Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is obviously more centered and poised today than he was in the spring of 2013.
Rask was the goalie of record when then Bruins suffered a 4-2 series loss to the Chicago Black Hawks in the Stanley Cup Final, a stigma he’s carried through subsequent playoff appearances.
Rask has an opportunity rectify his biggest setback and enhance his expanding legacy when the Bruins take on the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night at the TD Garden.
“It’s the experience and it helps that you have gone through it and you know that the media scrums are on a bigger scale,” Rask said Sunday during Media Day at the TD Garden.
“If you get to the finals and have the chance to play it is a great time of year. You want to go out there and enjoy no matter the situation if it’s the first time, the second time or the fifth time. “
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy made managing his goalies’ playing time in the regular season a priority with an eye towards the playoffs. Rask appeared 46 games and went 27-13-5 with four shutouts, a 2.48 goals against average and a .912 save percentage.
Jaroslav Halak, who signed last summer to replace Anton Khudobin, appeared in 40 games and went 20-11-4 with five shutouts, a 2.34 goals against average and a .922 save percentage.
“I think it has been great throughout the season,” said Rask. “We came into camp both veteran guys, both been in the league for a while and I don’t know if you would call it competing, but we were pushing each other and supporting each other.
“I think that’s been the biggest key and I thought it worked great for us in the regular season. He’s is the type of guy that doesn’t stretch too much and we go out and practice hard and play hard.”
Halak’s success enabled Cassidy to keep Rask fresh for an extended run through the playoffs. Rask has been phenomenal over the three series.
Rask started 17 games and is 12-5 with two shutouts, 1.84 goals against average and a .942 save percentage. He posted similar numbers in 2013 when he went 14-8 with a 1.88 goals against average and a .940 save percentage.
Rask closed out the Bruins’ 4-2 series win over the Columbus Blue Jackets and their sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes with shutout victories.
“Everybody in any sport you want to reach the limit and see where that is and see how good you can be,” said Rask. “I think a lot of athletes reach that but the challenge is to stay there and then that just becomes a mental battle with yourself.”
Rask is making his third trip to the Stanley Cup final and second as a starter. He served as back up to 2011 Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas, who backboned the Bruins series wins over Montreal, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Vancouver.