By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
You wouldn't think the Bruins needed much in the way of goaltending in a game they won 7-3. But in spurts of Game 2 at TD Garden on Saturday night, the Maple Leafs threatened to do something they have yet to do in this series against the Bruins: take control of the game. That's when Rask showed up to deny them at the doorstep.
Rask's final numbers won't impress you - 30 saves on 33 shots amounts to just a .909 save percentage. But the saves themselves? Many of them carried greater weight than others. And in a game where the Leafs at times showed enough fight to potentially make some noise, Rask kept them in check.
Toronto swarmed the Bruins net for most of the opening five minutes, consistently gaining entry into the Bruins' zone and winning puck battles. They peppered the net with six shot attempts to just one for the Bruins before David Pastrnak's goal opened the scoring. It was one of very few times in the series where it felt like the Leafs could get things to break their way.
But starting with a stop on a tip-in attempt by Mitch Marner, Rask let the Leafs know that even if they got close to him, he wasn't going to let them take the momentum that the Bruins had built up from Game 1.
Rask also held off a barrage of Maple Leafs opportunities with four key saves in the final four minutes of the second period. After Tyler Bozak made it 5-2, it felt like the Leafs were starting to find themselves. The Leafs still boast enough firepower that a 5-2 game doesn't exactly feel safe halfway through the game. Another goal at the end of the second frame would not have tasted very good for the B's. The Leafs also missed on two early power plays in the third.
But, once again, Rask made the big saves when he really needed to.
Although he gave up three goals on the night, it's hard to blame the goalie over the team in front of him (or bad luck) for any of them. David Krejci committed a bad turnover that led to the first goal for Mitchell Marner, who also made a great play to pounce on Krejci's pass and set up a 2-on-1 with Zach Hyman. And on the second goal, an unsuspecting Ryan Donato let Tyler Bozak sneak right by him to take an easy one-timer right in the slot. Would've been great for Rask to bail out the rookie on the play, but a tough play to expect any goalie to make.
The third goal could be attributed to an unbelievably unlucky series of bounces, as a deflected shot bounced off Adam McQuaid's skate and right to James van Riemsdyk, who buried it for a power play goal late in regulation. Rask did over-commit a bit to the right, but it was still a case of the puck bouncing perfectly Toronto's way.
Considering how polarizing of a player Rask has been in recent years, it may surprise many that he'd make so many big stops in a playoff game. Brad Marchand was not one of those surprised people.
"He's done that all year," said Marchand. "He's the backbone of the team. He's one of the best goalies in the league. He makes big saves at big times when it's needed, and it was needed there a couple of times. They put a push on and it easily could've been a different game. He did a good job back there."
The Bruins did more than enough on offense that, besides the beginning of the game, it didn't exactly feel like the game was truly slipping from their grasp. But defensively, they did start to look gassed and disorganized late in the second and in the first half of the third. Rask needed to make sure Toronto got no momentum going, and he held them off.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy acknowledged Rask's strong night after the game, noting that a performance like that can get lost in the whirlwind of a seven-goal bombardment.
"Yeah, I mean you look at a game like this, sometimes that gets overlooked, for sure," said Cassidy. "And they’re a good team, they’re going to have a push. They turned it up. They’re good in transition. Second-period line changes, you’ve got to be mindful of that. It even makes them that much stronger in those quick strikes, so we lost it a little bit there in terms of what we were doing well in the neutral zone – not allowing them to come through with speed, but we got it back. That’s the sign of a good team as well, and then we’re able to play the right way in the third period."
We'll see how it goes for Rask in Toronto, but so far so good for the Bruins netminder. Especially considering how the Bruins played down the stretch, it was important for he and the rest of the team to get off to a good start. Not sure Bruins fans could have asked for a better one.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].
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