Goaltenders have to come up big in the postseason if their team wants to win the hardware, but goaltending is even more important on a team like the Bruins. Forget about the explosive activity in Game 4, when the Chicago Blackhawks recorded a 6-5 overtime victory that squared the series at 2-2. The Bruins forgot to play defense and left Rask out to dry on several occasions throughout the night.
Normally, the Bruins play a defensively sound game that allows him to get clean looks at the shooters. He is very talented at angling rebounds to the corners and out of the slot. His teammates generally clear out opposing forwards who try to occupy the slot.
But while he plays in Claude Julien's goalie-friendly system, the Bruins know that Rask is one of the best in NHL at his job. His name is at the top of the list when it comes to goaltending performances in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Rask is allowing 1.83 goals per game, has a .941 save percentage and has registered three shutouts in the postseason.
However, it's much more than the numbers when it comes to Rask. His ability to focus on the task at hand and make big saves at crucial moments gives his teammates confidence in him.
"I know his numbers are very good and that says a lot," said Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. "But it's not only his goals against or save percentage. It's when he makes the save that matters. He seems to find a way to make the crucial save when we need it most. Not all goaltenders can do that, but he's a battler and he has that ability."bet
Rask has done that in the Stanley Cup Final, but he also had several huge moments throughout the playoffs. His play was vital in the legendary seventh-game comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. With the Bruins trailing 4-2 in the final four minutes of the third period, Rask made a stellar stop on Matt Frattin's breakaway attempt.
The Bruins would score twice in the final 1:22 to tie the game, but if Rask had not stopped Frattin, that comeback probably would not have happened.
Then came his piece de resistance, the four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final. Rask gave up two goals in the series, and neither Sidney Crosby nor Evgeni Malkin got on the scoreboard.
Rask had three stellar efforts against the Blackhawks prior to the fourth-game debacle. Perhaps he was at his best in Game 2, when the Blackhawks outshot the Bruins 19-4 in the first period but had just one goal to show for it. The Bruins went on to win that game in overtime.
"It was so difficult for Tuukka in that first period," said head coach Claude Julien. "But when he wasn't getting much support, he hung in there. Then his teammates picked it up and rewarded him with the win."
That's the way Rask is capable of playing. He is not perfect, and when he faces an onslaught of shots, he can be vulnerable.
But when the Bruins are playing the kind of supportive defensive game that they showed against the Rangers and the Penguins, he is a dynamic goalie who can key a Stanley Cup championship run by the Boston Bruins.
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.