The Boston Bruins came out of the All-Star break on a mission. Claude Julien’s bunch invaded Long Island to take on the top seeded New York Islanders and steam rolled them 5-2 behind 43 saves by their workhorse Tuukka Rask.
Rask was the Bruins best player on the ice all night long making timely save after timely save including a ridiculous stick save that brought B’s fans back four years when Tim Thomas made an identical almost impossible save. The 27 year-old notched his 21st win of the season Thursday night.
Following his 43-save performance against the Isles, Rask turned in another near perfect showing stopping 30 of 31 shots against the Los Angeles Kings.
“Oh no doubt, no doubt,” head coach Claude Julien said after his team’s 3-1 win over the defending Stanley Cup champions. “I mean he’s been great. We’ve talked about it for a long time and you know this last month he’s been on fire. I said that this morning-you know, you ride a goaltender that’s hot as much as you can without you know doing some damage. But again, he made some huge saves at some opportune times. But so did the other guy at the other end. So you know it was a good goaltender duel tonight and a battle overall from two teams.”
The Finnish net-minder has been on an absolute roll lately. Over his last 15 starts, Rask owns a 10-1-4 record. Over his last 10 starts, Rask has only allowed more than three goals just once to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but it was in a B’s win. His 22 wins on the season now rank him 10th in the NHL while his .921 save percentage-which is slowly rising-ranks him 12th in the league.
Rask’s numbers have risen since the return of Zdeno Chara and of course, there is a direct correlation. Sure, Rask had his troubles mid season due to the absence of Chara, but with him back at full strength, he is a totally different goaltender.
It’s safe to say Rask is back to his Vezina trophy form from a year ago.
“Well I think that he’s been really strong for us,” Chara said of his goaltender. “He’s obviously a good goalie and when he gets into his own zone and playing with confidence, he’s obviously on top of the league.”
“He definitely was our best player in January and last game and here tonight he definitely stepped his game up to the level that he’s capable of playing at,” added Milan Lucic. “So he’s a huge part of our team, probably the most important part of our team. With his ability and his competitiveness and we’re grateful to have a guy like that between the pipes.”
Rask will look to keep the ball rolling when the B’s travel back to New York to take on the Rangers on Wednesday night.