- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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TORONTO -- In the midst of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins aren't thinking about individual awards. However, several players are a bit surprised that goaltender Tuukka Rask is not a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks are the three finalists for the award, it was announced Wednesday morning. In his first season as the team's No. 1 goalie, Rask finished with a 19-10-5 record, along with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. He also had five shutouts in 36 games.
"I don't think Tuukka's going to lose much sleep over it, or I hope not," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "It's kind of like Zdeno [Chara], to our team he's a Norris Trophy winner every year. Anybody who knows our team where we would be without him and there aren't too many teams in the league that try to keep their elite players away from him game after game, so that speaks volumes about him. Tuukka's the same way. He's had a great year, he's been good for us. Sometimes you control what you can and what he's got to control right now is how well he plays and how well he's going to continue to play through these playoffs, and that's more valuable than a little individual trophy that's voted by different people. At the end of the day, you aim for the big trophy, which is more important than any individual one, and that's what we're trying to do."
During his career with the Bruins, Tim Thomas won two Vezina trophies, a Conn Smythe and a Stanley Cup, but Rask has done a solid job replacing Thomas between the pipes this season.
"He's been great," said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. "If you look at his play alone, he's done a great job, but if you look at the situation he came into, especially following in Timmy's footsteps, there was a lot of pressure on him to jump in and be that No. 1 guy that everyone knows he's been waiting to be. So, he came into a situation like that and to play the way he has, it has a couple of extra bonus points."
So far in the first three games of this series, Rask has played well, especially with a 45-save performance in Game 3 on Monday at Air Canada Centre. Being a finalist for the Vezina would have been a honor for him, but his teammates know how important he is to the team.
"It's the view of the GMs, but we know how much he means in this locker room and we know how many times he kept us in games and won us games, and that's what counts," Dennis Seidenberg said. "Everything else doesn't really matter. It would be nice for him to be up for that nomination, but at the end it doesn't matter."
Backup goalie Anton Khudobin said that many of the players expressed surprise about Rask not being a finalist.
"Yes, actually I was," Khudobin said. "We just talked about it this morning and I was surprised. He played real consistently every game and he gave us a good chance to make the playoffs and to get the point when we needed to. He kept us there and stole some games for us."
3dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald