There’s no denying that the Pittsburgh Penguins have their share of offensive weapons in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla and Kris Letang, just to name a few. That will be one tough task for Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins entering the Eastern Conference Finals beginning Saturday night at the Consol Energy Center.
Three years removed from his first playoff appearance, Rask has been very solid. The Finnish netminder is 8-4 this postseason with a 2.22 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. But its his coolness between the pipes that is standing out the most.
Outside of his blunder against the Rangers in Game 4, Tuukka has delivered in the clutch. The very next game, Rask, calm, cool and collected, stoned Ryan Callahan on a breakaway to keep the Bruins ahead 2-1 in the third period. Against the Maple Leafs in Game 4 of their first round series, he stoned Joffery Lupul in overtime to keep things tied at 3-3 prior to David Krejci’s game-winner.
Those are just a couple of examples of Rask delivering in crunch time. But the Bruins will need a lot more from Rask if they want to advance to their second Stanley Cup Finals appearance in three seasons.
For now, Tuukka is just going with the flow as the team embarks on their second conference finals appearance in three years.
“He’s one of those guys that goes along with the rest of the team,” head coach Claude Julien said about his starting goalie. “A lot of goaltenders go into their bubble, you can’t talk to them before a game, or you can’t do this or that. He goes along with the flow and focuses on his game. I know it sounds like I’m being sarcastic or funny here, but he is; he’s as normal as I’ve seen in a goaltender.”
The task of stopping Crosby, Malkin, Iginla, Letang, and others may seem like a daunting task to many goalies on a given night, but not to “the Tuukka”.
Rask, who now has 15 career postseason victories, knows the Penguins are going to come out firing. But he is up for the challenge of trying to stop a Pittsburgh offense that is averaging an astonishing 4.27 goals per game during the postseason.
“Maybe to a certain extent you have to accept that they are going to score some goals, but it’s what type of goals that matter,” Rask said. “Are they bad goals or are they ones that you have no chance?”
One thing is for sure, this won’t be any ordinary hockey series.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Rask said about the conference finals, “but I don’t think it’s going to be like a fathers-and-sons game.”
Regardless of what lies ahead, Julien sees more confidence in Rask, even though he’s only started 25 career postseason contests.
“To me, it’s more about the confidence that you have in yourself, the ability you have and how you face the challenge. To me, in our situation, our goaltender has been around. Even though he was behind Tim Thomas, he’s been around quite a few years with us,” Julien said about Rask’s postseason experience. “To me, he’s got the experience enough to know what to do, and I think he showed us especially in Game 5 [against the Rangers]. That Game 4 [in New York] could have been a lot more devastating than it was, but how he rebounded in Game 5 shows me that there’s no issues there.”