Were people really worried? Or were they just trying to find a non-existent weak spot on the Boston Bruins roster?
I know, I know, it’s only two games into the season, but all I heard all offseason were questions about current Bruins starting goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Could he handle the load? Could he handle the spotlight? Could he take over for other-worldly goaltender Tim Thomas and step out of Thomas’ giant shadow?
Well, so far all he’s done is let up 2 goals in 2 games while leading the Bruins to 2 wins and their first 2-0 start to an NHL regular season since 2001-02 (a lot of “2’s” in this article, that sentence and in the headline). Even as great as he was, Thomas never did that.
Rask has stopped 46 of 48 shots he’s faced this season for a spectular .958 save percentage and an even more ridiculous .96 goals against average. Again, I know it’s only been two games but he has been sharp in both so far and is putting a lot of doubts about him being the B’s starting goalie to rest.
Not to mention last year’s Vezina winner (NHL’s best goaltender award), New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, has started this short season off with an 0-2 record to go with an atrocious .865 save % and a whopping 4.75 GAA. I’ll say it again and for the last time, I know it’s only been two games but I’m liking what I see from Rask so far, especially when you look at what’s going on around the league and what he’s done before.
My only fear with Rask is he has a tendency to breakdown, or I shouldn’t even say it’s a tendency because it’s only happened once and the whole team fell apart.
The last time Rask was the starter for the Bruins was 2010-11. Most remember that as the year the B’s had an epic playoff collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers and blew a 3-0 series lead, as well as a 3-0 game 7 lead as they eventually fell to the Flyers in 7 games. Awful, just awful, talk about the wheels falling off.
That year Rask took over as the starter a little bit before the midway point of the season and he finished the year with Vezina type numbers. Only problem was like the rest of the team Tuukka fell apart when it mattered the most.
After that epic downfall, Thomas recovered from offseason hip surgery and took the starting job right out of Rask’s hands after only the 2nd game of the next season and never looked back. It didn’t help Rask that Thomas went on to win the Stanley Cup and shatter a whole lot of goaltending records on his way to winning the Vezina and Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) as well.
Now we come to this season, where Thomas is at home in Colorado preparing for the world to end and Rask is the starting goaltender for the B’s. Rask has been sharp so far and I have no reason to doubt he’ll be just fine the rest of the way. He’s young, highly skilled and should be motivated considering he’s only playing on a one-year deal for the Bruins while trying to show the B’s and the NHL for that matter, that he is an NHL starter and a very good one at that. It also helps that he has arguably one of the best defensive cores in the league in front of him and a defense-first system preached by head coach Claude Julien. Add all that up and throw in a calm, fundamentally sound goaltender and you have a recipe for keeping a lot of pucks out of the back of the net.
We know and always knew Rask has what it takes to succeed during the NHL regular season, the question now is, can he be the guy come playoff time?