Tuukka Rask has had one of the more curious career arcs for a Boston pro athlete.
A backup to Tim Thomas during the Bruins' last run to a Stanley Cup in 2011, Rask quickly stepped in as a starter once Thomas went tinfoil on everyone after the 2012 season, and Rask looked like such a natural that the Bruins handed him a megabucks contract extension after his first season as the starter. He made the Bruins look brilliant, as Rask won the Vezina Trophy in just his second season as the starter the following season.
From that point on, Rask was mostly very good, but the Bruins constantly fell short of expectations. And despite not having a ton of talent available on the blue line, Rask's performances split Bruins fans down the middle as far as his worth to the team.
Part of it had to do with his contract — when you're among the highest-paid players at your position, the expectations will be sky high; it's nothing personal. Some of it had to do with his playing style, which was low on the flashy plays but among the best in the league when it came to positioning and playing the angles. And there was also the Thomas factor.
Bruins fans and media had witnessed one of the greatest Stanley Cup goalie performances in league history in 2011. After the Bruins dropped the first two games of the series, Thomas stopped 175 of 179 shots (.978 save percentage) and posted two shutouts, including a 37-save virtuoso performance in Game 7 on the road, to end the Bruins' Cup drought at 39 years.
Anything anyone put up in comparison would come up woefully short.
That was the backdrop as Rask and Bruins entered a do-or-die Game 6 on Sunday night in St. Louis.
Lose and not play well, and Rask's legacy would have been cemented as a lesser-Thomas. Win and play well, and Rask would have a chance to match his mentor and cement his legacy as a Cup winner — and possible Conn Smythe winner — in Game 7.
Tuukka Rask had his Tim Thomas moment in the Bruins' eventual 5-1 victory and stands on the precipice of writing his own story.
Some will try to pour water on it, especially given the final score, but Game 6 was The Tuukka Rask Game. Now we wait for the encore.
Some will say legacies are not built on 5-1 victories, but those simple-minded few will