Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Goalie showdown: Rask vs. Lundqvist
By Joe McDonald
BOSTON -- A lot of focus during this Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers will be on the opposing goaltenders.
At one end of the ice is the Bruins' Tuukka Rask. At the other end of the ice is the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist. While Lundqvist is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's best goaltender and has plenty of postseason experience, Rask only recently won his second Stanley Cup playoff series.
Lundqvist was one of the main reasons the underdog Rangers beat the Washington Capitals in their first-round series, and the same can be said for Rask's performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs. On paper, there's no denying who the better goaltender is, but this series both goalies will be tested, so it'll be interesting to see which one will be the last one standing.
"I don't want to think too much about these goalie matchups," Rask said. "I think it's team against team in the first place. He's a great goalie and he's been around for a while and I don't think he's had a bad year. He's had some ups and downs during the years, but he always came out on top at the end. I've been watching him a lot and I really think he's a great goalie. It should be an interesting matchup."
Lundqvist is 21-7-2 with a 1.67 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage in 30 career games against the Bruins.
"He's good against everybody, not just the Bruins," said one NHL scout familiar with both teams. "He's a real competitor and he loves to win. You can't count him out because he's always trying to make that next save and that's his biggest strength as a goaltender. When the stakes get high, that's when he plays better."
Rask has played only nine games against the Rangers during his NHL career, mostly because former Bruins goalie Tim Thomas usually faced Lundqvist. In those nine meetings, Rask is 3-3-3 with a 2.09 GAA and a .928 save percentage.
This season, Lundqvist posted a 2-1-0 record against Boston, while Rask was 1-0-2 against New York.
During the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, Rask was the Bruins' starting goaltender as Thomas was dealing with a hip injury. Rask helped Boston to a first-round win over the Buffalo Sabres and their goalie Ryan Miller, but Rask tired in the second round against the Philadelphia Flyers as Boston imploded, lost its 3-0 series lead and eventually fell to its opponents in Game 7.
Rask is a much different goalie now. He's more mature on and off the ice and proved in the first round against the Maple Leafs he's strong and ready for the long haul.
"I feel good," Rask said. "No problems. I played a lot of hockey in that short period of time, but that's the way it works."
Boston faced a good young goalie in the first round as Toronto's James Reimer performed well in his first Stanley Cup playoff series. Lundqvist, however, presents an entirely different challenge for the Bruins.
"It is an adjustment," said Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron. "Reimer played a great series and now we still have our hands full with Lundqvist. He's a great goalie and we have to make sure to put a lot of pucks on net. We know what to expect with Lundqvist. He doesn't give up too many rebounds and when he does you have to bounce on them. It's about putting a lot of traffic and creating havoc in front of him and fight for every loose puck."
How to the Bruins plan on beating Lundqvist?
"Getting pucks by him," Rask said with a smile.