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With new deal and Olympic aspirations, it’s truly Tuukka time

Aug 6, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT

Tuukka Rask AP

The 2013-14 campaign could be the most significant of Tuukka Rask‘s career.

Does that sounds weird? Probably, considering he’s coming off a season in which he backstopped the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final and netted an eight-year, $56 million deal.

So let’s do some explaining.

Rask’s challenge isn’t to become one of the best young goalies in the league — now, it’s about being one of the best goalies in the league, regardless of age.

Perhaps the best.

“He’s a high-character kid and he’s only going to get better,” Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said in June. “He matured as a professional hockey player.

“He’s turned into an elite goaltender.”

Various circumstances have put Rask in the “elite” discussion.

Contractually, he’s one of the NHL’s highest-paid netminders. His $7 million cap hit ties him with Pekka Rinne for largest in the league, while his total salary puts him third behind Roberto Luongo ($64 million) and Jonathan Quick ($58 million).

MORE — CSN New England: B’s will ‘build around’ Rask

His numbers in 2013 were outstanding: 2.00 GAA, .929 save percentage and sharing the NHL lead (five) in shutouts — earning him top-five finish in Vezina voting. His playoff numbers (14-8, 1.88 GAA, .940 save percentage, three shutouts) were even better.

Then, there’s the Olympic angle.

Rask will be in a heated battle for Finland’s No. 1 gig in Sochi, along with Rinne, Antti Niemi (a ’13 Vezina nominee), Niklas Backstrom and Kari Lehtonen.

Assuming Rask gets the nod, it’ll be yet another opportunity to measure himself against the elite.

Olympic tournaments are tailor-made for goalies to steal the spotlight — Ryan Miller did it for the U.S. in 2010, Dominik Hasek did it for the Czechs in 1998 and, in a performance that Rask will surely hear about, Antero Niittymaki stole the show in 2006, earning top goalie and MVP honors en route to Finland’s silver medal finish.

In short, this season presents Rask with an opportunity to solidify himself among the league’s elite, become the backbone of the Bruins and represent his country on the biggest international stage.

Not that he’s going to worry about any of it.

“I was reading in the Finnish papers about how things are going to be looked at differently now because I’m making a lot of money, but it won’t be any different from my end,” Rask told . “I’m still working hard on going out every game trying to prove that I’m the best.

“That would be the same whether I’m making $1 million, $4 million, $7 million or $10 million a year.”

  1. girouxed - Aug 6, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    Theres no denying he was really good last season. But that last game was crazy

    • govtminion - Aug 6, 2013 at 4:35 PM

      It didn’t go well at the end of it, for sure, but it’s worth remembering that that one bad game was Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals- a game that, if not for his stellar play in the playoffs to that point, the Bruins never would have reached.

      • hockeyflow33 - Aug 6, 2013 at 5:34 PM

        He’s had a lot more bad games than that

      • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 6, 2013 at 5:50 PM

        And the other consideration was defensive breakdowns that lead to the 17 second blitz

    • jcmeyer10 - Aug 6, 2013 at 5:30 PM

      Yah, it’s tough. McQuaid looked flat footed (read: tired) on that last goal, or just expected time to run out. Either way, it was a tough way to go out.

      I’ll admit my jaw was on the floor.

  2. natlbnkilr - Aug 6, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    Hate to kill Tuukka’s high… But Pekka will be the starting goaltender in the Olympics.

    • jcmeyer10 - Aug 6, 2013 at 5:31 PM

      You’re saying it like that’s some sort of insult.

    • jw424 - Aug 6, 2013 at 6:15 PM

      It’s going to be interesting thats for sure! Rinne has not been good on the bigger ice (check his performance with the KHL during the lockout). It will all depend how Rinne performs this year. He better improve in the shootouts because he may see a lot of them this year.

  3. kingsforever - Aug 6, 2013 at 5:23 PM

    He will always be the goalie who blew a 3-0 series lead.

    • jcmeyer10 - Aug 6, 2013 at 5:31 PM

      You can go make out with your Jonathan Quick Fat Head in the corner now.

      • chuchie414 - Aug 7, 2013 at 4:42 PM

        frickin’ HILarious!

  4. irokkit - Aug 7, 2013 at 2:19 AM

    Interesting to read all the compliments/criticisms.
    As for Hockeyflow…let’s see if your good games out number your bad games playing goalie in the NHL.
    Then, you can say whatever you want.
    But let’s face it, can you even skate? And if you can…what are your hockey accomplishments? They’d better be stellar…otherwise, be easy when you critic a player on a level you can only read about.

  5. DED - Aug 7, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    Considering that he’s only 26, I believe that he’s just entering his prime.

    One could argue that he hasn’t dealt with a full 82-game regular season (he was backup the season before) yet, but the Bruins making it to the SCF on top of the shortened season was like playing a full season. I think this season, with a full regular season schedule and the Winter Olympics on top of that, will really prove his mettle.

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