Despite their two previous victories over the Tampa Bay Lightning by a combined score of 8-1, the Boston Bruins had a good test in front of them against the Atlantic Division leaders.
Once again, the Bruins passed that test in a physical 3-0 victory in front of 17,565 at the TD Garden. Here are three takeaways from the victory.
Tuukka continues his dominance against the Lightning
149:28. That is a pretty good number for an NHL goalie, and it is no different for Tuukka Rask, who posted his second straight shutout against the B’s divisional foes.
The 26-year old Finnish netminder has not allowed a goal against the Lightning since opening night when Valterri Fippula scored at 10:32 of the second period. Additionally, Rask has a ridiculous 0.33 goals against and a .988 save percentage in three games against Tampa this year.
Rask, however, will give credit to how his team is playing in front of him.
“I think as a team we play pretty good games against them and it helps my job a lot,” Rask said. “I think one of the best games we play as a team is always against these guys.”
But Tuukka’s success goes far beyond that shutout streak. After Monday’s win, the Finnish netminder is tied for third in the league in wins (10), while posting a .948 save percentage and 1.52 goal against average good for second and first in the league in those respective categories.
Rask’s early season performance is making him an early favorite for the Vezina Trophy, and it could even put him in the Hart Trophy discussion.
“It’s kind of becoming expected of him, so it’s a regular thing. It’s important to not forget about what he does,” a returning Matt Bartkowski said about Tuukka. “In my mind, he’s the best goalie in the league and he shows that game in and game out. It makes it easier knowing that if you do make a mistake, he’ll clean it up for you.”
Penalty kill flexes its muscle
Their four-goal letdown against the New Jersey Devils last month is a distant memory.
The Bruins penalty kill extended their streak to 22 attempts without allowing a power play goal after a perfect 4-for-4 showing on Monday.
During Claude Julien’s tenure, the B’s have taken great pride in their penalty kill. And it’s no different this year, especially with an improved power play.
“Sometimes you can be doing all the right things and you get tough bounces. And in a scenario we had against New Jersey – whether we deserved to have four goals scored on us or not – it happens,” Gregory Campbell said. “Sometimes those things like that are a wake up call and it’s not that we’re doing anything differently, but we take a lot of pride in the penalty kill and it’s a big part of our game.”
Stamkos injured in the second period
It was one of those injuries that wasn’t for the faint of heart.
During the second period, Steven Stamkos tried to stop a Bruins scoring chance. Unfortunately, after flying past Dougie Hamilton, the league’s leading scorer rammed his leg into the post and laid motionless in front of Bolts goalie Anders Lindback for several minutes before being carted off the ice on a stretcher.
The TD Garden went silent for several minutes right up until Bergeron’s goal. It was a tough site to watch, especially for such a talented player like Stamkos, who is out indefinitely with a broken tibia.
“That is a big blow to them. Nobody wants to see that happen to anybody,” said Jarome Iginla, who scored the empty netter in the third period for his fourth goal of the season. “He’s a tough player and he plays hard. So he must have been in some serious pain.”
Not only is Stamkos skilled, but he plays the game the right way and he’s a true warrior. This is the same player that took a Johnny Boychuk slap shot to the nose in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011 and only missed one shift. That is just a small example of the respect players, coaches, fans and others have for the former first overall pick.
It’s players like Stamkos, who hasn’t missed a game due to injury in his six-year NHL career, that the league can promote. And it’s a reason why the hockey world hopes for him to make a speedy recovery.
“Fans in Boston came to see the Bruins, but they also come to see guys like Steven Stamkos,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who is in his first full season in Tampa. “It’s a tough loss for everyone.”