This season has been a rocky one for starting goalie Tuukka Rask. After getting off to a horrendous start to the season, the former Vezina winner lost his starting job. Rightfully so considering how Khudobin was playing compared to Rask. But after taking a seat for a few weeks it seems like Bruce Cassidy may have gotten the Finnish netminder refocused. However can Rask maintain his Vezina caliber play or will he return to early season form?
In the month of October Rask went 1-5 with an .896 SV% and a 2.93 GAA. Along with the terrible numbers the team looked lifeless when Rask was in goal. Tuukka was constantly off his angles, allowing soft goals inside the post. Along with having a tendency to get in the butterfly to quickly allowing himself to get beat high farside practically every night. Even though Tuukka was costing the team games his play still was sub par in November. Rask followed up one of the worst months of his career with another terrible one. In November Rask went 3-5 with a .901 SV% and a 2.78 GAA and the team was playing so poorly putting Rask in net was almost a guaranteed loss.
Tuukka’s horrible play brought on even more concern when reports came out that the Bruins’ locker room may have been getting tired of all the finger-pointing Rask was doing. This report was backed up when Tuukka said that “I’m not going to comment on the team play anymore”. Rask went on to say that the focus was purely on goaltending for him. So not only was Tuukka struggling in goal, it seemed like he was isolating himself in the locker room.
If anyone deserves credit for Tuukkas reemergence in goal, it’s Bruce Cassidy. Cassidy sent a message to the team and Rask, saying that just because you have the contract does not mean you have job security. It seems like the early season statement may have been the best move of the season. Since Rask got his starting job back, both Tuukka and the team look dangerous. In December Rask has otherworldly numbers in 4 games, posting a 3-0 record with an excellent .967 SV% and an 0.85 GAA along with his only shutout of the season.
Now the question becomes can Rask keep up this level of play for the rest of the season? Yes and no, it’s a tough question to answer straight up. Mainly because while Rask has been excellent he has a tendency to be rather streaky as the minutes begin to rack up. But this year the Bruins have leverage over the Finnish goalie. Anton Khudobin’s performance early on has provided Rask some much-needed competition. Now that there is another goalie who has performed at a high level waiting in the wings Tuukka has no room for a long slip.
While Rask can be frustrating to watch his talent cannot be disbuted. When Tuukka is focused and on his angles he can be a gamechanger for Boston. So while he may never be able to play at vezina level again for an entire season. Rask still has the abilty to lead the Bruins on a cup run.