The Tuukka Rask Show continues through Long Island

The Tuukka Rask Show continues through Long Island
February 27, 2013, 2:00 am
Share This Post

UNIONDALE, NY – There was a fleeting thought that perhaps Anton Khudobin would get the starting nod against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.

After all, the Bruins are 16-3-1 in their last 20 games against a downtrodden Isles bunch and entered Nassau Coliseum feeling like they had a good shot at two points against a team that can’t win on their home ice.

But Tuukka Rask is also in the middle of a seven-game stretch where he hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a regulation game dating back to Jan. 31, and is backstopping a defense that’s allowed a grand total of six goals in their last four games. Meanwhile the Bruins could potentially save Khudobin for a Thursday night game against the Ottawa Senators at home after the backup goaltender mystified the Senators in a 44-save masterpiece at Scotiabank Place last season.

So Rask got the call once again.  

The Bruins defense was a little leakier than usual Tuesday against an offensively talented Islanders crew, but Rask stepped up for his fourth straight win while making a season-high 36 saves in the 4-1 victory over New York. The Finnish netminder was clearly happy to bank the two points and continue the best start for the Bruins franchise dating back to 1976-77.

But Rask also isn’t satisfied with some of the imperfections hanging around in Boston’s game while they continue winning hockey games.

“It was a pretty entertaining game to watch for the audience. I feel comfortable, but then feelings can change while the game is going on,” said Rask. “I felt like we didn’t really match their work ethic in the third and that was unlike Bruins hockey. But we were just glad to get the win.

“You’ve got to appreciate their offense. We should know they’ve got good forwards over there. We talked about those things before the game, but then we just don’t do what we talked about. We turned the puck over too many times to give them chances. I don’t want to be overly negative here. But we’re not playing our best hockey. You’ve got to be confident when you’re winning, but we’re not playing a full 60 [minutes].”

Evgeni Nabokov was good for the Isles and probably was the only reason Boston didn’t rip off five or six goals in the win.

But Rask was even better at the other end of the ice while clearly feeling confident between the pipes. He twice stoned the speedy Michael Grabner on breakaways, he turned away Frans Nielsen on a shorthanded burst in the second period and he literally kicked away a John Tavares screamer from the slot.

Every time a puck was within his reach, Rask gobbled it up and didn’t give the Islanders a second swipe at the net.

The only blemish was a first period breakdown as Patrice Bergeron’s line didn’t do a very spirited job of back-checking while allowing the Isles’ fourth line to attack the net with precision passing and speed. Josh Bailey fed Casey Cizikas for the game-tying goal early in the game, but Rask and the rest of the Bruins shut the door after that.

“They’re a young team and they have a lot of energy. Even though they were in our zone a lot I felt like it was all outside,” said Bergeron. “We didn’t give up the slot too much and Tuukka made some great saves. Overall I thought it was a great game.”

Perhaps some of the Islanders chances were a little better than Bergeron’s description especially when the defense allowed multiple breakaway chances. Rask was deservedly named the game’s No. 1 star following his NHL-leading 10th win of the season, and is back among the league’s best goalies with a .930 save percentage and 1.89 goals against average.

Clearly Rask and the Bruins feel like there’s another level they can still raise their game toward, but it’s not a bad start for the Finnish netminder in his 13 appearances among Boston’s 16 games played this season.