WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The Bruins’ Tuukka Rask is the odds-on favorite to win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender during the regular season.
His numbers support that notion. Rask finished with a 36-15-6 record, 2.04 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in 58 games. He also led the league with seven shutouts. But Rask would rather earn a much bigger prize than any individual award, especially since the Bruins fell short of winning the Stanley Cup last spring with a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the finals.
“You work throughout the year as a team and if those individual awards come, they come. But if you accomplish something as a team it’s that much better,” Rask said.
“It’s obviously an individual award, but then again you don’t win that award playing on a bad team,” Rask said. “A lot of credit goes to your teammates. All the outside credit goes to you but you have to recognize nobody’s going to do it by themselves, so a lot of credit goes to teammates.”
When the Bruins won the Cup in 2011, Rask served as the backup for Tim Thomas. During his tenure in Boston, Thomas won two Vezinas, one Stanley Cup and one Conn Smythe.
Despite playing an NHL career-high 58 games this season, Rask is healthy and primed for the Stanley Cup playoffs. He doesn’t lack in confidence and will be the backbone for Boston’s Cup run again this spring.
“You want him to continue playing at his best and playing at the level he’s been playing at,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. “You saw it throughout this year, you saw it in the Olympics and obviously you saw it last year in the playoffs.
“We know what type of goaltender he is and we know how important he is to this team’s success. He has a lot of confidence in himself and when he’s having fun he’s playing at his best. There’s no better time to have fun right now. I know he’s looking forward to this challenge. Obviously, coming up short last year we’re looking forward to getting it going and I’m looking forward to seeing him have another great performance.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien believes Rask, along with teammates Zdeno Chara (Norris) and Patrice Bergeron (Selke), each should win an individual trophy. As far as Rask, Julien has been impressed with his goalie’s confidence.
“I don’t think Tuukka has ever lacked confidence,” Julien said. “Even when he was here behind Tim, he was always very confident in what he could do. He has always worked hard and had the right attitude, and that is just growing into the experience of the years.
“His stats certainly did improve a lot, but at the same time he has been one of those goaltenders that continues to want to be better all the time. He was on the big stage, obviously, at the Olympics and was probably a big part of his team winning the bronze. He is capable of handling, I guess, that kind of a stage as well. We’re going to need his leadership and his stability back there if we expect to do well.”