In case you missed it, Tuukka Rask is playing out of his mind

Evan Marinofsky
May 15, 2019 - 7:17 am

The Bruins should have lost Game 3 in the first five minutes. And if not in the first five minutes, then the next 15 minutes. Either way, the Bruins had a horrible, no good, very bad first period. 

But the B's had Tuukka Rask and Rask had their collective backs, stopping 35 of 36 shots -- 20 of which came in the first period -- en route to a 2-1 Bruins win and 3-0 series lead. 

"Guys have played with Tuukka [Rask> for a while," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters after the win. "They know what he's made of. Obviously for us keeping the puck out of our net gives us a chance to regroup after the first intermission, find our game." 

The fact that the Hurricanes never even lit the lamp once in the first period is a miracle in itself for the Bruins. Just three minutes in, Rask made four consecutive saves on top-notch scoring chances for the Hurricanes. 

With his 20 stops in the first period, Rask became the first Bruins goalie to make that amount of saves in a postseason period since Tim Thomas during the third period in Game 2 of the 2011 Conference Semifinals when he made 22 stops. 

See, Tuukka-deniers: Rask is putting up Thomas-like numbers. 

"I think that's the experience," said Rask of the traffic in front of him in the first period. "Once you've played in the playoffs many many years and you've seen different kinds of scenarios and what might happen out there." 

Rask is so locked in right now that there were shots he admittedly didn't see and he still stopped them. 

"There's a couple chances I didn't see in the first period," said Rask. "But a lot of times, if you don't see it and don't move you have a better shot at saving it than if you would move too much. Justin Williams shot one high glove that I didn't see at all. One high blocker in tight that just hit me so that's kind of the thing like if it hits me, it hits me." 

Just like he has often throughout this postseason, Cassidy credited Rask's play with calming the rest of the team down between periods. 

"What it does for the team is it allows you to take a deep breath knowing you're going into the first intermission 'hey we haven't played our best but it's 0-0'," said Cassidy. "I think you have to have a short memory in the playoffs and we were able to find our game after that." 

Rask flourishing in the first period is nothing new; he's made 150 saves on 156 shots in all first periods this postseason, which is good for a save percentage of .961. 

But his outstanding play wasn't limited to the first 20 minutes on Wednesday night. Time and time again, when the Bruins were down and out, Rask was up and at 'em. His second period save where he stacked the pads on an odd-man rush was the epitome of this. 

"To me it's been his poise," said Patrice Bergeron when asked about why Rask has been so successful throughout this postseason. "Tuukka's one of those guys who's always calm and collected and never too up or down. He's always even keel. Right now he's in the zone. He's been amazing and he's a huge reason why we're here right now." 

The "poise" Bergeron speaks of was on display in the third period when Rask stayed center and stopped a Jordan Staal tip. It also came into play when Matt Grzelcyk was called for tripping midway through the final 20 in a one-goal game. 

Once again, Rask was there to make the saves. 

"He's stopping the puck," said Brad Marchand. "He's in the zone right now. He's confident. You just let him be and let him keep doing his thing and giving us the opportunity to win every game. That's why we are where we are." 

Rask's overall numbers in this postseason are just as impressive as his performance in Game 3. His .939 save percentage and 1.96 goals-against average through 16 games are both ranked second in each category. 

Ironically enough, Curtis McElhinney ranks first in both, though he's only appeared in four games. 

"I've felt good for a couple months now," said Rask when evaluating his own performance. "It's just the way you're seeing the puck. You feel comfortable. It's about timing, patience and all that. I think experience helps that. You just try to stay mentally focused and sharp, night in and night out and not get rattled by anything. Being in the zone, although nobody knows what that means." 

His numbers throughout this Cup run actually rank above Thomas' stats through 16 games in 2011. In that year, Thomas had a .931 save percentage and a 2.27 GAA. 

Take that, Tuukka-deniers. 

"Rask is the difference maker," said Hurricanes bench boss Rod Brind'Amour. "You can feel that." 

Brind'Amour is right -- Rask was the difference maker in Game 3. That statement would also be true for this entire Cup run. 

Throughout these playoffs, it's been more of an opinion that Rask is currently playing the best hockey of his career. 

Now it's more of a fact. 

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