As the season winds down, it will be crucial that the Bruins keep Tuukka Rask fresh. This will allow him to be at his best in big games down the stretch and in the playoffs. That is why Anton Khudobin’s play becomes critical for the remainder of the season. Rask and the Bruins have not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since the 2013-2014 season. This year they are one of the best teams in the league and seem poised to break that streak. Being able to rest Rask will be essential, something the Bruins have not been able to do in the last couple years.
Over the last three years Rask averaged over sixty games a year. This has been because of inconsistent play by his backups. The Bruins ideally want him to play 50-60 games during the regular season. Before last season the Bruins suffered two consecutive late season collapses, causing them to miss the playoffs. As a result, Rask has received criticism for not being clutch when the Bruins need him the most. Last year Khudobin had an amazing second half but struggled in the first half. This caused the Bruins to rely on Rask more than they would have liked. So far this year Rask’s numbers are better and Khudobin has had a career year. At times he made his own case to be the number one goalie. This has brought out the best Rask and caused him to elevate his play.
Rask down the Stretch
If the Bruins are to make a deep playoff run, they will need Rask at his best. He has shown in the past when he is healthy he can be the difference maker for this team. When he is playing at his Vezina form the Bruins are a hard team to beat. Last year in the first round of the playoffs the Bruins were without two of their top four defenseman. This affected the whole team, and everyone had to step up. This year the Bruins improved their depth at the deadline in case injuries occur.
The last part of the regular season will be a huge test for this team. They are young and surpassing most expectations placed on them before the season started. They are a contender, but the last half of the season will determine just how far this team could go. A healthy Rask will be essential come playoff time and he will be motivated to prove his doubters wrong.