The Boston Bruins have found a way to stay in the playoff race thanks to a solid game from goaltender Tuukka Rask. Rask’s performance against the Predators should help his credibility with his critics.
Tuukka Rask has had a rough stretch of late. The Boston Bruins number one goaltender has had to deal with four straight losses. That bad run was added to a reoccurring lower-body injury that kept him out of last Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders. Rask’s most recent absence set off a media and social media firestorm over Rask.
The Finnish netminder had to find a way to silence some of his critics, and he was able to do ease the griping on Tuesday night. Rask made 24 of 25 saves in a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators.
“Well, we needed [a win],” said Rask on the win. “Personally, I mean, I’ve lost four games but played a couple good games there, and we just didn’t get the bounces. But we kind of got in winning habits there in [Broooklyn] and me stepping in here, I just wanted to make sure that I gave us a chance to win. The guys did the rest. So, it was a great team effort today, I think. As I said before, we blocked a lot of shots, which is huge.”
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The Bruins ended up blocking a combined 25 shots in that game. The team as a whole were certainly there for Rask making his job easier. Had the team been there for Rask during the Tampa Bay game, the results could have certainly been different.
The Bruins win has helped the former Vezina winner. Still, he’s got a way to go in order to defend his reputation.
Rask has to find a way to finish strong in the last six games of the season. Anton Khudobin will pick up one of the B’s back-to-back games this weekend. This means Rask has to go 4-1 or even 5-0 if he’s going to keep the Bruins in the playoffs and further silence those who hate him for being hurt/sick at critical moments, his seven million dollar contract, or not being Canadian.
Rask’s detractors have one strong argument that even those in the Rask camp (like myself) find hard to refute. The 30-year old netminder’s performance always declines as the season progresses. While some can mark it up as a combination of fatigue and injury, it has hurt the Bruins in the home stretch.
In the last four years his save percentage during the months of March and April has declined sharply. During his Vezina-winning season, his March/April save percentage was .935. Two years ago it dipped slightly to .928. Last season it plummeted to a barely usable 908. Going into the Predator game, Rask’s March/April numbers were a wholly unacceptable .890.
Rask’s numbers are better than players like Tim Thomas. He finds himself among the top Bruins goaltenders of all-time. But if he wants to kill this negative reputation, he’s got to come up big for the Black and Gold in the final weeks of the season.
That means a few big wins. It means Rask stands on his head when the B’s defence gives the other team opportunities. Rask leading the team back to the playoffs will certainly help as well. While this team may not have ‘Stanley Cup winner’ written on it, it will be up to Rask in the next few years to make sure they get as far as they can.
If Rask can’t accomplish this, he’ll be relegated to the second-tier of Bruins goalies no matter what his final stats say about him.