Boston Bruins: Tuukka Rask enjoying Vezina-like season

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tuukka’s doing pretty good this season, eh? The Boston Bruins netminder is fresh off a monumental shutout victory over the imposing San Jose Sharks – who never lose (well, twice now this season) on home ice.

Last night the B’s entered the Shark Tank and survived its bloodthirsty propensity to chew up intruders, earning a 1-0 victory to end a three-game swing through California.

In attaining a “W” the Bruins did as they typically do – didn’t allow many second chances – and scored enough to finish off their opponent. Strong defence has been a staple in Boston ever since head coach Claude Julien relieved Dave Lewis in 2007, however, elite goaltending has equally been a commonality associated to each Bruins lineup, season after season, under Julien’s guidance.

Tuukka Rask was great last season in his first true journey as number one, replacing two-time Vezina winner Tim Thomas, who stayed home for the 2012-13 shortened season; has since returned and currently plays for the Florida Panthers.

In 2012-13 Tuukka Rask posted a .929 save percentage, 2.00 goals against average, league leading five shutouts, and 19-10-5 record. Not good enough for the Vezina a season ago; he’s well on his way this year.

Rask’s numbers have been exceptional this season: 2.06 GAA (6th), 22 wins (3rd), .930 SV% (4th), and 5 shutouts (1st).

His main competitors for the Vezina are Tampa Bay Lightning revelation Ben Bishop and Minnesota Wild feel-good-story Josh Harding. Although, several elite netminders are still in the Vezina conversation at the mid-way point: Carey Price, Ryan Miller, Antti Niemi, Semyon Varlamov, and Jonas Hiller, to name a few.

Only the Los Angeles Kings have allowed less goals than the Boston Bruins this season, and along with the St. Louis Blues, the trio represent the only clubs in the NHL to have allowed less than 100 goals against to this point in 2013-14. Three great defensive teams but only one has earned the bulk of its success on the merits of one goaltender: the Bruins’ Rask has played 36 of Boston’s 45 games. Conversely, the Kings and Blues have relied on several goaltenders to provide a last line of defence.

Surprising stat: for all the praising of Finnish goaltenders, only one has ever won a Vezina – Miikka Kiprusoff in 2006. Rask is poised to become the second.