It hasn’t quite matched the excitement of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this summer, but the Bruins are celebrating the arrival of their future in the goaltending department.
With Tim Thomas determined to rest up and focus on thing other than hockey, Tuukka Rask will finally get a 100-percent clear shot to be the Bruins’ No. 1 goaltender. Even in 2009-10, Rask’s rookie season, Thomas, who had won the Vezina the season before, was lurking in the shadows.
Now the job is Rask’s, assuming he signs a new contract. There’s little reason to believe the Bruins won’t get something done, especially considering they have no choice but to turn to Rask and pay him whatever will get the deal done in a timely manner.
Boston is hoping the Rask that was playing so well before his injury last season, and led the league in goals-against average and save percentage in his rookie year, was just hinting at how well he can play given the knowledge that he’ll be starting most nights and can get into a groove.
Even while playing in just 23 games last season, Rask nearly matched his important statistics from the ’09-10 season. When given the proper offensive support, Rask has shown he can live up to the expectations as an All-World goaltender. He better do it over the long haul, or Thomas’ hiatus will prove to be a fatal blow to the Bruins’ hopes of becoming a perennial championship contender.
Regular season: 23 GP, 11-8-3, 2.05 GAA, .929 save percentage
Contract status: RFA 2012
Regular season recap
Highlight: In the second victory of what would become a career-best seven-game winning streak, Rask pitched a shutout against the Los Angeles Kings Dec. 13. Among his 41 saves in the 3-0 win was a dazzling robbery of Dustin Brown. Rask made 20 of his saves in the third period.
Lowlight: Buffalo has been the site of several of Rask’s biggest failures the last couple seasons. With three goals allowed on 10 shots through early in the second period Feb. 8, Rask again had a night to forget against the Sabres. The Bruins went on to lose 6-0.
Playoff recap: Rask was finally healthy enough to back up Thomas for Game 6 of the Washington series.
Grade: A-minus. Rask’s mid-body injury cost him a chance to push Thomas for playoff playing time. While he’s still figuring out how to harness him emotions in a positive manner more often, he took a major step forward in his development with some great performances prior to his injury.
Carnac predicts … Rask signs on for at least three or four years to be the Bruins’ No. 1 goaltender just as projected years ago after the Bruins traded for him. The Bruins won’t have to worry about their goaltending even in the post-Thomas era.