During the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, then starting goalie Tim Thomas put the Bruins on his back and carried the team all the way to its first Stanley Cup victory in 39 years. Here and now in 2013 Tuukka Rask will need to do the same in order for the Bruins to recapture Lord Stanley’s cup.
It’s a bit unfair to ask Rask to put up the playoff numbers Thomas did in 2011, — 1.98 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage with four shutouts— but he certainly has to be one of, if not, the best Bruins on the ice.
We all know how the story played out in 2010, the last time Rask was the go-to-guy between the pipes for the Bruins in the playoffs as Rask and the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but this go around the Bruins have a different Rask in net.
“Yeah, you gain experience throughout the years and style-wise probably not too much, but maybe just the experience factor is there,” said Rask after the Bruins season ending 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
“Obviously I want to help the team to win series, that’s my biggest concern,” added Rask. “I’m not trying to really prove people wrong or anything like that. I just try to play as good as I can and help the team to win the series and see where that leaves us”
Rask has been great for the Bruins all season long, but has been brilliant for the Bruins in his career against the Maple Leafs. No. 40 enters the playoffs with a career 8-1 record against Toronto to go along with a 1.46 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage. Rask has shut the Leafs out once in those eight wins.
Confidence is going to be key for Rask in the series against the Leafs, and from every indication Rask has given, the confidence is there.
“It’s going to be great,” Rask said. “It’s been a couple of years since I last played in the playoffs, so looking forward to it, should be fun.”
Rask’s teammates have confidence in their goalie, something that can only help Rask and the Bruins moving forward.
“He’s hungry. I’m pretty close with him, so I know he wants this opportunity to prove himself and I know our team has all the confidence in the world in him,” said forward Shawn Thornton.
“We have all year and we have ever since he’s been here to tell you the truth. … The more he gets pressed the better he is, so we have a lot of confidence in him between the pipes. His numbers kind of speak for themselves.”
Rask’s play will be especially key because the Bruins struggle to put the puck in the net as the B’s averaged just 2.65 goals-per-game. The Bruins finished 13th in the league in the category. Stanley Cups are usually won thanks to defense and goaltending — see 2011 Bruins and 2012 Kings — and that will be the case this season if the Bruins are to capture their second Stanley Cup in three seasons.
Rask has seen a pretty heavy workload in the past week as the Bruins fought with the Montreal Canadiens for the Northeast Division crown, a fight that the Bruins lost. Rask started five of the Bruins final six games which were stretched out over a span of just eight days.
After the Bruins loss on Sunday night Rask was asked how he felt mentally and physically, his answer was simple.
That’s good for the Bruins, because an “awesome” Rask is the Bruins recipe to playoff success.
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