If there’s one player the Bruins can ill afford to lose for long this season, it’s netminder Tuukka Rask.
It’s for that reason Boston was holding its breath when Rask was felled by a slap shot that caught him high in the early going of Thursday’s loss to the Nashville Predators, but it sounds like Rask is going to be just fine.
The cause for concern came little more than midway through the first frame, when the Predators wound their way through the neutral zone and set up a blast from defenseman Roman Josi. Josi’s shot, which he stepped into from the top of the left wing circle, appeared to instantly sting Rask, who fell back to his left, shook off his blocker and mask and clutched at his face before being attended to by the Bruins’ medical staff.
The save on Josi would be Rask’s last play of the contest as he was removed from the game and was ruled out for the remainder of the evening. Post-game, Bruins coach Claude Julien said Rask took the puck “in the throat area,” and said the netminder “wasn’t well enough to come back” and that the team would monitor his condition moving forward. However, according to Rask, there’s not much reason to worry.
“I’ll be all right,” Rask said, according to the Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont.
Rask’s insistence that he’ll be OK is great news for the Bruins, though confirmation of his health is going to need to wait until he’s evaluated by the team. That’s likely to happen Friday, as the Bruins get set for a matinee meeting with the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
Keeping Rask in the lineup is about as good as news can get for the Bruins, because without him the season may have gotten away from Boston already. The Bruins are currently in the thick of things in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference playoff race, and that’s largely due to the play of Rask, who has had an outstanding season.
Rask had a tough 2015-16 campaign, posting a 2.56 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 64 games, but he has come back incredibly strong in 2016-17. Through 34 outings, Rask boasts a 1.95 GAA, .926 SP, has five shutouts to his name and has dropped only nine games in regulation. Among all NHL goaltenders, Rask ranks in the top seven for wins, GAA, SP and shutouts, and it couldn’t come at a better time with the Bruins’ offense struggling to find consistency this season.
Despite playing 45 games, more than any other team in the league, the Bruins have mustered only 111 goals. That’s the eighth-worst goals per game mark of any team in the league this season, with the vast majority of teams below the Bruins in that category battling it out for the first overall selection rather than a playoff spot.
And if you need more evidence that Rask has been the Bruins’ MVP this season, consider that Boston has only one win credited to any other netminder despite the fact the trio of Anton Khudobin, Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban have started 11 games this season.
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