Flaherty: Is Tuukka Rask’s The Right Goaltender For Boston?

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Tuukka Rask has been up and down in the postseason, but can he eventually put it all together to lead Boston to a Stanely Cup? (PHOTO CREDIT: SportsOnEarth.com)

By Dan Flaherty (@TheSportsNotebo)

It was the moment that defined the Boston Bruins’ recently concluded series with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Charlie McAvoy gets pulled down. The obvious penalty goes uncalled and leaves Steven Stamkos wide open. The Lightning star promptly rips the goal that tied Game 4 past Tuukka Rask. And the series essentially ended there, and the questions rose anew about whether Rask is the right man in net if this young Bruins team is going to win a Stanley Cup next season or beyond.

Critics of Rask point to moments like the Stamkos goal in Game 4. They’re not being unreasonable.

In the immediate aftermath of that particular goal, I looked toward my friend, who I was watching the game with and said something to the effect of how it wasn’t a bad play by Rask, but one that if you have Stanley Cup aspirations, you need your goalie to step up and make.

That’s not the first time such sentiments have come up with regard to the Bruin goalie. Consider the recent history:

  • It wasn’t Tuukka’s fault that Boston lost to Ottawa in the first round of last year’s playoffs. The Senators defense made them a better first-round opponent than anyone gave them credit for—as evidenced by the fact Ottawa Senators took eventual champion Pittsburgh to double-overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. But Rask was outplayed by counterpart Craig Anderson.
  • It wasn’t Tuukka’s fault that Boston dropped a seven-game series to Montreal Canadiens in 2014, ending the best Bruins season in recent memory. They must have set a record for most shots to hit the pipe in a single playoff series, which is a sure sign that it’s not your year. But Rask was undeniably outplayed by Carey Price.
  • And it wasn’t Tuukka’s fault for the infamous collapse in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, when the Chicago Blackhawks scored two goals in the final two minutes and celebrated on the Garden ice. But like the Stamkos goal this year, it was an area where it’s reasonable to hope for your goalie to bail out the defense in the closing minutes.

Good but not good enough would be the simple summation of the bill of indictment drafted by the Rask critics. Particularly given that his $7.5 million annual salary makes him higher-paid than any goalie still playing and third-highest in the league overall.

I see the argument of the anti-Rask forces, but the question has to be asked about what exactly the point of their criticisms are. If it’s simply that Tuukka still has unfinished business on his resume before he can be considered in the pantheon of all-time greats, I agree. But if it’s something deeper—like cutting loose his salary and going with Anton Khudobin, I’d have to sharply disagree.

Any litany of Tuukka’s shortcomings has to be balanced with a litany of his postseason successes:

  • Save percentage is a great stat and I rely on it, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. A good example is Tuukka’s 89.9% save rate in the first-round series win over Toronto. If you just look at the numbers, that’s not good. But if you watched the series you saw how many shots were coming at home from point-blank range. The bigger story was how often Bruin defenders were beaten to a good spot near the net—and how often Rask bailed them out.
  • There aren’t many goaltenders good enough to single-handedly win you a playoff series. But that’s what Rask did in 2014, in the first-round series win over Detroit.
  • Even fewer goaltenders can do what Rask did in 2013, which was to essentially shut down the potent Pittsburgh Penguins lineup, filled with quite a few of the same players who won the last two Stanley Cups. Boston’s sweep of Pittsburgh in that ‘13 Finals was defined by Rask’s superiority.

What these successes (above) illustrate is that while Tuukka Raask may have some spots on his postseason resume, he’s not the NHL equivalent of David Price. Tuukka doesn’t fold up in the biggest moments, he just hasn’t quite gotten over the hump.

So the question that has to be asked of Rask critics is simply this: do you think it more likely that Rask will finally have the one great postseason where he takes it start to finish and wins a Stanley Cup. Or, on the other hand, if the Bruins do move on, that we’ll find that Khudobin won’t be able to handle a full-time workload and we’ll have a full-scale goalie mess on?

I think the answer to that question is self-evident.

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. All we know for sure is that Tuukka Rask isn’t the second coming of Patrick Roy or Martin Broduer when it comes to playoff performance. But Rask is still better than an awful lot of goalies who have won Stanley Cups.

Dan Flaherty is the owner of TheSportsNotebook.com and the author of Great 1980s Sports Moments

Bruins Top Maple Leafs In Dramatic Game Seven, Advance To Tampa Bay

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Jake DeBrusk recorded two goals in Boston’s Game 7 win over Toronto on Wednesday evening at the TD Garden. (PHOTO CREDIT: Sporting News)

By NoontimeSports.com (@NoontimeSports) 

Jake DeBrusk netted a pair of goals, including the go-ahead strike early in the third period as the Boston Bruins erased a one-goal deficit to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 7-4, in the final game of their opening round playoff series.

With the win, Boston advances to the Eastern Conference semifinals where they will face the Tampa Bay Lighting, which won its opening round series against the New Jersey Devils in five games.

Boston and Tampa Bay last met in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, which the Bruins won in seven games. Boston would then advance to the Stanley Cup and defeat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games.

Boston trailed Toronto, 4-3, after two periods, but evened the game 70 seconds into the final session with a goal from Torey Krug. Boston would push ahead minutes later with a goal from DeBrusk before David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand sealed the win by netting the Bruins’ sixth and seventh goals, respectively.

Pastrnak’s goal halfway through the final session helped the Bruins clinch the series and halt a two-game postseason losing streak. The Bruins led the best-of-seven game series, 3-1, but fell to Toronto in back-to-back games, including Game 5, which occurred last weekend at the T.D. Garden.

Both teams swapped goals throughout the opening frame before Patrice Bergeron provided the hosts with a 3-2 advantage heading into the first intermission. Toronto erased the deficit in the second period and pushed ahead with back-to-back goals from Travis Dermott and Kasperi Kapanen to secure a 4-3 lead after two periods.

Boston and Tampa Bay met four times this season with the Bruins winning three meetings, including two games last month.

The second round series between the two teams is scheduled to commence on Saturday, April 28th at 3 p.m. in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Noontime Sports The Podcast: Ty Anderson (WEEI.com)

Noontime Podcast

By NoontimeSports.com (@NoontimeSports) 

Ty Anderson of WEEI.com joined Noontime Sports the Podcast this week to chat about his Boston Bruins coverage, both for the website and radio station, as well as the ongoing changes in the world of sports media.

Anderson arrived at WEEI last October (2016) and covered the team through their final game of the postseason this spring.

Prior to joining WEEI, Anderson covered the Black and Gold for HockeyBuzz.com.

Make sure to follow Anderson on Twitter (@_TyAnderson), as well as become a fan of WEEI on Facebook.

Noontime Sports The Podcast: Episode 19 (Dan Libon | Patch.com)

noontime-sports-podcastBy NoontimeSports.com (@NoontimeSports

Ah, Noontime Sports the Podcast has officially returned. And for our 19th episode, Matt Noonan welcomes an old friend and colleague of the blog, Dan Libon, who is a reporter for Patch.com.

Noonan and Libon reminisce about their college radio show Get In The Game and their first few years of covering sports for NoontimeSports.com.

Additionally, the two discuss Libon’s current role with Patch, which includes covering the New England Patriots – what is that like, Dan?

Finally, both Noonan and Libon voice their thoughts on what Boston sports team will celebrate a title (hopefully) this year or next year.

Make sure to follow Dan on Twitter (@DLibon)!

Noontime Sports is now on SoundCloud, so make sure to become a fan of our page today! 

Mass. College Hockey: Former BC Right-Wing Hayes Inks 3-Year Deal With Boston Bruins

By Matt Noonan 

Former Boston College men’s ice hockey right-wing Jimmy Hayes inked his name on a three-year contract with the Boston Bruins this afternoon, which was confirmed through a press release by the team.

Hayes was traded to Boston last Wednesday in a deal that sent Reilly Smith and Marc Savard’s contract to the Florida Panthers.

Former Boston College men's ice hockey right wing Jimmy Hayes inked his name on a three-year deal with the Boston Bruins. (Photo Credit: Sun-Sentinel.com)
Former Boston College men’s ice hockey right wing Jimmy Hayes inked his name on a three-year deal with the Boston Bruins. (Photo Credit: Sun-Sentinel.com)

A Dorchester native, Hayes was a second round pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008. He was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and skated in part of three seasons – 43 games to be exact – before he was dealt to the Florida Panthers during the 2013-14 campaign. With the Panthers, Hayes appeared in 125 games and recorded 30 goals and 23 assists. His best season as a pro was this past year where he registered 19 goals and 16 assists (35 points) in 72 games.

Hayes spent three seasons with Boston College, tallying 42 goals and 39 assists for 81 points. His best season with the Eagles occurred during the 2010-11 season when he netted a career-best 21 goals, along with 12 assists. Boston College captured the Boston Beanpot and Hockey East regular season and tournament crowns before concluding their campaign in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

In 2010, Hayes and the Eagles defeated Wisconsin in the NCAA Championship game, 5-0, to claim the program’s fourth national championship.