against average and a .946 save percentage, and has settled into an alternating goalie rotation with Jaroslav Halak that’s working well for both netminders. Now he gets to celebrate a career milestone in a big game, and the Bruins hope that turns into a trademark performance from their goaltender that would continue a fast Rask start from a notoriously slow performer out of the gate.
“I think it’s a great achievement. It should his durability and the way he takes care of himself and we are certainly very happy for him,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “He deserves the accomplishment and whatever comes with it. The noticeable part of it is that he’s been playing very good and high-quality hockey for a long time.”
There are still things remaining for Rask to accomplish in a Bruins uniform, most notably getting the Stanley Cup win after falling a little short in 2013 and 2019, but Tuesday night is a good time to salute so many of the good things the netminder has done in being arguably the best regular-season goalie in the Original Six team’s long and storied history.
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