If as a fan you enjoyed watching Tuukka Rask’s rookie season, imagine how the Bruins scouts and player personnel people felt as the star goaltender dominated the NHL with a league-leading save percentage and goals-against average.
Someone like Director of Player Personnel Scott Bradley was in on the decision to trade for Rask and watched his closely from his time with Finland at the World Junior Championship all the way through his breakout 2009-10 season.
There really wasn’t anything you could call a flaw in Rask’s game this season. On the rare occasion he gave up a “bad” goal, he never let it stick with him. And when you consider the pressure of needing to be nearly perfect playing behind the league’s worst offense, it’s amazing that Rask didn’t snap.
With more experience and maturity, as well as goal support, Rask is only going to get better. That he looked a little less than sharp during the collapse against Philadelphia is completely understandable and not a cause for concern considering how many of his teammates weren’t pulling their weights.
Stats: 45 GP, 22-12-5, .931, 1.97
Season highlight: Rask recorded five shutouts, won a NHL playoff series in his first career attempt by outdueling probably Vezina Trophy-winner Ryan Miller in the process and won a bunch of key games down the stretch to get the Bruins into the postseason. A sure sign of what awaited Rask and the Bruins appeared Feb. 9 in Buffalo, when the Boston netminder made 45 saves in regulation and overtime and stopped three of four shootout attempts to prevail in a showdown with Miller, 3-2.
Season low-light: For the first time all season, Rask looked a bit antsy against the Flyers in Game 7 of the second-round series. While it still took a deflection off a defenseman’s stick and one off a teammate’s body to beat the rookie, he missed the chance to steal a game for the Bruins for the first time in the ’10 postseason and prevent the ugly head of history from weighing down the Bruins’ shoulders.
Final grade: A
The Bruins could not have asked more of Rask, who took over by starting the final seven games until the Bruins clinched and made sure they had a chance to win every single night. He showed the poise of a veteran and never lost his cool when commenting on his inept offensive cohorts.
The crystal ball says … Rask will put up similar numbers in his second season while the Bruins improve their scoring enough to garner him more attention and a spot in the final three for the Vezina next spring.