Tuukka Time

Wednesday, 07.10.2013 / 7:50 PM
Caryn Switaj  - BostonBruins.com

BostonBruins.com - "That would be an ideal situation, I think, to play here forever. I hope we can make that happen."

Those were Tuukka Rask's words to Boston reporters gathered near his stall at TD Garden during the team's "break-up day" on June 26 before they parted ways for the offseason.

Rask was set to become a restricted free agent on July 5. He joked that day he was heading to his general manager's office to take care of the paperwork.

"I am going to go see Peter right now. Have it signed by this afternoon?" he had quipped.

Fast forward two weeks to July 10, five days after the Bruins' starting goaltender became an RFA, and the goaltender is now locked up for the foreseeable future with a new eight-year contract that will keep him a Bruin until at least 2020-21, when he turns 34.

His annual cap hit is $7 million. The length is the longest term any player can be signed to, under the NHL's new Collective Bargaining Agreement that went into effect this season.

Throughout GM Peter Chiarelli's media availabilities the past week regarding recent roster moves, he was constantly asked about where the negotiations with Rask stood. "Very soon" and "in short order" were promised. Now, that news has been delivered, and any impatience from fans put to rest.

Chiarelli announced the news via an official team press release just around 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Both he and Rask are scheduled to speak with media on a conference call at 3:00 p.m. (ET) on Thursday afternoon (follow @NHLBruins on Twitter for all of the real-time updates).

Rask assumed the No. 1 role in 2012-13, following a new one-year contract and the departure of Tim Thomas. The then 25-year-old had much to prove, though the Bruins had notable confidence in him.

Now 26, the goaltender has become the backbone of the Black & Gold, consistently putting forth a composed intensity between the pipes (while also showcasing a flair for emotion) that forces his teammates to be in constant awe of his abilities.

Tuukka's numbers speak for themselves. During the 2013 postseason, he led the NHL in save percentage (.940), was tied for first in shutouts (three) and finished fourth in goals-against average (1.88) through the 22 games. He also set a club record for home playoff shutout streak at 193:16, spanning from game four of the Conference Final to game three of the Cup Final.

Rask's playoffs followed a solid regular season, in which he compiled a 19-10-5 record, finishing the season fourth in goals-against average (1.96) and fifth in save percentage (.927). He was tied for first with five shutouts.

But, he knows that he can keep improving.

"You can always be better," Rask had said. "I don’t think you can be really satisfied or just stop thinking that you can’t be better."

"You always try to play good, but then you are trying to get your average game level as high as you can. That the gap between a good game and a bad game wouldn’t be so big."

"I think I managed to do that this year and it motivates me for the next year to keep that level and keep getting better."

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What have been your favorite Tuukka saves?

No. 40 would probably say something along the lines of, "any save is a good save because it keeps the puck out of the net" but some saves are often more memorable than others, whether they're game-changing, timely stops or a highlight-reel acrobatic moves.

Here are two that stood out to me during the 2013 postseason, for various reasons.

The first is Rask's breakaway save on New York Rangers' captain Ryan Callahan in the third period of the series-clinching Game Five. A goal would have tied the game at 2-2. Instead, the B's went on to score an empty-netter for the 3-1 victory. It was also a "bounce-back" performance for Rask following his well-documented Game Four gaffe. The solid performance allowed him to laugh that off, right into the Conference Final…

The second one is really the entire final minute of Game Four against Pittsburgh. It was, simply put, chaos. And how Tuukka saw Jarome Iginla's shot through five bodies of traffic right before the horn sounded, I'm still not sure. But the save on Iginla, combined with the emphatic fist pump and swatting away of the puck, made it ironically sweet. Of course, now it's even more ironic - which kind of makes it that much better…

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