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Tuukka Rask is the Man in Goal for Bruins — Can He Be the Man Against the Canadiens?


Honestly, I have no idea what that headline means, either. And I wrote the damn thing.

That all-time great reader-engaging lede to a column out of the way, I will now do something brazen and attempt to get to the point.

Tuukka Rask is a hell of a goalie. He’s supremely talented and supremely confident, the favorite for the Vezina. There are few goalies you would ever consider trading him for, even Andrew Raycroft.

I just wish, sometimes, probably more often than should happen with a netminder of his talent, pedigree, and accomplishment, that he were little bit better.

Last night was one of those times.

Rask was good, fine, at times spectacular during the Bruins’ 4-3 double-overtime loss to the Canadiens Thursday night in Game 1 of their second-round series. He saw 33 shots. He stopped 29 of them. One of the four goals he allowed — the second, by Rene Bourque — could be called a softie. The winner certainly was not.
P.K. Subban, that worst kind of opponent — a habitual annoyance who also happens to be a star who rises to the moment — pierced him twice, including the winner. Both came on the power-play, and it would have required extraordinary luck of placement and timing for Rask to stop Subban’s second goal in particular.
He had no chance, left to wave futilely before skating off. As always, Rask, whose freak-out temper and habitual candor are parts of his charm, was typically frank in his self-assessment after the game.
“I was [expletive] tonight — when you suck, you suck,” Rask said.
“I think as a team we deserved to win. But from a goalie standpoint, I thought [Canadiens goalie Carey] Price played a lot better than I did.”


Right on both counts. The Bruins were the superior team Thursday night, and that’s reassuring in one regard: If they continue to play this way, they should win the series. But filing out of the Garden or clicking off you’re TV last night, you also had to wonder: Will Carey Price, Rask’s Canadien counterpart, continue to perform with such brilliance?
Though the Bruins solved him in the third period, erasing 2-0 and 3-2 deficits, he was impenetrable against 15 shots on net in the two overtimes, and on 48 of 51 shots overall. And it’s not as if he lacks accomplishment — he’s a three-time All-Star and the goalie for the Canadian gold-medal winners in Sochi. The Bruins knew how impenetrable he can be when he’s one well before last night.
It shouldn’t go unnoticed that he also had some luck on his side — when he’d lose sight of a puck that appeared headed to the net, more than once it took a favorable turn that on one occasion seemed to defy the laws of physics. But when he did see the puck? He stopped it.
I’m not even sure it’s fair to suggest Rask, who should not feel shame, needs to be better, to be honest. What the Bruins really need is for Price to be just a little worse.
Still, there’s that little nagging voice inside your head — mine sounds suspiciously like Derek Sanderson — who reminds you of this whenever Rask is outplayed in a big moment: He hasn’t done it yet. And that 3-11-3 career record against the Canadiens doesn’t offer much reassurance, either.
For all that the 27-year-old Rask has accomplished — outdueling Henrik Lundqvist last year, stonewalling Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in the next round, leading the league in shutouts each of the last two years — he hasn’t backstopped the Bruins to a Cup.
He’s the man. But he hasn’t been The Man.
It nearly happened last year, of course, but the Bruins, with Rask as that final line of defense, gave up two goals in 17 seconds in the final 1:16 of Game 6 to lose the game and the Cup, 3-2, to the Blackhawks. He escaped that with his reputation unscathed. But he’s better than Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford. He should have been better in that moment.
Crawford has his name on the Cup. Rask does too, but it was as Tim Thomas‘s caddy during the Bruins’ extraordinary run in 2010-11.
He’s an outstanding goalie, maybe the best in his league. Game 2 would be a perfect time to deliver a reminder, not just of his previous feats, but of what he’s capable of accomplishing over the next couple of weeks. It’s time for Rask to take his postseason game to the level of his reputation.

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