Get it? Two-kka… Tuukka? Ha… ok, well the notion seems silly now, but let’s remember that when the 2013 NHL playoffs began a month and a half ago, one of the biggest question marks surrounding the Bruins was regarding the ability of goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Sure, he was coming off a very good regular season (19-10-5, 2.00 GAA, .929 save percentage, five shutouts), but his playoff history was checkered at best. Plus he hadn’t appeared in the postseason since 2012. Boston still has plenty of work to do as it holds a 2-1 series lead over Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final, but most agree that if the B’s win twice more, Rask is a lock for the Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP) on a team with plenty of otherwise worthy candidates – Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci to name a few.
There is something ironic about Rask becoming arguably the best goaltender in the NHL when he wasn’t even nominated for the Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) during the regular season. Regardless, if the Bruins win the cup or not, you can count on one thing; Rask, a restricted free agent in the prime of his career at 26, is going to get paid this summer like the franchise goaltender he has proven to be. At the moment, Rask leads the NHL in all four major goaltending categories for the playoffs: Wins (14), Goals Against Average (1.64) save percentage (.946) and shutouts (3).
“He was very strong [in Game 3]” Chara said. “He made some big saves, especially when we needed it, so for sure it was a big performance by him.”
This run put together by the Bruins and especially Rask gets more impressive by the day. In the past seven games against what were thought to be the top two teams in the NHL, he’s recorded all three of his shutouts. In three other games, he allowed just one goal; the lone exception was the Blackhawks’ 4-3 overtime win in Game 1. So he’s give up seven goals in the last seven games. Keep in mind, a key aspect is that those include SIX Overtime games.
Now… If there are still any nay-sayers now who don’t see how instrumental Rask has been for the B’s in the Finals this year, then I just don’t know how to put it any simpler terms for you. He should be the Vezina Trophy winner this year, there I’ve said it.
“He’s been focused since day one of the playoffs,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “You watch him on off days, and he’s quiet, focused and calm. Right now, all his energy is put toward the game, how he needs to get his rest and relax. When the game starts, he’s a focused individual.”
Yeah, if that’s not a calm, cool, collected professional, I don’t know what is. He’s a contract killer… of the puck.
Yet regardless of all the negative hype from sports analysts regarding the Bruins ability to win it all this year, head coach Claude Julien remains Boston Strong.
He believes that bringing the Stanley Cup back to Boston could help put smiles on a lot of faces in Boston after April’s tragic marathon bombings.
“I think we can help in probably a large way.” Julien said. “Everybody is looking right now for something to cheer about, smile about. I guess it doesn’t fix the things or the people who have been lost. That will never be fixed. At the same time, you have to try to heal.” And I personally agree – I think the Boston Bruins have been quite instrumental in helping the city heal, and move on from the post-terrorist-attack traumatic and sad atmosphere that has been hovering over the city since Marathon day. My uncle was hurt that day, and I know it has given him something to hope for, and to cheer and smile and laugh for – and regardless, win or lose, I know this year will have been a success for Boston, and the Bruins organization.
Thinking to the future, while considering the ferocity and professionalism coming from the Bruins bench this year, I honestly believe that we have the talent, and the energy to pull this one off – and I hope that Stanley will find his home in Boston this year.
Now…. LETS GO BRUINS!!! (8PM EST TONIGHT!)