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Rask's play positions him for big new contract

by Matt Kalman

BOSTON – For the first time in Tuukka Rask's NHL career, the goaltender has taken the Boston Bruins past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Of course, this is the second season in which Rask has served as the Bruins' No. 1 goalie.

Rask, 26, seems to be getting better as the playoffs roll along, opposed to the way he struggled deeper into the postseason back in 2010. In the five-game series victory against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Rask compiled a .936 save percentage and 1.86 goals-against average.

The Finnish goaltender seemed to place a smart bet on himself last summer when he signed a one-year contract with Boston. He’ll be a restricted free agent again this summer, seemingly raising his value every night this postseason.

General manager Peter Chiarelli, whose team will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals, said he has no regrets about letting Rask play on a one-year deal.

"I'm happy for him that he's playing well and he's helping the team," Chiarelli said during a press conference Sunday at TD Garden. "It’s always easier to sign these guys after success. He's showing some resiliency, which I like, and some durability, which I like."

Though there are a plenty of players who could be considered the Bruins' MVP through two rounds of the playoffs, Rask has emerged as one of the leaders in the clubhouse. And his ability to make big stops at the most crucial moments has energized his team.

That was certainly the case in Game 5 Saturday, when he stopped Rangers captain Ryan Callahan on a breakaway midway through the third period with Boston nursing a 2-1 lead. It was a startling turnaround for the goaltender, whose embarrassing stumble in Game 4 against the Rangers allowed Carl Hagelin to score and give New York new life in the game.

"I liked Tuukka's big saves. The last game, he had those two saves in the third," Chiarelli said. "You see a bunch of saves, it’s like point-blank Callahan to [Rick] Nash -- those are big saves. His ability to bounce back from the game before, I like that."

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