MIDDLETON – The outside expectations might be raised for Tuukka Rask after the Finnish goaltender stood out during the Olympics, and did that in the middle of a Vezina Trophy-winning regular season.
The 36-16-6 record, .930 save percentage and 2.04 goals against average set the standard for NHL goaltenders last season, and raised the bar in Rask’s first year as a No. 1 goalie in an 82-game schedule. Perhaps on some level it also proved to Rask that he could maintain his level of play amid a full workload, but it didn’t sound like Rask was feeling any pressure to top it this coming season.
Well, maybe he is hoping to top that whole second round exit in the playoff part of the season after all.
“You can sit around and think about the past, but you have to focus on what’s ahead of you,” said Rask. “[Having a Vezina] doesn’t feel any different. That’s in the past. I’ll start thinking about those [individual awards] once I stop playing hockey, and then feel good about it. I think the main focus has to be on next season.
“You always have to prove yourself, and be good. It doesn’t matter if you won a Vezina. It’s a never-ending circle. If you play unbelievably then you have to be as good, and if you suck then you have to be a lot better. There’s always something. That’s kind of always what my mindset is.”
Rask certainly didn’t suck, but he was outplayed by Carey Price in the second round of the playoffs.
So Rask went about improving this summer with work in the gym to continue upping his size and strength, but that was challenged by adjusting to a newborn baby at home in Finland. Perhaps that’s the challenge for the 26-year-old Rask as he enters what should be the prime of his career, and sets in for a month of preparing for a 2014-15 season where he hopes to be greater than great.