By Kevin O’Keefe
Whether you love him or hate him, there is no denying that Tuukka Rask was up to the task in Boston’s first round matchup against the Washington Capitals. The Bruins’ veteran goaltender led the way finishing up the series with a 1.81 GAA and a .941 SV% in his 5 starts.
After just one game, which saw the Capitals win in overtime off of a bad bounce through the five-hole of Rask, fans were immediately calling for rookie goaltender Jeremy Swayman to come to the rescue of their cup hopes. Rask quickly shut down those notions by coming out victorious in a similar game, seeing the Bruins capitalize in overtime with a quick strike from Marchand to tie the series up at 1 apiece.
From there, there was no looking back for Rask. In game 3 of the series, Rask stopped 35 of 37 shots for a SV% of .946 in a double OT thriller ending with the Bruins taking an important 2-1 lead in the series. At this point Rask’s confidence seemed through the roof. Poised…cool, calm and collected…two u’s two k’s and two big wins to close out the series was in the cards for Boston.
Game 4 of the series was just dominated by the Bruins, allowing only 20 shots to get through to Rask, giving him a .950 SV% saving 19 of 20 shots in what was a closer game score wise than it seems. Rask and company kept the Capitals off the board in what was a close 1-0 Bruins lead heading into the third period, where the Bruins struck quickly and in great fashion giving the Bruins a 4-1 win over the Capitals to take a strangle hold on the series.
Rask left no room for error in game 5. Boston’s netminder came out with a solid overall performance, seeing him stop 40 of 41 shots with a .976 SV%. His biggest period of the entire series came in the form of the 2nd period onslaught by the Capitals, where the Bruins allowed 20 shots to get through to their goaltender. Rask turned them all aside while the Bruins on the other side of the ice, buried 2 of their 4 shots in the period to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead heading into the third period. The Capitals, by far, were the better team Sunday night, but due to the stellar play of Rask and the timely scoring from the Bruins offense, Boston was able to celebrate a gentleman’s sweep of the Capitals Monday morning.
A huge accomplishment for Rask here is proving that he can beat the Capitals, something he has never been very good at his entire career. With that said, it has never been because Rask doesn’t play well against the Capitals- it has more to do with the fact that Braden Holtby was a Bruins killer…..and that is something you can’t put on Rask. The road will not be any easier for Rask and company moving forward. After some rest and time to get some much needed practices in, they will be off to face either the New York Islanders or the Pittsburg Penguins in the second round. While both matchups would be tough in their own ways, as long as Rask continues to build off of his first round success and the team in front of him gives a full 60 minutes every night, this team has a great shot of being the representative for the east.