Bruins

Kalman: Zeroes Under Pressure Prove Rask Is Mr. Cool, Smooth Hero

by Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
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Tuukka Rask (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Tuukka Rask (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — The series ended with the puck landing right where it belonged, considering how the entire Eastern Conference finals had unfolded.

With time ticking down in regulation, Jarome Iginla’s blast from the high slot went down the middle until it settled in Tuukka Rask’s glove just as time expired in regulation.

And with that last save, his 134th on 136 shots in the series, Rask clinched a 1-0 victory in Game 4 Friday night at TD Garden and a sweep of a Penguins team that entered the series averaging more than four goals per game through the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In limiting Pittsburgh to just two goals in four games, Rask compiled a .985 save percentage and 0.44 goals-against average. You pretty much need a microscope to see a flaw in the 26-year-old’s play right now.

In the days between now and when the Bruins start the Stanley Cup Final against either Chicago or Los Angeles, there are going to be a lot of comparisons between Rask and his predecessor, Tim Thomas. Obviously, until Rask wins four more games, Thomas’ run in 2011 will always be the greatest winning goaltending performance by a Bruins netminder in decades.

But win or lose, Rask’s run this postseason so far is the best clinic in goaltending that’s been seen in these parts in quite some time. If Frankie Brimsek was Mr. Zero, maybe Rask is Mr. Cool, Smooth Hero. And that’s wherein his genius resides.

Rask sweats. I’ve seen his wet hair up close after a game. I’ve even seen him need a towel to wipe his face. But even in those closing seconds of regulation in Game 4, throughout the double-overtime victory in Game 3 when he faced 54 shots, even when the best players in the world – allegedly known as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin – are flying around firing from all angles, Rask never seems to be flustered.

His anticipation and positioning are second to none. He’s almost robotic in his perfection. Those are attributes the Bruins have praised Rask for for years, and now we’re getting to see him flaunt them on the biggest stage in the sport.

Thomas might’ve made better poster shots or made more saves that could be known as “The Save” (as Steve Downie and Tomas Plekanec can tell you) in 2011. Rask doesn’t really have anything similar among his amazing performances in 2013 so far. That’s because where Thomas or most other goaltenders would be diving to a spot, Rask is almost always already there.

When Rask made that last save on Iginla, his pose would’ve made a model for a trophy. If he can keep up at his current pace, he’ll be hoisting a couple trophies in the near future.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.

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