Tuukka Rask notches his 250th win, jokes ‘250 more to go I guess’
In October, when Tuukka Rask didn’t have a handle on his game, he spent a moment reflecting, during an off-day, on how he might spend his post-career days. He confided to a dressing room visitor that while he hadn’t given it a lot of thought, he planned to get away from hockey when he hangs up the pads.
Rask may go the way of his former netmate Tim Thomas, said to be somewhere in the American West. He may return to Finland, never to be seen again by this hockey-hungry city. But that is a long way off.
“It’s 250 wins, 250 more to go I guess,” Rask said jokingly Tuesday, after earning career win No. 250 in Boston’s 4-0 win over Minnesota at TD Garden. The 31-year-old netminder made 24 saves for his first shutout since last March 17, and the 42nd of his career.
“No, I’ve been lucky enough to be part of good teams and that’s pretty much what it comes down to, I think,” Rask said. “Yeah, been fortunate to play here, so, happy.”
Rask, whose tumultuous first three months of the season included a three-game personal leave in mid-November, has mostly excelled since then. He has allowed more than three goals in one of his last 14 starts following the layoff, with a .930 save percentage in that span. Overall, Rask (12-8-2) and his .920 save percentage rank ninth among goalies who have made 20 or more starts.
“Results have been happening, so that’s good,” he said. “Yeah. I’ve felt good since November.
“We’ve played great. Our team defense in the past few games, at least, has been very good. It shows on the scoreboard. The last two games, I don’t think there’s too many odd-man rushes at all. I think we’re eliminating the offense of the opposing team very well and then getting rewarded at the other end, so that’s a great sign — the way we want to play.”
With Rask taking four of the last five turns, coach Bruce Cassidy said he was leaning toward Jaroslav Halak (13-6-2, NHL-best .927) against the Capitals on Thursday. Another reason for that: Rask struggled in the season-opening, 7-0 loss at Washington, and Halak offered a different look.
In his two-plus years here, Cassidy has seen Rask go on runs. Typically sharper in second halves, the Finn put together streaks last year of 17-0-2 (Dec. 7-Feb. 6) and 10-0-1 (Feb. 27-March 31). The 4-0-0 heater he’s on now is his longest unbeaten spell since then.
His coach, at times, has been less than pleased with the No. 1 netminder he inherited. But to his eye, Rask is looking like a No. 1 again.
“Tuukka’s now earning, I don’t want to say [earning] the net back, because I don’t think that’s the appropriate term, but [earning] more starts,” Cassidy said. “So we’ll see how he runs with it.”
A new (fast) start
Boston has busted the troubling trend of slow starts. Before scoring first against Buffalo on Saturday (Chris Wagner), the Bruins had a four-game stretch in which the other team struck before them. Before a four-game run last month (Montreal-Anaheim-Nashville-Carolina) when they were scoring first (3-1-0), the Bruins stumbled through another four-game run in which the opponent punched first (1-3-0). “We’re establishing roles, getting chemistry,” Patrice Bergeron said before Tuesday’s puck drop. “Our starts have been an issue a few times, and we’ve worked on that.” . . . The club’s most recent winning streak of five or more: a six-gamer from last Feb. 27-March 10, when they ran up an aggregate 30-19 score, mostly without Bergeron (broken foot) and Charlie McAvoy (knee sprain). They had Rick Nash and Jake DeBrusk on David Krejci’s wings, and Riley Nash playing well as the No. 3 center. They scored 10 times on the power play in that six-game span. Now? Rick Nash hasn’t played this year, so they’re trying to find a third man for Krejci and DeBrusk, with David Backes the latest to get the call. Riley Nash is cliff-diving in Columbus (1-3—4 in 40 games), so Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (Boston University) was centering an all-scholastic third line with Ryan Donato (Harvard) and Danton Heinen (Denver) . . . The Brad Marchand-Bergeron-David Pastrnak first line, and the buzzsaw line of Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari-Wagner remained intact.
Studnicka on move
Bruins prospect Jack Studnicka is a Niagara Ice Dog. Studnicka, returned to OHL Oshawa after he was cut from Bruins camp, was dealt from that club to Niagara, along with Vancouver blue line prospect Matt Brassard, in exchange for Lleyton Moore and six OHL draft picks (three upcoming second-rounders, three third-rounders). Studnicka, who posted a 1-3—4 line for Canada in five World Junior Championship games, was at 12-22—34 in 30 games for Oshawa, his second year as captain.
“In Jack, we are adding the most complete player in the OHL,” Niagara general manager Joey Burke said of the Bruins’ 2017 second-rounder (53rd overall) in a news release. “[He] does absolutely everything at an elite level.”
Krug on fire
Torey Krug’s first-period assist gave him 15 points in his last 15 games (4 goals, 11 assists) and five assists in his last five games . . . McAvoy (foot) took the ice before the optional morning skate. He is likely to practice Wednesday, and if he takes live contact in that practice, he could play Thursday against the Capitals at TD Garden. If not, Saturday at Toronto could be his date of return . . . Defenseman Steven Kampfer sat for the sixth game in a row. Kampfer, Lee Stempniak, and rookie center Colby Cave did extended work on the Warrior sheet Tuesday morning, with skating coach Kim Brandvold and backup netminder Halak.