Tuukka Takes Home Bronze
BostonBruins.com - Before it turned midnight in Sochi on Saturday, Tuukka Rask had a bronze medal draped around his neck.
Backstopping Finland with 27 saves, Rask earned his first Olympic shutout in a 5-0 win over the United States in the bronze medal game.
It was an extension of what the Bruins netminder was able to provide his home country throughout the entire Olympics - and what he does every night in Black & Gold, when he's not donning his nation's blue - and that is a chance to win.
Rask finished the tournament with a .938 save percentage and 1.74 goals-against average through four games. The only loss came in overtime to Canada.
"You see him doing the same thing he does for us," said his Bruins teammate Adam McQuaid, prior to the bronze medal game. "He's giving his team a chance to win every game, and in a short tournament like that - you get a hot goalie and you can good things, so no surprise to see him playing as well as he is, and we're all happy for him."
Rask helped Finland to an 8-4 win in his Olympic debut at the start of the Games, before Drew Doughty got one past him for Canada's 2-1 overtime win in the final preliminary round game.
He and the Finns stunned Russia with a 3-1 win in the quarterfinals as he turned in a 37-save performance against their firepower.
"I think he's the type of guy, everything's even-keeled for him all of the time anyways, he's always confident in himself and in his game," said McQuaid.
The netminder did not dress for Finland's semifinal game against Sweden, after being sidelined by the flu, and saw his team drop a close one, 2-1.
"I thought the Finns, especially against Russia, they played a typical Finnish game. They all work hard, they play within the system, and they got great goaltending," said Chris Kelly.
"And I think it was Tuukka’s play - not to take anything away from the other guy, but I’m a little biased," he smirked. "Tuukka’s pretty good."
Though Rask had to miss the semis, he was ready to go in the battle for bronze.
While Jonathan Quick gave his U.S. squad a chance at the other end, Rask stood tall for Finland between the pipes.
After a scoreless first period, Finland fired in two quick strikes just 11 seconds apart within the first two minutes of the second.
While the U.S. offense got their chances, with plenty of bodies in front, Rask wouldn't let up rebound opportunities and the Finnish defense didn't allow scoring chances in the third. Finland added three more goals, including two on the power play, in the final 20 minutes.
Two goals came from the stick of Finland Captain Teemu Selanne, who racked up 24 goals all-time in 37 games at the Olympics.
In a unique set of circumstances, Rask also had to face two penalty shot attempts from Patrick Kane. The first - with the game scoreless - went just wide; the second - with Team USA trailing 2-0 - hit the post.
(His teammates watched the penalty shot intently back in Boston before practice...)
While the outcome itself was tough for U.S. Bruins' fans to take, no doubt, there can be some bittersweet appreciation in what Rask was able to accomplish in his first Olympics, amidst the 26-year-old's second season as the starter in Boston.
And the absolute joy in his smile alongside Selanne and company should tell you that he'd like that feeling again sometime soon - in Black & Gold.
The Bruins are back in action on Wednesday, February 26 in Buffalo.
"You know Tuukks is going to bring that, he's such a great goalie," said Brad Marchand, not long after Rask had put up the shutout. "He's one of the top in the world and he's showing that over there right now."
"But he's gotta shoot himself in the foot," the winger laughed, suggesting there will no doubt be some words jokingly thrown his teammate's way upon his return.
"We expect that every game, too, when he gets back. So hopefully he can bring it."
Anyone who watched his Olympic performances would argue he can.