BostonBruins.com – Tuukka Rask was the Bruins No. 1 goalie during the 2009-10 season. He posted a 22-12-5 record, with five shutouts in 45 games, while leading the NHL in save percentage (.931) and goals against average (1.97).
That year, he was stepping in for an injured Tim Thomas and led the B’s to the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Rask returned to the number two role in 2010-11, as Thomas won back his job early in the season and went on to have one of the greatest campaigns by a goalie in NHL history, winning both the Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophy, during the Bruins run to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years.
Thomas remained the go-to-guy last season, but this year the 38-year-old decided to take some time off to be with his family, opening up the door for Rask, once again.
Rask, 25, is entering his prime and may not be handing the reigns back over to Thomas, or anybody else for that matter, any time soon. The native of Savonlinna, Finland is on a one-year, $3.5 million contract, but if he performs, a long-term deal could keep him as Boston’s netminder for years to come.
Rask says there is not really a difference between now and the last time he took over the starting spot. He won’t change the way he prepares or the way he plays.
“I don’t know, not much,” said the goalie, when asked about this season being different than 2009-10. “I approach it the same way, work hard in practice and try to transfer that to games. Nothing changed. I’m still a kid. Just a few years under my belt of experience, that’s the only difference.”
No. 40 started things off right during the Black & Gold’s 3-1 win over the Rangers on Opening Night, stopping 20 of 21 shots. However, he gave much of the credit to his defenseman.
“I felt good throughout the game,” said the former 2005 first round pick after Saturday’s win. “The guys made my job so easy, because I saw pretty much everything.
“From the first period to the last period, everybody did a great job. Even Dougie [Hamilton] in that last period made a great play on that two-on-one. It’s good to see in our first game our defense is sharp and everybody’s sharp.”
The 25-year-old is looking forward to the challenge of being the team’s leading backstop.
“I like it better,” said Rask, of getting more playing time. “You might get tired or fatigued at some point, but I always like to play, and it’s a great challenge for me this year, so hopefully we can make the most of it.
“I still have to play good no matter what, right? It doesn’t matter if it’s one game or 80 games. So, we’ll see what happens. I’m just trying to be my best out there.”