With Anton Khudobin playing well over the last couple of weeks, many Bruins were wondering if there was a goaltending controversy in The Hub of Hockey. After getting his first start since Saturday, Tuukka Rask laid any discussion to rest.
By no means is this a knock on Khudobin, who’s been solid whenever Claude Julien puts him in as the starting goalie (8-3-1, .929 save percentage and 2.07 goals against average). But it’s a sign of Rask (still) solidifying his spot as the Bruins’ No. 1 guy between the pipes.
On a night where Jaromir Jagr stole the headlines in his debut, Rask stopped all 40 shots and backstopped the Black and Gold to a 1-0 win over the New Jersey Devils in front of another sellout crowd of 17,565 at the TD Garden.
It didn’t take long for Tuukka to get in a groove, either, as he faced 17 shots in the first 20 minutes. For some, it would have taken a while to shake off some rust after a lengthy rest. But for Rask, it was a good way to get back to work.
“I was saying to Dooby [Khudobin] in the first intermission that I would rather take 17 shots then three or four to get going,” Rask said. “Even though they had 17 shots, there were a lot of shots from the outsides so it was good to get that feeling.”
Perhaps this was a strategy for Devils coach Peter DeBorer, whose team has struggled offensively without sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. But Rask was certainly ready against a New Jersey team that only has 89 goals through 35 games.
“If they were looking to see if Tuukka was sharp or not – if that’s the case – I think he warmed up pretty good, and [he] did a good job the rest of the way,” Julien said.
Tuukka’s shutout came after Khudboin put in a 45-save performance two nights prior against the Ottawa Senators. The two goalies saw a combined 87 shots on goal, which could easily be a concern for the Bruins’ defense.
For Julien, however, getting the performance out of Tuukka was just what the doctored ordered.
“He was one of the reasons why we won, obviously,” said the Bruins bench boss. “He made the big saves when he had to and kept us in the lead at times when they could have gotten themselves back into the game. He was good for us tonight, and sometimes a little bit of rest and a little bit of work with the goalie coach [Bob Essensa] is what goaltenders need.”
Saturday night the Bruins travel to Montreal to face Canadiens for the last time in the 2013 season, and it will once again be for first place in the Northeast Division.
It’s no secret that Tuukka has not fared well in his career against Les Habitants, going 2-7-2 in 11 starts with a less than pedestrian .898 save percentage and 2.92 goals against average. But there is a silver lining as Rask (16-5-4, 1.94 GAA and .927 SV%) performed well in the first meeting up in the Bell Centre, leading the Black and Gold to a 2-1 victory back on Feb. 6.
In a pivotal late season matchup against their arch-rivals, Tuukka is trying to keep his emotions in check.
“I’m not going to get excited at all because I’ve tried that and it didn’t work out too well the last time,” he said. “They’re always exciting games and they’re always high emotion games, so for a goalie it’s a tough job to just keep yourself calm and try to focus on stopping the puck and not getting all hyped up. I’m just trying my best not to get carried away.”