Considering he never faced more than 42 in a single game in the regular season and didn't have to deal with more than 78 in consecutive games prior to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, one might think Rask would be feeling a little overworked heading into Game 5 of the series Friday at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, CBC, RDS).
"Not really," Rask said. "They've had a lot of scoring [chances], but it's not like it's been 2-on-0s and 2-on-1s and breakaways all the time. There's been a lot of shots and point shots and stuff like that. So I haven't felt like I've been overworked or anything like that."
Rask has compiled a .932 save percentage while the Bruins have won three of the four games to push the Maple Leafs to the brink of elimination. Of his 45 saves in Game 4, 11 came in overtime, including a nonchalant glove snatch of a Joffrey Lupul laser shot off the rush. Rask also was cool under fire after he stopped a Phil Kessel shot up high and then plucked the rebound out of the air "Karate Kid" style before a hard-charging Nazem Kadri could turn the loose puck into a scoring chance.
"It hit my shoulder and then the puck was just right there, so I just grabbed it," Rask said.
Although rarely does he look frazzled in his crease, Rask admitted there's nervousness inside of him he has to contain. Although he's 26 years old, he's playing full-time in the playoffs for only the second time in his NHL career. He's learned to supplement his natural calmness with ways to temper the natural butterflies in his gut.
"I think it's both. I think it's human that you get a little nervous and you just try to battle through it and try to tell yourself to stay calm and stop the puck," Rask said. "But I think it's both, natural and [something you work at]."
Bruins coach Claude Julien said he can't find fault with anything his goaltender has done.
"I think right now that Tuukka is calm, he's in the zone, he's not getting too high, not getting too low," Julien said. "All he wants to do is stop the puck. He's been pretty good and he is temperamental at times, we've seen that side of it, too, when he's not happy with either a situation or himself. But at the same time, right now, he understands how important it is to stay focused and he's done a great job of that."
There's been a fair share of net-crashing during this series, but the Maple Leafs know they have to do more if they're going to solve a goaltender that recorded a goals-against average of 2.00 and a save percentage of .929 in the regular season. Against Toronto in three regular-season games, Rask let in just three goals and posted a .958 save percentage.
"He's a really good goalie. So you've just got to bear down on those chances," Toronto forward James van Riemsdyk said. "We've hit some pipes, had some good looks. But again, he's a tough guy to beat. We're going to have to just continue to get pucks to the net, get guys in front and go from there."
The playoffs weren't kind to Rask in 2010, the other time he was the Bruins' starting goaltender in the postseason. Injuries mounted in front of him and he was part of the team that made dubious history by losing a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers. In the prior series, the Bruins needed a Game 6 to finish the Buffalo Sabres because they didn't close the deal in Game 5.
So as much as Rask has proven himself a competent replacement for Tim Thomas this season, he now has a chance to show more of a killer instinct. This time around, he might be better prepared.
"You know the other team is going to throw everything at you because it's do-or-die for them," Rask said. "So you kind of have to take the same mentality. If you slip even a little bit, if you give the other team life, then they're going to take advantage of that. And I think that's a challenge we're facing too, you know. We have to approach the game like it's a do-or-die game for us."
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