BOSTON — It’s a fun and catchy phrase since he assumed the role as the No. 1 netminder of the Boston Bruins a few times over the last four years:
“It’s Tuukka time!”
Well, now it’s really Tuukka time. No, it’s serious. Tuukka, as in Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, needs to be the team MVP going forward if the Bruins are to advance this postseason.
And that starts tonight against the New York Rangers and their version of “2011 Tim Thomas”in goal, Henrik Lundqvist.
While Rask and Lundqvist don’t actually face each other, this series in the end will come down to which one of these guys plays better (See Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning).
Watching Rask celebrate like a crazy man after the come-from-behind win on Monday night against the Leafs, one can understand the pressure he has been under this season.
The ghost of Tim Thomas — primarily the 2010-11 version — has been everywhere.
If Rask played well this past season, well, it was “only” the regular season. If he let a few “softies” by him, he was “not a No. 1 goalie.”
Of course, we haven’t let him forget the blown 3-0 series lead and 3-0 in-game lead in Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 playoffs.
But all of that stuff is nonsense. Statistically speaking, Rask is very good. In fact, Rask, 26, is very comparable to Lundqvist, 31, who is called the best goalie in the world.
Rask is 66-45-17 with a .927 saves percentage and 2.15 goals against.
Lundqvist, who has never had to compete with a “Tim Thomas,” is 276-171-57, .920 and 2.25 over his career.
Beating the Rangers won’t be easy. In fact, it could be — in fact, it should be — argued that Rask will not have the defense or offense in front of him that Thomas had.
While injuries have hurt the defensive corps of late — Dennis Seidenberg (knee), Andrew Ference (foot) and Wade Redden (hand) — the bigger issue might be age. This group, led by the workhorse, Zdeno Chara, is old and has lost a step since the Cup run.
Three of the goals that got by Rask in Monday’s Game 7 were on rebounds where the Leafs outnumbered the Bruins in front of their own goal.
That won’t cut it with the Rangers ... and Lundqvist.
Winger Rick Nash (21 goals, 21 assists in 44 games), Derek Stepan (18 and 26 in 48 games) and Brad Richards (11 and 23 in 46 games) are all-star caliber point-producers.
If that collection of talent combines to score three or four goals a game, the odds are the Bruins will be toast.
That’s where Rask comes in. While there were no outward signs he “stole” a game in the series against the Leafs, it could be argued his play in the third period in Games 3 and 4 in Toronto saved the Bruins from easily falling behind 3-1 rather than being up 3-1.
It appears these Bruins-Rangers games will be physical and very defensive, which could mean a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games. That’s probably a good thing, considering the Bruins have had trouble converting many, many great scoring changes.
I hate to say this, but in the end, the Bruins will win this series if Rask is the best player on the ice, just like his former teammate was two years ago.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daccord: Lundqvist will win this battle with Rask By Brian Daccord "Stop It" Goaltending Tuukka Rask is at his best when he is patient. He is very strong technically and can play efficiently, but he also has the ability to explode laterally and make a big save. The best example of this was the breakaway save Rask made against Joffrey Lupol on Monday night. He waited Lupol out and drove into a right pad save. This is a product of confidence which is a great sign for the Bruins. When Tuukka gets in trouble is when he plays outside his posts and has to scramble back to his net. Henrik Lundqvist is terrific positionally and plays at a very deep depth. He is tough to beat laterally because of his depth but this opens up some shooting lanes for Boston's snipers. Lundqvist is also a master of the breakaway and a big save in the playoffs can really sway the momentum in a game. When a goalie gets in a grove like Lundqvist is in right now you have to take away his eyes which means bodies to the net creating disruption of puck visual attachment. The pick: A goalie's success is a reflection of his defense. I would love to choose Rask and the Bruins but the analytical side of me doubts the Bruins can overcome the loss of three defensemen. Note: Out of the eight remaining starting goalies in this round of the playoffs only one is Canadian ... All three Vezina candidates are Euro's. North Americans train goalies, Europeans train athletes to play goalie. (Editor's note: Former Boston Bruins goalie coach Brian Daccord, who not only coaches goalies year-round also has a business called, "Stop It" Goaltending. Daccord, of North Andover, breaks down the matchup between Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask and Rangers highly-acclaimed netminder, Henrik Lundqvist.)