Game 7: Bruins pin hopes on Rask for Stanley Cup glory
If there is an edge to be had in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, it could be Boston Bruins goalie Tuuka Rask.
Rask is 5-0 this postseason when the Bruins either faced elimination or had a chance to clinch a series. He stopped 28 of 29 shots against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night as the visiting Bruins won 5-1, setting up the deciding game Wednesday night in Boston.
“He’s our best player,” Boston defenseman Charlie McAvoy told reporters.
“He has been all playoffs and all regular season. We know that when he plays like that to the best of his ability and we do our jobs in front of him — we’ve got to help him out — that he’s going to be there. He’s going to be that stone.”
The Bruins came back from a 3-2 series deficit in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, with Rask saving 54 of 57 shots in the final two games. He posted shutouts in the clinching game against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes as Boston won the Eastern Conference.
And then there was Sunday night.
Add it all up, and he has a save percentage of .973 (145 of 149) in the five games that have meant the most to Boston.
“I’ve felt good all along in the playoffs,” Rask said after Sunday’s game.
“Sometimes you play better than others. Sometimes you’re seeing the puck better just because your defense is playing better. There’s chances from the outside instead of rebounds from the slot. There’s a lot of moving parts there. So, I felt good all along, and it’s not (that) I feel any different. It’s a team effort.”
The 32-year-old from Finland is 15-8 in the postseason, leading all goalies in the playoffs (minimum five games) with a 1.93 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage.
This will be Rask’s 89th career playoff game.
His counterpart is St. Louis rookie Jordan Binnington, who helped fuel the Blues’ stunning run from last place at midseason to Game 7 of the finals. The 25-year-old has been good in the postseason — 15-10, 2.52 GAA, .911 save percentage — but he hasn’t quite been Rask.
The Bruins and Blues will play the first Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final since 2011, when Boston beat Vancouver 4-0 behind a shutout from Tim Thomas, while Rask watched from the bench. Rask is now in position to write his own Cup history while helping to erase memories of 2013, when he allowed two late goals within 17 seconds as the Chicago Blackhawks won Game 6 and the Stanley Cup.
“Good for Tuukka,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “He’s allowed us an opportunity to play in a Game 7. I think the whole hockey world loves a Game 7, so it should be a great night in Boston, and may the best team win.”