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Felger & Mazz: Rask Has Never Looked Better, But Give Him A Rest!

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BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Bruins have won seven straight and have been getting some extraordinary play from netminder Tuukka Rask, who notched his second win in as many nights Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Rask was even more stellar on Wednesday night in Boston’s big 4-1 win over the Canadiens in Montreal, stopping 35 of the 36 shots that came his way. He’s won each of his last five starts, and has allowed just eight goals in that stretch.

“This might be the best I’ve ever seen Tuukka Rask look,” Michael Felger said Friday afternoon. “I’m not telling you this is his most important stretch or ‘his best stretch.’ Allowing two goals in four games against the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals is the pinnacle of his career. But how he’s seeing the puck, how he’s moving, controlling rebounds – I don’t know if he’s looked better.”

“It’s quite a bounce-back from his pre-Olympics and even the Olympics, where he had that missed game in the semis vs. Sweden,” said Felger. “But then he came back and shut out the U.S. (in the bronze medal game), and since he’s come back (from Sochi) he’s been great.”

Rask has now made 49 starts this season, which is four more appearances than his career-high of 45 back in 2009-10. He’ll likely get the day off on Saturday afternoon against the Carolina Hurricanes, but Felger is curious why Tuukka was in net Thursday night on the second leg of a back-to-back.

“It’s the second of back-to-backs, a Western Conference team — what are you doing?” he questioned. “He’s four over the most games he’s ever played. I know he’s an $8 million-per-year guy so he has to get close to 60 (starts), I get that. But let’s not over-emphasize the regular season at the expense of what you need from Tuukka in April and May.”

“If they’re going to make a run, they may need him more than they did last year,” Tony Massarotti said of Rask. “Their defense is weaker, and they’re going to need Rask to play at another world level to make a deep run.

“If you watch these games, they’re giving up chances; odd-man rushes and guys getting in alone. It’s not the typical Bruins defense we’re used to seeing,” said Mazz. “The goalie is a bigger part than it has been in the past.”

This led to a discussion about possibly giving other players a rest with just 16 games before the postseason. The Bruins currently own the top seed in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of Pittsburgh, and own a 13 point lead over Toronto for the Atlantic Division.

Defenseman Zdeno Chara played 27 minutes against Phoenix on Thursday, and Felger wouldn’t mind seeing the captain watching a game or two from the ninth floor in the coming weeks.

“I don’t want to make too big of a deal out of this, because it’s not a big deal. But if I’m the Bruins, let’s start to ramp the big fellow down a little. Let’s save this guy,” Felger said of Chara. “I would like to see them ramp it down with a couple guys — (Rask), Chara is obviously one, maybe give a blow to Patrice Bergeron here and there.”

“I really hope they don’t sell out for the first seed in the Eastern Conference, because it doesn’t matter.” he said. “If you want first place in your division, fine. You’re almost guaranteed that, it’s almost a lock at this juncture. Be smart about it.”

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