Victor Rask celebrated last weekend after scoring the overtime winner for the Carolina Hurricanes against Arizona.
Or maybe you missed the quick glove tap, maybe a hint of a smile.
And that was it. There was no arm-waving, leg-lifting or leaping into the glass after Rask carried the puck across the top of the right circle, skated past Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone and whipped a shot past goalie Anders Lindback for a 5-4 road win Saturday.
“He’s unassuming for sure,” Canes captain Eric Staal said. “We’re trying to get him to celebrate his goals a little more than he does but …”
Good luck with that. Rask is a cool, quiet Swede. The second-year center goes about his business in a smart, efficient way, never seeking out media attention although polite when it comes his way.
But Rask’s play of late has been pretty forceful. In the past 12 games, he has four goals and seven assists, and a plus-seven plus/minus rating that speaks to his effectiveness at even strength.
Defenseman Justin Faulk tops the Canes with 12 goals and 26 points, tying the single-season franchise record with his 12 power-play scores. But Rask is the team’s second-leading scorer with nine goals and 22 points.
I’m a pretty calm guy. That’s just the way I am.
Canes center Victor Rask
As Canes coach Bill Peters put it, “He’s been real good for us.”
The overtime goal wasn’t Rask’s first this season nor his first on the road. He also beat the Colorado Avalanche with a slick move and backhander as the Canes won 1-0 in overtime Oct. 21 in Denver.
“He’s got a quiet confidence,” Staal said. “He plays the game at both ends of the rink and can make plays when called upon. He’s definitely one of those guys who can hopefully grow as a player and offensively continue to get better.”
Rask, 22, is dependable in the defensive zone and solid on faceoffs, which has been a strength of his game since his junior hockey days. Jeff Daniels, his former coach with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL and now a Canes scout, liked to say Rask plays with “no panic in his game,” and Rask’s heart rate rarely seems to rise during games or any real anger show.
“I’m a pretty calm guy,” Rask said. “That’s just the way I am.”
Ask him about playing in the NHL, against a Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins or Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals and Rask will say, “It’s just a lot of fun to go out and play against the best players. It’s a big challenge but I think it’s good for me to do that.”
Ask him about scoring, on almost any kind of shot, and he’ll say, “Just get the puck to the net and good things will happen.”
That’s Rask. Short and to the point.
Rask became a full-time NHL player last season when center Jordan Staal suffered a broken leg in the preseason. Rask was in the lineup for 80 games, finishing with 11 goals and 22 assists while learning to deal with the day-to-day grind of the NHL.
Named to Sweden’s national team for the 2015 IIHF World Championship in the Czech Republic, Rask centered a line with Canes teammate Elias Lindholm and played well.
“That was my first big tournament with the big team and it was fun,” Rask said. “It was really good for me. Coming off last year, when I thought I played pretty good, I just wanted to build on it this year.”
Peters has used Rask at times to center a top line with Eric Staal and Lindholm on the wings. He recently moved Staal back to center and has had Rask with Jeff Skinner on the left side and rookie Phil Di Giuseppe on the right in what has developed as a productive line.
The Canes are 4-1-1 over the past six games, going 2-1-1 on a road trip that ended Tuesday with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Rask tied his season and career high with three assists last week in a 6-5 loss at Dallas.
The Canes (12-14-5), the team that couldn’t score much of the season, suddenly has struck for 23 goals in the past five games. Skinner, with hat tricks in two of the past three games, has been a big part of that but so have Rask and others.
“Every shift doesn’t seem do-or-die,” Peters said.
Panthers at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. (FSCR)