Patrice Bergeron helped snap the Ottawa Senators’ five-game win streak on Thursday night with an overtime goal, beating the Sens 2-1. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ice, goaltender Tuukka Rask made 30 saves throughout the night and helped the Bruins start the month of March off with a five-game winning streak.
The Bruins will rely heavily on Rask, their starting goaltender for the next stretch of games. They began the 2013 season playing their first 14 games of the season in a 36-day span; however, things are going to get busy for the Bruins with their final 31 games of the season within the next 59 days.
It certainly will be more of a workload than Rask had been used to in the past few seasons as the backup goaltender for Tim Thomas, but head coach Claude Julien has just as much confidence in Rask as he did with Thomas.
“We’re going to be talking at the end of the year and evaluating our team and that includes Tuukka,” said Julien. “Right now, there’s no doubt I have the same confidence I had at the beginning. At the same time, Tuukka is going to want to prove himself through a whole year and not just a 20-game span or a half a season, he’s going to want to be solid from start to finish. I think that’s his challenge this year that he’s looking forward to.”
Prior to this season, and for a large part of his time in Boston, Rask was placed in the backup role on the Bruins’ roster for Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas. Rask’s time in Boston (primarily spent as a backup) paid off for him this past summer when Thomas announced his break from hockey.
Although Rask was the clear starting goaltender, due to the lockout he started the hockey season with the Plzen in the Czech Republic (with a 10-7-0 record and a 2.13 GAA). Now that hockey is back in Boston, Rask is showing the maturity and skill it takes to be a successful starting goaltender- which certainly might have to do with spending much of his time watching Tim Thomas become one of the most elite goaltenders in the league.
“I think he’s been fortunate to be here, I think we’ve been fortunate to have him here with a good goaltender in Tim [Thomas], so he’s learned the rope the right way,” said Julien. “He’s never been put in a really tough pressure situation where he was allowed to grow at a decent rate and now he’s ready for it. Having been here for five years, or four years now at least, he’s a goaltender ready to take over.”
And take over he has. Rask is ranked number one in wins, with 11 wins in the season so far and only one loss. He currently sits in fifth place in the league with a .933 save percentage.
“He’s playing great,” said defenseman Andrew Ference. “I don’t think he’s really surprising anybody. He’s been solid for us for a number of years and just kind of waiting patiently. I know everybody wanted the best for him, so it’s just really nice to see him doing what I think everybody hoped and expected he would do, but he’s living up to expectations which is not easy to do, especially in that position.”
With a slew of games coming up for Rask, it’s another chance for the Finnish netminder to prove himself yet again that he can be the day-to-day starter for the Bruins over an extended period of time.
“I think when you know you’re capable of doing the job and you have the abilities to be our number one, you want to thrive on your chance and he’s doing that right now,” said teammate Patrice Bergeron. “He grabbed it, and he’s running with it.”