Tuukka Rask’s Shutout Saves the Bruins

(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

It doesn’t have to be pretty, you know. It usually isn’t and with the way the 2013-14 NHL season is going for the Boston Bruins, it hasn’t been.

So, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the Bruins were only able to muster a paltry 17 shots on goal, with only three in the third period, against a St. Louis Blues team that had only allowed 33 goals this season, the stingiest in the NHL. The surprise was the game itself–a game that, at times, the Bruins were outplayed by the Blues. Tuesday’s game, if anything, showed that the Bruins can handle adversity, especially when Tuukka Rask shows up to play.

Rask and the Bruins shutout the Blues on Tuesday night, 2-0. This is impressive for a few reasons. For one, it was Rask’s first shutout of the year against–he had seven last season. After a slow-ish start, Rask has quietly improved each game to get back to the force he was in net last year for the Bruins. It’s also impressive because he did it against a hot Blues team that is boasting one of the best forward lines in the NHL. But most importantly, the shutout win was important for Rask’s psyche.

“I just try to give us a chance to win,” said Rask. “As far as the team goes, whenever we play a defense like that and keep them on the outside, for the most part, it makes my job easier and I expect to make those saves. Today that was the case for the most part and helps my job, as I said. It doesn’t matter if you play against the best team in the league or the worst team in the league, if you give them chances in the slot, chances are they’re gonna score, so today we pretty well eliminated that.”

In the two games since being pulled against Toronto last Wednesday, Rask has allowed only one goal on a combined 67 shots from the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday and St. Louis Blues on Tuesday. For Rask, it’s more than just a chance to pad his individual stats on the year. Instead, it’s a clear look at the potential of what lies ahead.

“We know when we play the Bruins hockey we can beat anybody and we’re a tough team to beat ourselves,” said Rask. “It just goes to show again, when we play that style of hockey it works. Hopefully we realize it one of these days and keep it consistent too.”

Though Rask did stop all of the Blues’ 33 shots, credit the team in front of him too. Claude Julien did.

“I think he deserves a lot of credit because he was outstanding for us tonight,” said Julien. “But I certainly don’t want to diminish the fact that I thought our guys played well tonight against a team that’s been extremely hot, extremely good as you can see. No matter how well you play defensively, they’re still going to get their chances and when they did, Tuukka made the big saves. I liked their effort overall tonight.”

Even without Adam McQuaid for more than half of the game, the Bruins did well limiting Jaden Schwartz, Jori Lethera, and Vladimir Tarasenko, the Blues’ best forward line, to a combined 9 shots on goal. There were lapses in the Bruins’ defensive zone that should be tightened up prior to their upcoming back-to-back games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins’ possession numbers were downright bad. Not one Bruin had a positive Corsi on Tuesday night, though Milan Lucic was even. This makes Rask’s shutout even more impressive.

“We started off good but then obviously their {defensemen} are gonna join the rush and they’re gonna have four or five guys jumping,” said Rask. “We gave them too much room in the middle of the ice to make those cross-ice passes, and they came in and found the late guy too many times. Something we have to fix I think, but two goal games, or two goal leads are the worst ones in hockey and I feel like I have to stand up and today. Myself and the defense did a good job in front of the net.”

Rask’s next start will likely be against the Montreal Canadiens in Boston on Saturday night. It has been well documented that Rask’s regular season record against the Canadiens is 3-11-3. Going into the weekend’s game, Rask’s shutout is the perfect way to get his confidence back up to where he needs it the most.

As long as Rask is rolling, the Bruins can, too.

Follow Mike on Twitter for Bruins news, updates, and commentary.