Boston Bruins

Jan 1, 2019; South Bend, IN: Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask makes a save against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period in the 2019 Winter Classic hockey game at Notre Dame Stadium. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Jan 1, 2019; South Bend, IN: Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask makes a save against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period in the 2019 Winter Classic hockey game at Notre Dame Stadium. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Just hours before the Winter Classic, Cam Neely made a call for Tuukka Rask to step up his game. On the biggest stage of the regular season so far, the goalie delivered.

Rask made 36 saves on the Chicago Blackhawks in the Bruins’ 4-2 win on New Year’s Day at Notre Dame Stadium. Needing to battle back from two separate one-goal deficits, the Bruins needed Rask to come up with big saves at numerous key points in the game. More often than not, that’s exactly what Rask did.

Stopping all six power play shots from Chicago, Rask made a big difference on special teams as the Bruins went 2-for-5 on power plays of their own. The Blackhawks went 0-for-4.

Much like Patrice Bergeron made a massive difference in the complexion of the game with his play at the end of the second period, Rask made a serious impact at the end of the first period when he stoned Patrick Kane twice on a late breakaway, averting disaster.

Rask bookended that save with another huge stop on Kane, this time with 39 seconds left in regulation:

There’s no question that Rask came up big this time for the Bruins, whose president called for the goalie to perform that way more consistently.

“We need Tuukka to step up and show that he can play a string of games and play well for us,” said Neely during a Tuesday interview on Felger & Mazz. “He went on an amazing run last year. We’re hoping for another one this year.”

If he can get on a similar hot streak to a year ago, Rask could make the Bruins’ goaltending tandem deadly. Pair an A-game Rask with what Jaroslav Halak has brought so far (12-6-2, .928 save percentage, 2.28 GAA), and the Bruins have a hell of a duo in goal.

The Bruins had trouble defending some of the Blackhawks’ younger, more skilled forwards, like Brendan Perlini, Alex DeBrincat, and Dylan Strome for much of the afternoon. Rask did an excellent job keeping Chicago at bay when it surged, particularly in the second period. We’ll see if he strings games like Tuesday together now, but he deserves credit for arguably being the Bruins’ MVP of the Winter Classic.

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 matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.