( Photo Credit: NHL.com )
By: Pasi Tuominen | Follow Me On Twitter @pasituominen
Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is one of the best in his trade but make no mistake: this is a guy who values life off the ice as well.
After 34 starts in the 2019–2020 season, Rask ranks among the top goaltenders in the NHL. Coming into the season wasn’t easy, though. No one needs to be reminded of what happened in the Stanley Cup final last summer.
“It bugged me for a long time, and it still kind of does,” Rask told me recently. “But I was OK with the defeat after a while. Now that I have kids, there’s more to life than just hockey.
“We gave our everything but came one win short. It could have gone either way. But that’s how sports are.”
Soon after the seven-game series against the St. Louis Blues, Rask headed home with his family. “I spent July in Finland and came back to Boston in August for some more serious training. Two months of playoff hockey was a tough call. In the summer, I had to take it easy and recuperate, too.
“Sometimes you have to forget about hockey, and as a father of small kids, it certainly isn’t difficult. I have played hockey for such a long time; I don’t feel that much pressure anymore. But you always have to be prepared, that’s the key. As long as you’re prepared, you don’t worry that much, and there will be no emotional burden.”
After Tim Thomas’ tenure, the Boston Bruins have put their trust mainly in European goalies. Rask shared the goaltending duties with Anton Khudobin for two seasons and does so with Jaroslav Halak now. After Sunday’s game at Madison Square Garden, Halak has 26 starts. Rask has been the starter in 34 contests.
“I have great chemistry with Jaro, just like I had with Khudobin. Things are working out great. Jaro is a good goalie and a nice guy. We both work hard and try to help the team win hockey games. Sometimes I play more, sometimes Jaro does. It goes in cycles, really.
“Hockey is so fast and physically demanding that you must get some rest occasionally. Otherwise, you’ll get worn out. And if that happens, it’s hard to get your groove back. Sometimes you’re on a roll, sometimes you’re not. There’s no secret to that. It seems, though, that some months tend to be worse than others. During bad spells some people start to panic–I don’t.”
Although just five teams have scored more goals than the Bruins this season, Rask points out that Boston is a defense-first group. Indeed: the Bruins have allowed a league-low 146 goals.
“Our mentality is to defend well and create offense out of that,” Rask said after Saturday’s win over the Detroit Red Wings. “It’s huge in this league and it works for us. If you want to go far in the playoffs, that’s how you have to play.”
The Bruins followed the Detroit win by defeating the New York Rangers at MSG on Sunday, 3-1. It was one of those nights that Halak got the call while Tuukka watched from the bench.
“When you’re playing, you see the plays and mistakes differently. But when you’re not playing, you don’t analyze that much. On the bench, I just try to not be hit by the puck…”
There’s been a number of Finns – 14 to be exact – on the Bruins roster over the years. Young defenseman Urho Vaakanainen is one of them. Vaakanainen mainly plays with the AHL’s Providence Bruins; however, he’s been recalled a few times and has seven NHL games under his belt now.
“He’s played well and filled his role,” says Tuukka Rask. “He’s a mobile defenseman and gives a good first pass. His style of play suits us.”
Rask, who turns 33 in March, will have a contract year in 2020–2021, but it seems the Finnish shot-stopper is in Beantown for the long haul. Boston loves Rask, and the feeling is mutual.
“I enjoy the city of Boston as much as I enjoy the team. This has become my home. I tend to settle down in one place, I’ve always been like that. I accept changes only when they are absolutely necessary.”
Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 166 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.
Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!