Tuukka Rask Holds The Key To Another Stanely Cup Run For The Boston Bruins
If you’re a Boston Bruins fan you never want to see 2011 come to an end. Here as the holidays draw closer, and 2012 seems more and more eminent, loyal followers of the spoked B will undoubtedly cherish these finals days of 2011. And why not? 2011 was the year that everything changed in The Hub of Hockey. For the first time since Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew patrolled the Rose Garden the Bruins lifted Lord Stanley’s Cup and in the process dropped off nearly 4 decades of playoff baggage.
Suddenly the Bruins had nifty forwards like Brad Marchand & Tyler Seguin, the kind of players that always seemed to beat the Black & Gold in years past. But more so than the presence of Marchand, Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, Nathan Horton, or even captain Zdeno Chara, the Bruins Stanley Cup ride was fueled by Conn Smythe winning Goalie Tim Thomas. Thomas’ serendipitous spring which featured three Game 7 wins, including shutouts in the finale of the Conference Finals at the New Garden against Tampa and another in 7th Game in Vancouver to secure the Cup. In winning the Conn Smythe Thomas became the oldest player in NHL history to win the award at 37 years of age, and when the playoffs begin next spring Thomas will be celebrating his 38th birthday.
While Thomas has shown virtually no effects of the relentless pursuit of father time, the Bruins know that one man could hold the key to making a return trip to the finals to defend the crown. The man in question? None other than backup goal tender Tuukka Rask.
It was Rask who was the Boston net minder in the spring of 2010 when the Bruins folded in epic fashion against the eventual conference champion Flyers in the 2nd round of the playoffs, but the blood of the collapse was never on the gloves of Rask. Tuukka Rask came to Boston in June of 2006 in exchange for washed out phenom Andrew Raycroft and played a big role for the Bruins in 2009-2010 as Tim Thomas recovered from hip surgery. In Thomas’s place Rask showed shades of brilliance, but when Thomas returned to Vezna form last season Rask saw his playing time take a dramatic down turn. Now, after the longest season in a life time of long hockey seasons, Tim Thomas needs as much reprieve as possible.
After getting off to a shaky start Rask, and the Bruins have found their stride in recent days. Winners of 4 straight the team has been sparked by the dazzling play of 19-year old Tyler Seguin. After Rask earned his first victory of the year in a 6-2 defeat of the New York Islanders at the New Garden at sense of confidence and relief seemed to settle of the Bruins dressing room after the game. Getting a victory under Rask’s belt was vital as the Bruins began to recover from a massive Stanley Cup hangover.
Rask, who had struggled like many of his teammates at the outset of the season had this to say after notching his first W of the year:
“I wasn’t too frustrated, but obviously, when you feel like you’re playing OK and then you’re just losing, it’s kind of tough on your confidence a little bit. But we battled through it and its good to get that win.’’
Center Patrice Bergeron added, “It’s nice, we talked about it for a while here. He deserves many more wins than what he’s got right now. We had to do it for him. We weren’t sharp in front of him and that’s our fault that we didn’t get the wins before, but we were happy for him. He got us in the game again tonight.’’
Rask’s renaissance continued in last night’s 6-3 victory over Edmonton when stopped 27/30 shots including 12 3rd period saves to seal the game. In a post-game interview Bruins coach Claude Julian had this to say about his goaltenders.
“It’s hard for a goaltender to play every 10 days (in reference to Rask) every once in a while, you’ve got to allow him to get on a roll a little bit.”
“You probably know who’s going to be in nets the next game. But the bottom line is that we’ve got a lot of games coming up. I wanted to get him an opportunity to get closer to being at the best he can be. The only way we felt we could do that was by giving him some consecutive games.’’
Tuukka Rask will backup Tim Thomas when the Sabers come to the New Garden for Saturday Night’s Main Event, and will serve in that role for the remainder of the season. How Rask performs in his role as active understudy to Thomas will play a pivotal role in the success of the defending champions.