Not only has Tuukka Rask been one of the most important players for the Boston Bruins since the start of the year, the Finnish star has undoubtedly been one of the NHL’s most consistent and impressive goaltenders of 2015. He has again highlighted just how important he is to his team’s chances of challenging for this season’s Stanley Cup. After a somewhat underwhelming start to the season, Rask and his team-mates have begun to turn things around. The month of January could well end up proving to be a crucial string of games in the Bruins’ campaign.
Boston’s form at the start of 2015 was highlighted by their back-to-back victories over the New York Islanders and defending Stanley Cup champions LA Kings to bring an end to January. It was the 3-1 win over the Kings which has really seen the Bruins’ Stanley Cup odds significantly shorten with the majority of bookmakers, to as low as 14/1 with 32Red.com. Against the Kings, Rask produced one of his best performances of the season, recording a 30-save game and improving his figures to 7-1-3 for the month with a .949 save percentage and a 1.61 goals-against. That took him to the top of the league’s standings for January as the best goaltender.
Usually one of the most consistent players on the team, Rask had somewhat of an unpredictable and disappointing start to the season in net, boasting a below-par – .900 save percentage during October and December. However, the Finnish netminder did get that up to .935 during November. A string of eye-catching displays in January have led a lot of Bruins fans to believe their goalie is getting back to the sort of form that resulted in him winning the Vezina Trophy in last season’s NHL awards. While he might not yet be at the same level he has shown he can get to during his Bruins career, having Rask in this sort of form will breathe confidence throughout the rest of the roster that there is still time to turn things around this season.
The start of the year certainly bodes well for Bruins fans. Going 9-1-2 for the month has thrown Boston right back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, not to mention giving the franchise a shout of getting out of those conference wild card spots. The return of Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid has certainly strengthened things at the back, giving Rask a level of confidence he didn’t have during the final few months of 2014 as well as the sort of cover he needs in front of him to produce his best form. And producing his best form has been just what Rask achieved in January, stopping almost everything that came his way from the Kings’ offensive line. It was not just photo-friendly saves Rask had to deal with, taking a swipe in the face from Jeff Carter before letting the LA centre know just what he thought of the incident along with a couple of his teammates.
One possible cause for concern will be just how much time Rask has spent on the ice this season and how much he will most likely spend out there between now and the end of the 2014-15 campaign. Bruins head coach Claude Julien has always enjoyed an element of rotation among his goalies during his career, never using one goaltender as much as he has Rask over the past couple of years. With a starting percentage of almost 80%, Rask has not really been challenged for his spot by Niklas Svedberg. While Svedberg is a capable deputy for Rask, it is not surprising to see the Finnish star as the undisputed starting goaltender for this Bruins team. Adding another goalie might be important at the end of the season, but for the time being Julien will be more than happy to have someone with the talents of Rask to rely on.