Boston coach Claude Julien admitted he didn’t know exactly what to expect when Tim Thomas, the Bruins’ 2011 Conn Smythe-winning goaltender, walked away from the game, leaving the starting gig to former backup Tuukka Rask.
“Tim has been a great goaltender for us,” Julien said on Sunday. “When you lose a guy like that, there’s always that fear that you’re not going to be able to replace him.”
As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about.
In 2011, Thomas posted a 16-9 record, 1.98 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage in leading the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup title since 1972 in a seven-game series against the Vancouver Canucks.
But Rask’s numbers this year are even better — a 13-5 record, 1.73 GAA and a .944 save percentage heading into Game 3 on Monday night against the Blackhawks.
“Tuukka’s done an outstanding job,” Julien said. “To me, he’s been as much of a contributor to our team as Tim was two years ago.”
If Rask is feeling the pressure of trying to live up to lofty postseason standards set by Thomas, the 26-year-old native of Finland isn’t admitting it.
“I think I’ve answered the question a hundred times already; it’s always good to play well in the playoffs,” Rask said. “I don’t try to prove anything to anybody else but to myself and my teammates.”
Rask proved an awful lot Saturday night in Game 2 — almost single-handedly keeping the Bruins in the game during a first period in which they were outshot 19-4 yet trailed just 1-0 after 20 minutes.
“Well, there’s really no time to think, there were too many shots,” Rask said, when asked what was going through his head during the onslaught. “I just wanted to keep the game tight, give us a chance to survive that first period and regroup.”
Well, thanks to Rask’s play and some rousing speeches inside the room during the first intermission, the Bruins came out a different team in the second period and beyond en route to a 2-1 overtime victory which tied the series at 1-1 heading into Game 3 tonight in Boston.
“We play for one another and trust each other, that’s why we can come back from a terrible period like we did,” Bruins forward Tyler Seguin said. “Obviously we wanted to do it for Tuukks especially, he kept us in the game the whole time.”
ŸThe Associated Press contributed to this report.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.