January 4, 2011

Julien impressed by Rask's bounce-back effort

by Jesse Connolly

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. (Getty)

Following the Bruins 7-6 shootout loss in Buffalo on Saturday night, much talk was made about the potentially-shattered confidence of goaltender Tuukka Rask.

Playing sparingly and unable to buy a win, Rask's start in Buffalo was his first in more than two weeks. After allowing three goals on 16 shots in the opening frame, coach Claude Julien gave him the hook, despite the fact that Boston led by a goal after twenty minutes of play.

Rask got a shot at redemption on Monday night in Toronto. The Finnish netminder was superb, showing both the form and confidence he displayed during his rookie season a year ago, one in which he led the entire league in both goals-against average and save percentage.

"Tuukka, to me, was solid tonight and it was nice to see," Julien said after his team's 2-1 win over the Leafs. "For his sake, for our sake, it was a real good effort on his part."

Rask stopped 36 shots in all, including 18 in the third period when Toronto was pushing hard to tie things up.

"He made the big saves when we needed him," said Julien. "You always wish you could give him a little bit of a cushion when he hasn't played in a little while, let him relax. Maybe that pressure, being the best he could, is gonna help him down the road."

The B's bench boss was thoroughly impressed by the dramatic turnaround. After that shaky start in Buffalo, one which saw him multiple mental mistakes and even get a little testy with the on-ice officials, a performance like the one he turned in on Monday was truly encouraging.

"I can't say enough about the way he bounced back tonight," Julien said. "That's exactly what we wanted. Timmy's (Thomas) been so good for us but Timmy needs a break too. We talk about having two great goaltenders and we need to utilize them."

And now the Bruins hope for more of the same from Rask going forward, not only to alleviate the heavy workload Thomas has been given but to flex their muscles as the team with the best goaltending tandem in the NHL.

"Timmy needed the rest but you've gotta show your goaltender you've got confidence in him and we do," Julien said of Rask. "It was just a matter of him having the confidence to go in there and do the job."