It didn’t matter how pretty or how ugly. It didn’t matter how easy or how difficult. All that mattered was that in front of Tuukka Rask, the Bruins played well and in playing well, translated that into two points.
They did both.
After Sunday’s tough loss to the Edmonton Oilers, a game that marked Rask’s first start since November 15th, head coach Bruce Cassidy was asked which of his two goaltenders would get the nod against the high-powered Tampa Bay Lightning.
It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon that Cassidy revealed his decision. Regardless of the eventual outcome – a 3-2 victory – the call was the right one.
Yes, Khudobin has been the better of the two of late. But if the Bruins are looking to make a playoff appearance for the second straight season, they’re going to need Rask to win games against opponents like the Lightning.
Sure, the Lightning were completing a four-game road trip that saw them play in a pair of back-to-backs, but any win against a team ahead of you in the standings is a good thing. It’s a good confidence booster, too.
“He’s a good goalie, we’ve said that all along, and tonight we got three for him, he made the big save – everything we talked about,” Cassidy said following Wednesday’s win. “He made those big saves and we got him the extra goal and he got the extra saves.”
Rask’s game so far this season has been subpar at best. Although he wasn’t tested all that much on Wednesday, the win was one of Rask’s better ones of the 2017-18 season. Albeit he only has four of them.
After the Bruins offense did their part in jumping out to a 3-0 lead thanks in large part to their best opening period of the season by far, they needed Rask to do his part.
He did just that.
Tampa Bay’s first goal came off of a massive screen, their second because of a wide-open Steven Stamkos on the power play. Neither was Rask’s fault.
Coaches and goalies often look back at each loss and focus on a save or two they should have made. A save that would change the game. Wednesday morning Cassidy addressed that when referring to Sunday’s loss.
“Like I’ve said with Tuukka I think it comes down to one save, or one goal at the other end,” Cassidy said during his pregame media availability at Warrior Ice Arena. “If [Frank] Vatrano scores late after some good work then maybe it goes a different way [on Sunday]. Hopefully tonight he makes that extra save, or we have that extra goal.”
Well, Cassidy certainly got his wish with Rask’s one extra save.
That save came late in the second period. At the time, the Bruins still held onto a 3-1 lead. Rask’s huge left pad stop on the league’s second-leading goal scorer Nikita Kucherov was his best of the night.
“It’s one of those saves that, you slide in there and try to get everything in front of the puck as possible, and this time I had my glove and it bounced in front of me,” Rask said of his save on Kucherov. “It’s just one of those that, you do everything you can to have pads in there, and this time it hit me.”
Being the high caliber goalie he his – while going up against two of the league’s best in Stamkos and Kucherov – Rask knows that this type of save is one people expect him to make.
“Well those are the saves the people expect you to make, and you talk about after the game that, ‘You should have saved that and keep the lead,’ and now you talk that it was a timely save,” said Rask.
“So it’s something that you always do, you want to do, and you try to do, and hopefully more often than not you actually save those.”
Thanks to his solid performance in the victory, the talk of the Bruins goaltending controversy can be put to bed. Well, for one night at least.