Beyond the whole Phil Kessel storyline and the questions surrounding the first-round picks the Bruins received from Toronto for this and next summer, there’s one heck of a rivalry starting to build between Boston and Toronto.
And for years to come that rivalry might be centered around the two players that starred more than all others tonight at Air Canada Centre — young goaltenders Tuukka Rask for Boston and Jonas Gustavsson for Toronto.
What a display of fantastic netminding both put on in the Bruins’ 2-1 overtime victory, which bumped Boston up to seventh in the Eastern Conference (for the time being). Rask finished with 27 saves, Gustavsson with 28 before Miroslav Satan’s second goal ended the contest 3:25 into overtime. (For more on Satan, log on to ESPNBoston.com.)
Assuming Gustavsson re-signs with the Leafs, and both players stay healthy, 2-1 and 1-0 scores might become the norm when Boston and Toronto get together. Rask, of course, has compiled a Calder Trophy-worthy campaign in 2009-10. He’s been particularly sharp against the team that drafted him, Toronto, with four wins in five outings and only seven goals allowed in those games. In his last three games overall, he has allowed just two goals — a stretch that has clearly established him as the Bruins’ go-to puck-stopper on their final-week playoff push.
It was this time last year that Gustavsson was a highly coveted free agent out of his native Sweden. And at the start of this season, he was thought of as a Calder candidate. Injuries and ailments got his NHL career off to a slow start, but he’s come into his own with seven wins in his last nine appearances. At 25, two years Rask’s senior, Gustavsson could be the catalyst in a Maple Leafs resurgence and be the goaltender they’ve lacked since Ed Belfour bailed out of town.
Kessel, Tyler Bozak and others will also be front and center in Toronto’s attempt to become championship-caliber. And obviously David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron are projected to be Boston cornerstones for years to come. But the marquee match-up in future Boston-Toronto showdowns might be Rask-Gustavsson, and the Swede and the Finn should be magic to watch.