Rask proving he's the better goalie in series

Rask proving he's the better goalie in series
May 19, 2013, 9:00 pm
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BOSTON -- Forget about the comparisons to Tim Thomas, which Tuukka Rask was surprisingly yet not surprisingly asked about after Sunday's Game 2 win over the New York Rangers at the TD Garden.

This isn't about matching what Thomas did in the Bruins' Stanley Cup run two years ago. This is about overcoming what Rask couldn't do the year before that, when Boston blew a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Rask has won a first round playoff series before. Been there, done that. But a second round? Close, but "close" isn't good enough.

That may or may not be one of the reasons why Rask enters Game 3 of this year's Eastern Conference Semifinals without a new contract for 2013-14. Deal or no new deal, Rask knows what he has to do. And it has absolutely nothing to do with Thomas.

But it does have something to do with another goaltender. That being Rangers veteran Henrik Lundqvist, who made his first trip past the second round of the playoffs last year, when New York lost to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Final.

Lundqvist is looking to get past the second round once again, and has already posted two shutouts in nine playoff games this month.

So if Rask is going to have to out-battle anyone, it's Lundqvist.

And so far, so good, as Boston now has a 2-0 series lead after Sunday's 5-2 win in which Rask made 35 saves.

"We've got a lot of confidence in Tuukka," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the win. "If you compare both, there's no doubt Henrik Lundqvist has more experience than Tuukka does. But it doesn't change anything.

"He's been good for us all year, and our guys have lots of confidence in him," Julien later added. "It's about having confidence in your goaltender, and finding ways to get through the other one."

Rask has allowed four goals on 72 shots and has a 1.76 goals-against average in this Eastern Conference Semifinals series, through two games. Meanwhile, Lundqvist has allowed eight goals on 80 shots and has a 3.53 goals-against average in the series through the first two games.

"It's a good challenge, obviously," said Rask after Sunday's win. "I know that I can't let in any weak goals on most nights, because [Lundqvist] is who he is. Then again, it's a team game, and we're more focused on the Rangers than any individual."

Rask made 33 saves in a Game 1 overtime win. He made 35 saves in Sunday's Game 2 win. He's allowed only two goals in each, which suits his 2.00 goals-against average in the regular season.

Both goals he allowed on Sunday were quick answers to Bruins goals. The first came from Ryan Callahan, who took advantage of a Brad Marchand turnover at the Rangers blue line and beat Dougie Hamilton to a race to the loose puck in the neutral zone. Callahan came down the left wing and deked all the way to his right, slipping the puck past the extended left pad of Rask to tie the game at 1-1, eight minutes into the first period.

"He just made a good move," said Rask. "I bit on the shot, then he faked backhand and quickly it to his forehand. I was just swimming a little bit there, but he's got pretty quick hands and quick speed, so it's tough to adjust sometimes."

The second Rangers goal tied the game at 2-2 just 3:20 into the second period and 56 seconds after Boston took a 2-1 lead. Rick Nash busted up the right wing on a 2-on-1 and snapped one top-left, over Rask's blocker.

"I was rattled after that, because I thought it was [Taylor] Pyatt with the same kind of tape job," said Rask. "So I wasn't expecting that move. If I knew it was Nash, I probably would have cheated a little blocker. But those goals happen, and we were able to bounce back."

After that, Rask weathered the second-period storm of 16 shots and made all 10 stops in the third period.

"The turnovers and giveaways we had in the second period weren't something that we do much," said Julien. "But certainly was something that could have been disastrous tonight."

"Could have" been a disastrous night. But it wasn't. Not for the Bruins. Instead, it was a disastrous night for the guy on the other end of the ice.

The Bruins have confidence in a goaltender who they know saved them from a potential disaster. The Rangers are trying to figure out who to blame.

"I thought we played great, we just, I didn’t think they had to work really hard to get a couple goals there," said Lundqvist afterwards, who also pointed out a potential shoulder injury. "We just made it really tough on ourselves.

"I thought I was in position but a couple screens and when you give up five goals you can’t be satisfied obviously," added Lundqvist. "You have to look at the way they scored goals too. It’s about teamwork out there and today it didn’t really work for us. We just have to talk it through and I have to be better and the guys in front of me have to step it up as well."

Entering Game 3, the Bruins don't seem to have the same issues.

"Our guys have done a great job in front of [Rask], but he showed in the second period, like I said, it could have been a totally different game, had he not stood tall for us in the second period," said Julien. "So he allowed us to recover and play a much better period in the third."

"That's what you have to do sometimes," said Rask. "We were not at our best in the second period. We gave up a lot of odd-man opportunities and a lot of turnovers. But they only got one goal, so something positive came out of that period."

The Bruins sealed the deal with two more goals in the third, taking a commanding 5-2 lead, something they should have felt comfortable with at the time.

"You know what, we've blown so many leads in the past, that I don't care if we lead by five goals," said Rask.

They only led by three. A three-goal lead, or a three-game lead in a series, there will always be that one thing hanging over Rask's head until he gets past the second round.

And after the first two games of this Eastern Conference Semifinal series, Rask is the goaltender who's given his team the best chance to do just that.