Well, that’s a pretty simple no-brainer isn’t it? Tuukka Rask has been exceptional this year. He proved without a doubt he could handle the pressure of being the number one netminder by taking the Boston Bruins all the way to the Stanley cup Finals last year. (On an odd note, it was also the first time in twenty five years a non-playoff goalie won the Vezina, Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets.) He has picked up the mantle of Tim Thomas(and that was a near Herculean task in its own right) and made the crease his very own.
Now that I’ve dispensed with the ‘homer’ portion of the argument, let’s get down to facts. Tuukka holds spots in the top five in all the important categories in the National Hockey League. Rask is the league leader in shutouts this season with seven. His Goals against average (GAA) of 2.04 is the fourth best in the league. His save percentage of .930 is second. For total overall wins this season, Rask is fifth with thirty six. If any player has earned the MVP this season it’s the twenty seven year old from Tampere, Finland.
Rask has been a critical component for the Boston Bruins as their soared through the rankings, powered recently by a 15-1-1 March to place and keep the Bruins in the number one spot in the Eastern Conference. Even with tonight’s 1-0 loss to Detroit (powered by a rather beautiful goal by the Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk) the Bruins are still considered the team to be the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. It’s only been one game, but a .958 save percentage is not a bad way to start the playoffs.
It’s not a slam dunk for Rask this year though. He’s got tight competition from Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche. Both Bishop and Varlamov had to make due with serious holes in their rosters and at points it was Varlamov carrying the Avalanche through the season. For Rask to win, he’s going to need to keep an obscenely high save percentage, and take the Bruins further in the playoffs than either Tampa Bay or Colorado.