BOSTON — Tuukka Rask played in just 29 regular-season games and then never got off the bench in the postseason this year.
For a 24-year-old potential All-Star goaltender, those aren’t the type of games-played totals that usually advance a player’s development. It had to be particularly difficult considering Rask was the league leader in goals-against average and save percentage in 45 appearances of his rookie season in 2009-10.
But Rask doesn’t look back at the Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship season of 2010-11 as a lost year.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a new experience for you when you’re not playing and you’re kind of watching the games,” he said on break-up day at TD Garden Sunday. “It’s a mental growing point in your career for sure. You learn from these kinds of things and I think it helps you in the future.”
In addition to working hard in practices and gaining tutelage from Bruins goaltending coach Bob Essensa, Rask was able to have a close-up look at one of the best goaltending seasons in NHL history from Tim Thomas. The veteran set the NHL single-season record for save percentage and then set records for saves in one playoff season and in one Stanley Cup Final.
“Yeah, it’s still tough to believe what happened. He had such a great year and day in and day out he was that great goalie there and he didn’t let any, too many weak goals even throughout the year,” said Rask. “It’s just great to see, happy for the guy. I’m so happy for the guy.”
Rask appreciates the season Thomas had, but that doesn’t mean the younger goalie is going go easy on the old man when they both report to training camp in the fall.
“Of course I want to be the guy, he wants to be the guy, everybody wants to be the guy,” Rask said. “But it’s a fair competition between us every day and we like it the way it is. Hopefully we can both get playing time and help the team to get the wins.”