BUFFALO, N.Y. –
Maybe Tuukka Rask
is as unflappable as his teammates believe him to be.
The Bruins' rookie goalie turned in a more-than-respectable performance in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut, despite the fact that he took the loss in Buffalo's 2-1 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Rask, just 23, virtually matched the more experienced Ryan Miller in his first experience with playoff hockey, a setting that has gotten the better of more than one goalie who put together a headlining campaign in the regular season.
Rask finished with 30 saves in the game and never seemed fazed by his surroundings. The sellout crowd at HSBC Arena was out for Boston blood Thursday night -- and, if they couldn't get it from Public Enemy No. 1, Zdeno Chara
, they were happy to try to get it from the boyish-looking Finn in the Boston crease.
Taunting chants of "Tuukka, Tuukka," rained down to him as often as Buffalo players crashed into his crease.
Yet Rask barely blinked at all the hubbub around him as he analyzed the game.
"It was good (atmosphere), but Montreal is like that every game, so it is no different than that," Rask said.
The scary thing is that Rask seems to buy what he was peddling Thursday night.
Chara was sitting catty-corner to Rask in the Bruins' dressing room after the game, looking in the direction of his rookie goalie as he calmly held court and analyzed his game. He has come to expect such grace under pressure from a youngster who somehow stole away the starting job from Tim Thomas
, the reigning holder of the Vezina Trophy.
"He's a very clam and steady goaltender," Chara said. "For his age and for a goalie that doesn't have as many years in the League, he's playing extremely well for us."
Thursday night, he could be excused on both goals.
On the first, Thomas Vanek, one of the game's elite snipers, made a brilliant individual play to fire a laser past Rask on an odd-man rush spearheaded by Derek Roy. It was, simply, a goal-scorer's goal.
Yet, Rask was having none of it.
"He made a good shot, but that's something that if I am in the right position, I probably have that," Rask said.
What about the game-winner in the second, off the stick of unlikely hero Craig Rivet, a defenseman who had just one goal in the regular season and only three in 63 postseason games entering Thursday night?
"It was a good shot by (Rivet)," said Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk
, who partially screened Rask by allowing Patrick Kaleta to take him to the net. "Tuukka couldn't see anything. You can't really blame him on that one."
If Rask plays every playoff game like he did Thursday's, Boston feels like it will have a fighting chance in this series.
"When you look at the saves he made at the end when we were trying to stay in it and trying to tie the game up, he made some huge saves and gave us a chance," Boston coach Claude Julien said . "I thought he was really good for us tonight."
Rask, though, believes he can be even better in Saturday's Game 2.
Author: Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Managing Editor