The Puck Must Stop Here: time for Tuukka Rask to seal the deal for the B's
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask didn't have much to say after Boston's Game 6 loss to Montreal on Monday night. He had only one message for fans in advance of Game 7 back home:
"Just be ready to cheer us on, and we'll get it done."
I have no doubt the Bruins fans will be doing their part in Game 7. The question is, Mr. Rask, will you be doing yours?
Do or die: if the Bruins are to come out on top in Game 7, Rask has to be on his A-game. No excuses. (via ESPN.com)
Tuukka Rask had an incredible year in the net for the Bruins, posting a 26-15-6 record with a .930 save%, a 2.04 goals-against along with seven shutouts, which lead the league. Rask was the only goalie in the NHL to be placed in the top-five for wins, save percentage, goals-against and shutouts with at least 25 games played. He allowed two goals or fewer in 37 of his 58 starts. He was nominated for the first time as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, and if you were a betting man, putting all your earnings on #40 would be the safest call.
That's all well and great. But right here, right now, Rask needs to prove that he can do what all Stanley Cup winning goalies can do: steal a game. Steal a series. Face 35 shots in a do-or-die Game 7 and turn aside all 35.
Stand on your head. Shut them out. Turn into a brick wall. Whatever cliche you want to use, Tuukka Rask has to live it tonight.
If Rask needs a reminder about how a Stanley Cup caliber goaltender needs to play when his team has their backs against the wall, simply show him the last three game's played by New York's Henrik Lundqvist. Or, you can look at the numbers: 105 shots faced, 102 shots saved. One goal allowed in three straight games versus the vaunted Pittsburgh Penguins scoring attack.
One goal allowed in Game 7 on the road.
That is how a goalie steals a series. It's what premier, top of the line, Vezina winning goalies need to do in the playoffs.
Through six games, Rask has been unable to conquer his personal demon that are the Montreal Canadiens. The lone bright spot came in Game 4, where Rask made 33 saves to stifle the Habs and keep the Bruins afloat long enough until they found the overtime winner.
With six games down and one to go, one could make the case that the goalie opposite Rask in this series, Carey Price, has outplayed the 27-year-old Vezina finalist. If you don't want to go that far and say he has outplayed him, Price has at least matched him save for save.
And that isn't good enough for the Bruins, and Rask. The margins are razor thin, and that is not at all unfair to the Boston netminder.To win a Stanley Cup you don't need a good goalie or a great goalie. You need to be the best damn goalie on the planet. That's the great divider between the good teams and the teams that are on the outside looking in by the time the calender turns to June.
The Bruins will skate tonight in their ninth Game 7 since the 2007-08 season. They've posted a 4-4 record in the previous eight games, winning some of the greatest games in Bruins history, as well losing some games most Bruins fans never want to remember for as long as they live.
Tim Thomas backstopped the B's to the Stanley Cup in 2011, posting a shutout in Game 7 of the Eastern Finals and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Thomas played some of the greatest hockey a goalie has ever played in the history of the league.
That's what it takes to play for a Cup. That's what it takes to win a Cup.
The Standard: Tim Thomas carried Bruins Nation to the Promised Land in 2011 (via officialinsidesports.com)
There are no excuses for Rask tonight. If Rask surrenders four goals and the Bruins are eliminated at the hands of their hated rivals, I don't want to hear that he was screened on shots or that he was interfered with in the crease or that the defense in front of him broke down.
Tonight, this is all about #40 in Black and Gold.
The time for making excuses is over. The time to step up and grab the series by its neck is now. Rask did it to the Pittsburgh Penguins last year in the Eastern Final, shutting out the Pens twice while allowing only two goals in a four game sweep.
Time to repeat the process and shutdown the Canadiens in Game 7 tonight.