February 3, 2011

Wins must start coming soon for B's Rask

by Jesse Connolly

Patrice Bergeron congratulates Tuukka Rask after a win back in December at TD Garden. (Getty)

BOSTON -- With just four victories in nearly four months since the Bruins season began in Prague, Tuukka's Rask second full season in the NHL hasn't exactly gone according to plan.

 Tim Thomas and his never-ending string of sensational performances has undoubtedly been a factor, as the younger half of the B's tandem has started just 15 of the team's first 51 games.

 Start No. 16 will come tonight -- his first appearance in nearly two weeks -- at TD Garden, where the Bruins will play host to the Dallas Stars, the squad currently leading the Pacific Division in the Western Conference.

 "You have to allow [Tim Thomas] to get some rest and I think we have a good goaltender in Tuukka [Rask]," coach Claude Julien said on Thursday, following the team's morning skate.

 "We know his statistics are good, the only negative thing is the win-loss column right now. And I have a feeling that’s going to turn around."

 Rask has seen his save percentage dip slightly but his goals-against average rise dramatically from his numbers a year ago, a season in which he led the entire league in both categories.

 To date, three of his four wins have come against teams that currently find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

 "Tuukka’s a good goaltender and we have to use him and he has to give us some games," Julien said. "He's got to give us some wins and he’s got to give us the performance we know he’s capable of."

 Time has shown with both Thomas and many other goaltenders throughout the NHL that riding one netminder too often in the regular season doesn't bode well come playoff time.

 "We’re going to live with the situation where we have two good goaltenders and maybe we have to start using Tuukka a little bit more and make sure 'Timmy' gets his rest," the B's bench boss said.  "That doesn’t mean the wins won’t come because Tuukka is a good enough goaltender it should allow us to win games." 

 While Thomas has clearly performed at a considerably higher level thus far, Rask hasn't exactly been the recipient of a ton of goal support, significantly minimizing his margin for error. The Bruins have scored two goals or less in 11 of the Finnish netminder's 16 appearances.

 "Unfortunately in a lot of games Tuukka has played, we haven’t scored as much as some of the games Timmy’s been in," Julien said. "This is something, whether it’s by coincidence -- and you hope it is -- will change."

 If the B's hope to avoid burning out Thomas, the sooner the wins start coming for Rask, the better.