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BOSTON (CBS) – You can’t brag all offseason and preseason about how you have the best goaltending tandem in the NHL and then only break out one of those stud goaltenders for special occasions.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien let young, promising goaltender Tuukka Rask know that he’s not the Bruins’ version of a family’s fine china by giving Rask a second straight start Thursday night, and it paid off.
Rask made 27 saves on 30 shots in a 6-3 victory over Edmonton. It was Rask’s second victory of the season and gave him a winning streak for the first time since last February, when he won three in a row.
Last season, Rask didn’t get his second win until December 9 – his ninth appearance of the campaign. It’s safe to say the 24-year-old Finn is on a mini-roll.
“Well two wins for me, so that’s unusual so far. So it’s a good thing,” said Rask, who’s been the recipient of 12 goals of support over those two victories.
When you have an all-world goaltender like two-time Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, it’s difficult to make a switch – especially when you’re a defending Stanley Cup champion fighting your way back to the .500 mark. Even the overwhelming talent of Rask can be easy to overlook when Thomas is shining.
As ordered by Julien from on up high, Rask wasn’t able to reveal when he knew he’d be getting his first consecutive starts since last March. But it was obvious that he had enough time to prepare and that Julien and his staff had been planning this little Thomas rest for a while.
“Just the fact that it’s hard for a goaltender to play every 10 days, and every once in a while, you’ve got to allow him to get on a roll a little bit,” said Julien, as he enlightened the media to his decision-making process after the win. “I thought this was a good time for it. Obviously you guys probably know who’s going to be in net next game (Thomas against Buffalo Saturday), but the bottom line is, we’ve got a lot of games coming up, and I wanted to get him an opportunity to get closer to him being at the best he can be, and the only way we felt we could do that was by giving him some consecutive games, so that was the reason behind it.”
The night started ominously for Rask, as Ryan Smyth rattled the right pipe just 35 seconds into the game. The Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but Edmonton rallied to tie the game and finished the opening period with 12 shots on net. Rask managed to battle through and avoid making Julien regret his decision.
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With Smyth, and several other Oilers forwards, masterful at screening the goaltender, Rask had to expend more energy than he’s used to in order to stop more shots than his counterpart down the other end of the ice. Sometimes not playing your best and getting a victory can be as beneficial as being on top of your game.
“I mean obviously everyone could tell I wasn’t feeling 100-percent out there, like talking about puck- handling and I couldn’t take care of those rebounds because I kicked every rebound out there possible,” said Rask, who’s now 2-3-0 with a .908 save percentage and 2.63 goals-against average. “But we battled through it and I battled through it and I know it ended up being a good game.”
A good game because it pulled the Bruins back to the .500 mark at 7-7-0 and also continued to back up their claim to the best one-two crease punch in the NHL. That’ll come in handy the rest of this season and beyond.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com. He operatesTheBruinsBlog.net and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.