By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
A four-day leave of absence away from the Boston Bruins has worked wonders for goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Undeniably so, in fact.
Since his return to the team, Rask has posted a 2-0-2 record with a .944 save percentage and 1.70 goals against average. Among goaltenders with at least four games of play over that stretch, that .944 ranks as the third-best in the NHL, and same for his 1.70 goals against average. Rask’s best work yet undoubtedly came in Thursday’s overtime against the Islanders, which saw Rask stop three Grade-A chances in a 34-second span and then stop all four shootout attempts in a 2-1 win.
“Huge effort, a couple breakaways and even in the shootout he made it look easy,” Bruins winger David Pastrnak said of Rask’s effort in the winning effort on Thursday. “He was great and he was a big reason why we won.”
When asked about Rask’s success upon a return to the team, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy admitted that he has noticed a difference in Rask’s mentality.
“Mentally, he’s much more relaxed,” Cassidy began. “Breaking him down technically, I don’t know. I’m not the best guy to ask that. He looks better but maybe that’s because he’s stopping pucks and generally when you stop pucks you usually look better.
“I think it’s just a case where he’s fresh and physically feels good and is ready to go in there. I think mentally he knows that this time of year he tends to play good hockey. I think that’s – when you’ve had a career as long as his, you know this is a good time of year when you find your game then maybe that’s part of it as well. He’s just confident in his game this time of year.”
As for the goalie himself, he’s not sure exactly what has changed, but will take it all the same.
“Maybe I just don’t want to play in October,” Rask joked after the win. “You just kind of work hard in practice, try to get some shots and work with the goalie coach, and then when the game time comes, you try to be there.
“Some days you are; some days you aren’t, and the past few games I have. It’s a mystery; I don’t know. I want to do it every night.”