BOSTON — October often isn’t kind to Tuukka Rask, but the same can’t be said for the winter months.
The Boston Bruins goaltender has built a habit of starting seasons off slow before finding his groove once November rolls around.
It’s been no different in the 2018-19 campaign, which saw Rask struggle through the first couple weeks of the season, prompting an increased role for Jaroslav Halak. But like clockwork, Rask is starting to put his early-season woes behind him and string together strong performances.
Rask’s latest gem came in Thursday night’s 2-1 win shootout win over the New York Islanders at TD Garden. The veteran netminder turned away 28 of 29 shots while also denying all four of New York’s shots in the shootout. After an unsightly .902 save percentage and 3.15 goals against average in October, Rask finished November with .933 and 1.96 marks, respectively.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy isn’t able to pinpoint what’s changed for Rask of late, but he believes it just could be a part of his goalie’s process.
“I think it’s just a case where he’s fresh and physically feels good and ready to go in there,” Cassidy said. “I think mentally he knows that this time of year he tends to play good hockey. When you’ve had a career as long as his, you know this is a good time of year where you find your game. Maybe that’s part of it as well. He’s confident in his game this time of year.”
Rask, much like Cassidy, can’t come up with a reason for the shift in his game, but he couldn’t help but joke about his struggles in the first month of the season.
“I don’t know. Maybe I just don’t want to play in October, I don’t know,” Rask said. “Just go out there, you work hard in practice, try to get some shots and work with the goalie coach and when the game time comes try to be there. Some days you are, some days you aren’t. The past few games I have. It’s a mystery, I don’t know. I wanna do it every night, but, you know.”
With the Bruins currently depleted with injuries, they’ll need Rask to continue to play at a high level in order to stay afloat for the time being. And given his recent stretch, there’s reason to be confident in Rask between the pipes moving forward, especially in December, which has been the goalie’s best month with a career .931 save percentage.
Here are some other notes from Thursday’s Bruins-Islanders game:
— Ryan Donato made an immediate impact in his return to the Bruins. After spending the bulk of the month with Providence, Donato was recalled Wednesday and scored the game-winner in the fourth round of the shootout.
— The Bruins cashed in on their lone power play of the contest, which saw David Pastrnak find Brad Marchand in the second period to knot the score at 1-1.
— Rick Middleton had his No. 16 retired to the TD Garden rafters prior to puck drop. After playing 12 terrific seasons with the B’s, Middleton became the 11th player in franchise history to have his number retired.
— Boston is 9-2 at home this season.
Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports