Rask honored, but focused on bigger prize

BOSTON -- After Tuukka Rask signed an eight-year contract extension worth $56 million last summer with the Boston Bruins, the franchise goaltender said he wanted to be worth every penny.

He's lived up to all the expectations.

On Friday, the NHL announced Rask is one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender during the regular season, joining Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche.

Rask posted a 36-15-6 record, along with a 2.04 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in 58 games. He led the league with seven shutouts and surrendered two or fewer goals in 38 games.

"I feel like I wasn't a disappointment," Rask said. "You just try to be as good as people think you are and you think you are. So I accomplished that in the regular season and there's still a lot to prove in the playoffs."

A year ago, Rask helped Boston reach the Stanley Cup finals, where the Bruins lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. This season, the Bruins finished as the Presidents' Trophy winner and are the odds-on favorite to win the Cup this spring.

Boston holds a 3-1 series lead over the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. Rask and the Bruins can clinch the best-of-seven series with a win on Saturday at TD Garden.

Rask and teammate Patrice Bergeron, a Selke Trophy finalist, both said it's an honor to be nominated for individual awards, but the bigger prize is more important.

"It's a great honor to be nominated. Obviously it's something you don't necessarily -- you dream about these individual awards when you're a kid, too. It's great recognition, but everybody knows we're a team-first team and it's something that comes after the biggest trophy," Rask said.

For the majority of his tenure as coach in Boston, Claude Julien has been blessed with solid goaltending. Former Bruins netminder Tim Thomas won a pair of Vezina trophies, plus a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe Trophy. Rask just might be in line to win all three awards this season.

Julien believes Rask should win the Vezina.

"To me, it's a no-brainer, he's had such a good year," Julien said. "He has been so good for us and he has had an unbelievable season. He did well at the Olympics for his team, too, but this is based on the NHL. I just think he has had a great year and would be really disappointed had he not been one of the three nominees."

Rask has never lacked in confidence. From the time the Bruins acquired his rights from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for goaltender Andrew Raycroft, the Boston organization knew Rask would eventually become a world-class goalie. He has never doubted his ability to compete and succeed at this level.

"I guess I felt that all along," he said. "But when you play more, and you get consecutive starts, and you kind of feel like you've proved yourself in the league, and you feel that you can play a lot of games in a row at a good level, then you just try to build on that and keep working hard. But I've always felt like as long as I get my chances, I'll be able to play. So then it's not so much to get there, but then the toughest part of things is just to maintain that level and stay at the top."

If the Bruins can produce another deep run through the Stanley Cup playoffs, Rask will need to be the cornerstone of the team.

"It's been an honor to play with Tuukka," said Bruins forward Gregory Campbell. "He's an extremely talented goaltender. He's not only talented, he's worked hard and I've seen him develop since I've been here. He's very deserving of that nomination. He's a huge part of this team, a huge part of this organization's success."