For the Boston Bruins to hold on to the final Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, goaltender Tuukka Rask is probably going to need to play like the Vezina Trophy winner he was last season.
For that to happen, Rask will probably need the Bruins defense to revert, and stick, to its signature stingy ways.
Well into his worst season statistically since becoming Boston's No. 1 goaltender, Rask is honest about how his game suffered early this season. The frank Finn talks openly about the link between his poor start and a defense that lost Johnny Boychuk to trade on the eve of the season, captain Zdeno Chara to a knee injury for 19 games three weeks after the season started, and Adam McQuaid to a finger injury from mid-November to the New Year.
Rask didn't excuse his own role in the early stumbles, saying he felt good but the Bruins needed more and he "just wasn't able to be great out there." Like most things surrounding goaltending, Rask's performance through January did not exist in a vacuum.
"I've always played my best when I am aggressive and challenging," Rask told NHL.com. "But when you have new guys on the back end trying to find their game and comfort zone, it makes the goalie's job different too. You can't be as aggressive as you normally are because you have to be ready for passes to the backdoor and loose pucks that normally get cleared. There's been a lot of that."