Thursday, February 20, 2014
Rask's Olympic dominance no surprise
By Brendan C. Hall
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- As T.J. Oshie and the Americans emerge as darlings of the Olympic hockey tournament, back in Boston the Bruins are watching with delight the craftwork of their own focused, never-flustered backstop in net.
Stateside, Tuukka Rask has become a perennial Vezina candidate, currently leading the NHL in shutouts (5) and ranking fourth in save percentage (.928). Over in Russia, Rask has been outstanding, as one of the top goaltenders in the Olympics. In Sunday’s battle with Canada, he stopped 25 shots as the Finns lost 2-1 in overtime. Then on Wednesday, with a hostile crowd, Rask bounced the host Russians from the tourney with 37 saves in a 3-1 win.
Nothing out of the ordinary for these Bruins to see.
“I was excited to watch him very confident. It looks like he’s having fun,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “It’s awesome. Obviously you see all the firepower Russia had, and to see the way Tuukka shut them down it’s got to be huge for him.”
Said defenseman Adam McQuaid, “He’s doing the same thing he’s doing for us, he’s giving them a chance to win every game. In a short tournament like that, and with one game you move on kind of thing, you get a hot goalie, you can do good things. No surprise to see him playing as well as he is. We’re all happy for him.”
Since NHL players began competing in the Olympics in 1998, good showings by goaltenders against international competition have often carried over back to the states. Dominik Hasek was the most famous outlier, picking up his fourth Vezina Trophy four months after helping lead the Czechs to gold in the 1998 games. In more recent years, Ryan Miller stood on his head in the 2010 Vancouver games as the U.S. won silver, then picked up his first Vezina to end the NHL season.
Best case scenario for the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins is for Rask to keep this up when he gets back here, something nobody seems too worried about at the moment.
“I think he’s the type of guy that everything’s always so even-keeled for him anyways,” McQuaid said. “Obviously he’s confident in himself and his game, but I’m sure to be the opposing team in an atmosphere like that, the home country, where you’ve played an excellent game, I’m sure you can take nothing but good things from that.”
Three-time Olympic veteran Jaroma Iginla, who won gold with Canada in 2002 and 2010, sees the good fortunes as something practical to fall back on later.
“Being through stressful intense situations and when it goes well, those are moments that, you get into another one and you’re able to draw on,” he said. “So it’s great to see [Rask] playing well, he’s a great goalie. I don’t think anybody is expecting anything differently. They’ve seen him for a long time.”