2013 Stanley Cup Final: Did Game 1 Rattle Boston Bruins Goalie Tuukka Rask?

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2013 Stanley Cup Final: Did Game 1 Rattle Boston Bruins Goalie Tuukka Rask?
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Through the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs, a great argument could be made that Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins was the leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

His Eastern Conference Final performance was not just memorable, it was the stuff of legends. Rask held the Pittsburgh Penguins to two goals during the Bruins' four-game sweep.

Rask had plenty of help from the Bruins' stalwart defense, but he kept Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin off the scoreboard. No goals, no assists and plenty of frustration.

Rask took all of that momentum with him into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks. While the Blackhawks were the best team in the league in the regular season and had knocked out the defending champion Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final, they did not appear to have the same kind of firepower as the Penguins boast.

Pittsburgh began the Eastern Conference Final with an average of 4.27 goals scored per game. By the time the Bruins closed the Pens out, that number was down to 3.27.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, are averaging 2.83 goals per game.

That figure includes the Blackhawks' four-goal performance against the Bruins in Game 1. While it's difficult to fault Rask for any of the goals the Blackhawks scored, there are reasons to think that he may have gotten rattled by the results.

Look at the math of the last series compared with the results of the first game. Rask held the vaunted Penguins in check—shutouts in the first and fourth games and single goals allowed in the second and third.

Against the Blackhawks, Rask and the Bruins were holding a 3-1 lead in the third period with just under 14 minutes to play. A giveaway by rookie defenseman Torey Krug led to Dave Bolland's goal that made the score 3-2. The tying goal by Johnny Oduya glanced off the skate of Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference.

Finally, when the game ended in triple overtime, Rask was beaten on a shot that deflected off not one, but two Blackhawks. Andrew Shaw was credited with the goal as the puck glanced off his leg and into the back of the net.

After the game, Rask's demeanor was as calm and cool as his play has been throughout the majority of the playoffs. But his words were sharp.

"We had control of the game," Rask said. "We're up 3-1 in the third and then a terrible turnover leads to a second goal and then a tough bounce leads to the tying goal, and we just gave it away."

The use of the word "terrible" has been seen as a slight against Krug, the young defenseman who scored four goals in the team's conference semifinal series against the New York Rangers.

Head coach Claude Julien defended Krug in a Comcast Sportsnet New England report, saying all players make mistakes and there has been no loss of confidence in him.

While Krug was benched for the rest of the third period, he played significant minutes in the overtime periods.

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The final issue is the time Rask has had on his hands between the first two games. He will have had three days to think about the loss and the goals allowed by the time the puck is dropped at 8:20 p.m. ET on Saturday night.

That's a long time to consider bad bounces, deflections and a rookie mistake.

Rask's overall demeanor suggests he can put all these issues behind him and return to form, but this is the Stanley Cup Final and everything is magnified. Whether he meant to or not, he threw a young teammate under the bus for the error that he made.

Rask had refused to question his teammates at any point in the postseason, even when the Bruins blew a 3-1 series lead in the opening round against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Could he be rattled by the stage and the circumstances? The second game of the series should will give him the chance to answer that question with authority.

 

Steve Silverman is a credentialed reporter covering the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago for Bleacher Report. Quotes in this story were obtained firsthand unless otherwise indicated.

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