By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
You could almost hear the arena-wide sinking feeling that came with the shorthanded goal Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask allowed to the Stars’ Radek Faksa early in the first period of Monday’s head-to-head with Dallas.
After the game, Torey Krug fell on the goal, saying that the shot redirected off his stick and through Rask. But given the ugliness that’s surrounded Rask’s sluggish start — the bad goals, the early deficits, and the habitual spiraling out of control at the first sign of danger — the Faksa goal seemed like the start of yet another nightmare. Considering what Rask is up against, too, with “backup” Jaroslav Halak playing absolutely lights out in the B’s crease, this was not a pretty start.
Even Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy knew that.
“Listen, [Rask] needs wins,” Cassidy said after the game. “He’s a goalie. That’s what he gets judged on.”
It’s exactly what Rask delivered from that point forward, too, with stops on the 23 shots that followed in a 2-1 overtime win.
Now, the Bruins almost made it a point to make sure the remainder of Rask’s rough-starting opening frame was quiet, as they surrendered just two shots on goal in the final 16 minutes and change after that first goal; The two shots were both from Dallas center Gemel Smith, one of which came from 91 feet the other way, and the other a weak wrister from about 35 feet out. Neither had any chance of sneaking through Rask, but with a start like that, perhaps the Bruins were best to play it safe with a Star-smothering defensive effort at one end, and pace-pushing offensive threat at the other.
But Rask’s workload certainly picked up from the second period on, and the 31-year-old was forced to make some stops. Even if they were multiple points throughout the night where it looked as if Rask was prepped to give the game away. But that moment never came, not even in overtime when the Stars had a clear path to the net for the game-winning goal.
“Tuukka played well, made a nice stop there in overtime,” Cassidy said. “He wasn’t that busy, so it was a good day for him to sort of get his bearings again. He hadn’t played in a while. I don’t know how used to he is to not playing that much. But at the end of the day, yes, he needed the win, and he got it. So, hopefully better things for him the next time he’s in.”
And that’s ultimately the biggest part in all of this. Halak can become your starting netminder and relegate Rask to backup duty, and right now, it’s hard to argue that the Black and Gold should do anything but start the white-hot Halak. But the Bruins still need Rask to get wins and play at a manageable level when he’s called upon and vice versa if and when the roles switch back to “normalcy” upon a Rask hot streak. This is not an either or kind of situation for the Bruins.
In fact, they need both to hold up their end of the bargain if they’re to be much of anything this season.
“I just wanted to be solid, feel good about the game,” Rask offered after the victory, his first since Oct. 23. “I think at the end of the day it was a pretty decent game from my part too. Doesn’t matter really if there’s a two day break or ten day break, don’t let it affect your focus and mental preparation, its part of the job. It’s good to get the win.”
Both on the ice and in his own head, too.
“A lot of times you either win or lose the battle inside your head,” admitted Rask. “I’m trying to win it.”
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has also been a voting member of the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association since 2013. 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 Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.