- Tuukka Rask
has started eight of the Bruins' nine games, and skated off the ice after the eighth Wednesday night at the Bell Centre, having led Boston to earn 13 of their 15 points.
Boston now sits in first place atop the Eastern Conference - with their 15-point total matching the best nine-game start in franchise history, having previously reached that point total in nine games on two occasions, most recently in 1992-93.
Rask's save percentage through his first seven starts was already stellar heading into Wednesday, a 2.10 goals-against average and .919 save percentage, going up against a Habs team that had been averaging 3.3 goals per game.
"Tuukka’s been great all year for us. He’s made some key saves and saves that we need during games and give us the boost that we need during games and always give us a chance to win, so we can’t ask for anything more from him," alternate captain Patrice Bergeron had said of Rask following the 1-0 barnburner win over Toronto on Saturday night.
With Rask clearly only allowing one goal in the past two games, his already solid play has become even more consistent.
When the Bruins could not get their first shot on Carey Price until Gregory Campbell fired a shot 11:24 into the first period, it was Rask's seven saves that kept the B's in the game early. Just 3:58 into the initial frame, Rask faced three consecutive shots within a 16-second span from Canadiens Francois Bouillon, Rene Bourque and Habs captain Brian Gionta - and the B's netminder was in perfect position for every one.
And when Tomas Plekanec was on Rask's door step three minutes later, the B's netminder stood tall and made sure Montreal could not poke in the rebound sitting in the blue paint.
"We wanted to come out hard, we wanted to match their first period because we knew they were going to be coming at us," said Rask, on the mindset heading into the game. "But, we didn't - they had a lot of chances, but luckily we got out of that, 0-0 game."
"We stuck with it the rest of the game. We were down by one goal, then we just woke up and started playing hockey."
"Let's give Tuukka credit there, he really held us in the game," Coach Julien told media postgame on the First Star's performance. "We knew they were going to come out flying, part of our game plan was that we need to come out of the first period either tied or ahead. We were tied and Tuukka was a big reason why we were tied."
After a scoreless opening frame, before the B's could find their offensive spark in the beginning of the third period, it was Rask who made 15 saves through the first two periods, keeping out everything except for a P.K. Subban shot on the power play in the second that deflected off Rich Peverley's stick and just over No. 40's glove hand.
"I knew they were going to crash the net a lot. They like those type plays, they always have an extra guy lurking in the background there," Rask said following the game, on Montreal's 2-on-1 opportunities and chances down low. "That's what they did, they missed a couple, then they got a lucky goal there in the second. But, I think if you look back at their scoring chances, I think they deserve that goal."
But with the B's down 1-0 heading in to the final frame, it was nothing new for their game plan to turn inward - and for their goaltender to remain a rock.
"For him, he's had the right attitude since day one, the high expectations and the question marks and everything else that goes with it. He's just going about doing his job day in, day out," said Coach Julien. "He doesn't get too high, he doesn't get too low. He's pretty even keeled."
"He's a normal goaltender, when you look at that, which may be a surprise to a lot of you," added Coach to the Montreal media gathered around him. "But he's so easy-going."
"I can talk to him in the middle of a game and he comes to the bench, no issues. He's really down to earth, easy to coach and it shows with his demeanor. He's calm out there - never panicked the whole game."
The Black & Gold's strong defensive effort always starts from the goaltender out - and the same can be said for their overall game, as Tyler Seguin and David Krejci buried two quick goals by the time the clock hit the 2:05 mark into the third.
"We've done it before. It's not new for us, this is just par for the course I guess," said Coach Julien. "We know it's a 60-minute game, whether we're ahead or we're behind. We try and play 60 minutes best we can and when we do that a lot of times we are able to come from behind."
It also helps to have your goaltender stand on his head, or make a split save with David Desharnais nearly skirting the puck into the back of the net, or deploy the snow angel in the blue paint to do whatever it takes to keep the puck out.
"Tuukka has played extremely well for us. He has given us exactly what we
wanted. He's been solid throughout the start of the season," Coach Julien had said after morning skate, prior to rivalry showdown.
And he showed it again Wednesday night, disappointing nobody but a Bell Centre crowd that had hoped to carry their team's own hot start into first place in the Northeast.