Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is already paid handsomely enough (an 8-year contract worth $56 million through 2020-21), otherwise you know that his agent would be negotiating a new deal as we speak. It’s a very small sample size into the 2016-17 campaign but could Boston’s franchise goaltender’s value be any more clear after we’ve already seen three other guys temporarily take his place (Anton Khudobin, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre) with no success? Boston is 4-4-0 overall while Rask is 4-0-0 with a 1.26 goals against average and .958 save percentage after Saturday’s 1-0 shutout victory against the Red Wings (6-3-0). Rask missed three games in a row dealing with an unspecified injury (the always vague general soreness) and the B’s proceeded to lose all three in one-sided fashion.
Making the 24-save shutout even more impressive (besides the fact that it came in his first game action since October 20) was that Detroit came in as the hottest team in the NHL riding a six-game win streak. It was the 31st shutout of Rask’s career, tying him with Tim Thomas for the third-most in franchise history.
“Having Tuukka back there is huge, because you know he’s going to keep you in the game,” said Bruins center Dominic Moore (a former Harvard star) who assisted on the game’s lone goal by winger Tim Schaller in the second period. “He gives you the confidence to play your game.”
It looks like Boston’s margin of error won’t be too great this season, thus magnifying Rask’s importance since they figure to be on both sides of many one-goal games. The good news for the Bruins is that their Finnish star sounded optimistic about his health after the win at Joe Louis Arena: “I felt really good out there. This isn’t going to be a problem going forward.” As the calendar flips to November, the team will need plenty out of Rask as their next six games (3 at TD Garden, 3 on the road) are all against Eastern Conference foes.
The Bruins are at Florida (3-4-1) on Tuesday (7:30, NESN) and at Tampa Bay (5-3-0) on Thursday (7:30, NESN) before returning home to face the Rangers (5-3-0) on Saturday (7, NESN) and Sabres (2-3-2) next Monday (7, NESN). After Subban was mercifully sent back to Providence on Saturday, McIntyre remains Rask’s backup for the moment since Khudobin is expected to miss three weeks due to an upper-body injury. At least McIntyre (26 saves) showed glimpses of NHL potential in his first career start (a 5-2 loss at the Rangers on Wednesday) which is more than you can say of Subban in his two disastrous Bruins starts (including last Tuesday’s 5-0 loss to Minnesota where he got pulled after 3 goals allowed), but clearly head coach Claude Julien will look to avoid throwing an AHL goalie back in there if he doesn’t have to.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate