The key to real estate is location, location, location. They key to winning playoff hockey games is having a goaltender that comes up with timely saves. After a shaky first round, that saw the Boston Bruins eke out a 4 games to 3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask looked mediocre at best. He allowed 4 goals on 24 shots in the crucial Game 7 and had a save percentage of .833 (his second lowest save percentage of the postseason behind the .692 he posted in Game 5 when he was pulled after allowing 4 goals on only 13 shots).
Rask, who has 5 wins and 4 losses this postseason, came into tonight’s matchup with a .906 save percentage, well below his playoff career average of .925. His goals against average (2.85) is also well above his postseason career average (2.21). However, through the first two games against the Tampa Bay Lighting, Rask has turned up the intensity and looked like the elite goaltender many in Boston believe he is.
In Game 1, Rask made 34 saves on 36 shots, as the Bruins won 6 to 2. In Game 2, he made some outstanding saves and kept the Bruins in the game (they didn’t register their first shot of the game until almost 15 minutes in), however he gave up the eventual game winner on what many will argue was a soft goal.
Game 3 did not start out as the Bruins had planned. Tampa scored just 1:46 into the first period as a bouncing puck confused Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk and Lightning winger Ondrej Palat picked up the loose puck and buried it top shelf past Rask. Palat would add another just 3 minutes later.
“Yeah just trying to gap up, puck kind of felt like it back-spun on me on the ice. Thought maybe it went behind me so just took my eye off the puck I guess and they capitalized because they’re a good team,”Grzelcyk said when asked about missing a puck that led to Tampa Bay’s first goal. “Obviously not the way you want to start a game, it was tough bouncing back after that.”
Rask had a few key saves, including an amazing stick save on J.T. Miller on the penalty kill, but sloppy transitioning and untimely rebounds saw them in a 3-1 hole after the first.
“Yeah, you know, we always talk about the slot battle and today I think we lost that slot battle,” Rask answered when asked about what needs to change to reduce the premium scoring chances in front of the net. “So you know, try and be better at it next game. You know, the further you get into the playoffs, the tighter the games get and the tighter – you know, the more you have to pay attention to details I guess and today we didn’t do enough – a good enough job with that. So we’ll try and get better at that next game.”
“It’s never easy, you know,” Rask said on trying to recover from the early deficit. “Especially in the second round of the playoffs. So, yeah, try not to do that next time.”
Rask came up huge in the second, making saves on all 11 shots he saw, including a couple on the penalty kill as Boston took some undisciplined penalties and ended up in the box three times.
“I think we didn’t defend well enough, personally,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “First period, we had a misplay of a puck early on. That happens to anybody. You’d like to be able to put a fire out, defend the two on one better, or get a save, but at the end of the day, they make a good play from it. But, from there, we didn’t defend the front of our net. The next two goals, we had people around the front of the net, and we turned away or didn’t tie up. So, I look at it – that was our major issue.”
The third period was a carbon copy of the second. Rask made key saves to keep the Bruins in the game, however his team couldn’t capitalize on their offensive chances and Tampa won the game 4 to 1 and now takes a 2 to 1 lead in the series.
“You’ve seen comebacks before, we’ve done it all year, so you try to get something going. Shift the momentum, get a positive going,” Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said in regards to keeing the game up in the third period. “We were able to make some plays and unfortunately they didn’t go in there but we carried playing in the third, unfortunately a little too late. Couldn’t get the opportunities, but we’ll see what we did and see what we did bad and we’ll be better for it hopefully.”
Rask’s advice on how they put this game behind them and turn the page for game four was simple. “Go home, sleep, enjoy the sunshine tomorrow, watch some video, get ready for game four. That’s about it.”