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.

Daily Noontime: Tuesday, May 2nd

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Washington’s Kevin Shattenkirk netted the game-winning goal in overtime last night to provide the Capitals with their first Eastern Conference semifinal victory against Pittsburgh. (PHOTO CREDIT: Sports Illustrated)

By NoontimeSports.com (@NoontimeSports) 

It’s Tuesday … what rhymes with Tuesday?

There really isn’t much to say about a Tuesday other than it’s not Monday, right?

Well, while we try to find good words to rhyme with Tuesday, let’s dish out today’s Daily Noontime for Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017.

Have a great day, everyone!

So, you probably know by now that the Cleveland Cavaliers dominated game one of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Toronto. However, did you know LeBron James picked-up a beer during the third quarter?

Don’t worry, James didn’t drink it, but he admitted after the game that he prefers wine, not beer. Pretty funny stuff, LBJ! 

Continuing with our lead-off story, here are a few tweets of James picking-up a beer during last night’s contest against Toronto (BELOW!): 

If you’re a Netflix fan (or subscriber like we are), then we suggest you check-out this New York Times article on what new shows and movies one should watch over the next few days and weeks – we spy a new season of ‘House of Cards!’

In case you’re not officially over this past weekend’s N.F.L. Draft, then we suggest you take a peak (and even read the entire article, too) on the draft’s biggest winners and losers, via the Washington Post

Speaking of the N.F.L. Draft, does anyone know how the Cleveland Browns did? Michael Silver, who is the NFL.com Media Columnist, has a few thoughts (and ideas!). 

Finally, can the Utah Jazz beat the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals? We think they can and so does Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report

Trivia Tuesday: In the movie ‘The Wizards of Oz,’ what did the scarecrow want from the wizard? (Tweet us your answer at @NoontimeSports). 

Video of the Day: It’s a LONG video – just giving you a heads-up now, so don’t watch this when your boss is around – but enjoy highlights via NHL’s YouTube channel from last night’s epic third game of the Eastern Conference semifinals between Pittsburgh and Washington – what a game, wow! 

Thanks for checking-in and have a great day, everyone! Remember to become a fan on Facebook and LinkedIn, while following us on Twitter, too. And we’re on YouTube, by the way, so become a fan of our page today! 

Sideline Observations – Washington Capitals 2, Boston Bruins 1

By NoontimeSports.com 

Washington’s Braden Holtby deflected 44 of 45 shots between the pipes, and yielded one Boston goal, as the Capitals defeated the Bruins at the Verizon Center, 2-1.

Boston and Washington have now won two contests — both at home and on the road — and will play at least two more contests.

Marcus Johansson and Alexander Semin provided Washington with two goals, while Rich Peverley notched Boston’s only strike in the first period.

Tim Thomas concluded the game with 19 saves, too.

Boston’s power play woes continued, as they ended the contest 0 for 1, while Washington recorded a power play at 18:43 in the second period.

Both teams will return to the ice on Saturday afternoon, as Boston will host Washington for a critical fifth game of the series. Last year, Boston won the fifth game of their opening round series against Montreal, and wound up defeating the Canadiens in seven games.

What will happen this year? Thoughts? Ideas? Analysis? Feel free to post your comments about this particular series below!

Daily Noontime – Wednesday June 1, 2011

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Happy Wednesday to everyone! It’s “hump-day,” which means, yes, the week is almost over! Have a great day and of course, enjoy today’s headlines and news! 

Headlines: 

* LeBron James did everything on Tuesday, as he and his Miami Heat won Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

* Tuesday wasn’t a good night for Dallas, as the Mavericks apparently gave up on both ends of the court.

* The Winnipeg Jets will return to the NHL next season, but unfortunately tickets will coast a decent amount of money, but hey, that’s common, right?

* Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals begins Wednesday between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks.

* According to reports, Dirk Nowitzki tore a tendon in his middle finger, which luckily is on his non-shooting hand.

* It is indeed official, Kevin McHale is headed to Houston to become the next head coach of the Rockets, but will he turn the team around?

Games to Watch: 

* Chicago White Sox at Boston (MLB) – 1:35pm eastern

* New York Yankees at Oakland (MLB) – 3:35pm eastern

* Boston at Vancouver (NHL Stanley Cup Finals) – 8:00pm eastern

* San Francisco at St. Louis (MLB) – 8:15pm eastern

Video of the Day: 

The NHL Stanley Cup Finals begins Wednesday and yes, we are excited to watch some hockey, despite it being June!