BOSTON -- After the Bruins took a 2-1 series lead with a 2-0 win over the Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said that he thought his team made it “rather easy” on Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask in terms of traffic in front of the net and Rask being able to get clean looks at the puck.
While that may have been true at times during Game 3, Rask is making everything look easy, as he did in making 27 saves for his third shutout of the playoffs.
True, the Blackhawks did not generate as many quality scoring chances as they would have liked, but when they did, the Conn Smythe Trophy favorite was ready. That can be a challenge for a goalie in a game like Game 3, when scoring chances were few and far between.
Rask’s ability to handle different types of games -- 63 shots in Game 1, 37 in Game 2 and then 27 in Game 3 -- and to maintain his focus through the ebb and flow of a game are a big reason the Bruins are two wins away from their second Stanley Cup in three seasons.
“He's been focused since Day 1 of the playoffs,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said following Game 3. “You watch him on off days, you watch him, he's quiet, focused, calm. Right now all his energy is put toward his game, how he needs to get his rest, relax. When the game starts, he's a focused individual. Like I said, I've never seen a guy so calm, obviously confident with the way he's played. Probably quietest I've seen him so far, but in a good way.”
Rask said that quiet but alert demeanor has been growing through the course of the playoffs. As he pointed out, the playoffs can be a different animal and Rask has done his best to adapt.
“I think I've gotten used to that already during these playoffs,” Rask said. “There's been a lot of games like this that you don't get quality opportunities, then all of a sudden, there's four or five of them. But you're playing the last five minutes of the game, you know they're going to throw everything at you, what they possibly can.
“For the most part, I think we kept them outside, blocked a lot of shots, took care of the rebounds. That's always a positive sign in my mind.”
Rask has been helped by his teammates blocking shots, but also making sure those efforts don’t become screens.
“We've gotten better, a lot better, as the season has gone on,” Rask said. “They're not trying to play goalie, they're just trying to be in the lane. All the other guys are taking care of their ice, keeping their head up, looking to guys behind them or in front of them.”
That is true, but Rask, who is now 14-5 with a 1.64 goals-against average and .946 save percentage in the playoffs, showed again in Game 3 that his teammates can look to him to be ready for anything.