Rask bounces back by standing tall

Rask bounces back by standing tall
March 26, 2013, 2:00 am
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BOSTON -- Shame on anyone around the Bruins that thought there might have been a brewing goalie controversy in Boston. As it turns out it was all part of the Boston master plan when Anton Khudobin started two straight games last week after B’s head coach Claude Julien said his team needed “those timely saves” following a third period collapse in Winnipeg with Tuukka Rask between the pipes.

Rask quickly brushed off the comments when he learned of them a couple of days after they were made, and admitted he wasn’t beating himself up too badly about that specific loss to the Jets. Instead of dwelling on any of it, Rask came to TD Garden ready to work this week after playing the third period Saturday night after he was inserted in place of a flailing Khudobin.

Now he’s the proud author of 15 wins on the season along with a .928 save percentage and a 1.90 goals against average, and – more importantly – he closed down the Leafs in the third period and overtime in an eventual 3-2 shootout victory.

That earned him the Red Rooster T-shirt being handed out to the Bruins player of the game just like the Bruins’ chain and 1980’s Bruins Starter jacket of year’s past.

“I had a chance to make a big save there in the second, and I kind of didn’t [on the] breakaway. Then I just figured I’ve got to start battling harder because they didn’t get too many chances,” said Rask. “It seemed like when they got those they were just that one deflection off Andy’s [Andrew Ference] stick there hit me, and then another five-hole deflection during the third.

“Those are the kind of things that can turn a game around, and today I just tried to battle through it and it got us a win…so that was good.”

More good stuff from the Bruins goalie: Rask made 11 saves in the final 20 minutes and extra session, and made several great saves including a glove stop of a Joffrey Lupul screamer with a wild group of bodies battling in front of the net.

“I don’t think Tuukka’s [Rask] been bad at all, guys. I hope people didn’t read into Khudobin playing two games, because I think Khudobin deserved to play two games. He’s played well all season long, he played well in Ottawa, and this was an opportunity to get him two games in a row…that’s all it was,” said Julien. “We’ve got a busy week this week and I needed Tuukka [Rask] fresh…that’s all it was.

“Tuukka [Rask] to me has been good and he’s never been bad, [sometimes] he’s been great and [sometimes] he’s been good. We’ve gotten some pretty good games out of him and I don’t think we can necessarily point the finger at him for losing any games for us this year.”

There’s a flip side to everything that Julien is saying about the Finnish goaltender: Rask was at the helm for three of Boston’s four third-period collapses since March 3, and Julien deemed it at least partly his goalie’s fault for allowing the Evander Kane game-winner against Winnipeg last week. But some of things said by Julien following that game were said out of frustration, and were probably targeted at defenders blowing assignments rather than giving up on players.

The facts point to a 26-year-old goalie in Rask that’s playing at a phenomenally accomplished level for a Bruins team with Stanley Cup aspirations, and simply needs to keep up that act if he’s looking for a big money deal from Boston or elsewhere once he reaches free agency.

It certainly looks like it’s Tuukka Time in Boston, and it really wasn’t anything but that over the last couple of weeks anyway.