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

Daily Noontime – March 28, 2012

Tim Thomas saved 16 of 18 shots between the pipes on Tuesday, as Boston defeated Tampa Bay, 5-2! (Photo Credit: WBUR.org)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Happy “hump day” to everyone, and welcome into another grand edition of the Daily Noontime! Let’s get this day started with some headlines and news from the “Hub.”

* The Boston Bruins earned their third consecutive victory on Tuesday at the TD Garden, as they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-2. The win avenges a previous loss, which saw the Lightning destroy the Bruins, 6-1. Five different Bruins netted one goal, while Tim Thomas recorded 16 saves between the pipes. Boston will return to the ice on Thursday when they host the Washington Capitals.

* With the win on Tuesday, Boston has padded their lead in the Northeast standings. The Bruins have won six more games than Ottawa currently, and are also locked in the second seed in the Eastern Conference, too. A few more wins would most likely secure the Black and Gold a playoff spot, and a division championship.

* The UMass men’s basketball team fell short against Stanford on Tuesday, as the Cardinals defeated the Minutemen, 74-64 in the NIT Final Four.

* The Boston Celtics will look to earn their third consecutive victory on Wednesday, as they’ll host the Utah Jazz at 7:30pm. A win against a Western Conference playoff team would be a huge boost for the Green and White, who remains a half a game behind Philadelphia in the Atlantic standings.

* Finally, the Boston Red Sox announced on Tuesday that Jose Iglesias was sent down to Pawtucket, which is most likely where he’ll begin the 2012 season.

Daily Noontime – March 27, 2012

Paul Pierce (36 points) and Kevin Garnett (24 points) paced the Celtics against the Bobcats on Monday! (Photo Credit: Providence Journal)

By NoontimeSports.com 

What happened to this so-called warm weather? It’s freezing in the city! Well, let’s warm things up with a grand edition of the Daily Noontime!

* The Boston Celtics earned their second win in a row on Monday, as they defeated the Charlotte Bobcats, 102-95. Paul Pierce recorded a season high 36 points in the win, while Kevin Garnett poured in 24 points. Monday’s victory marks a tie in the Atlantic standings, as now Boston and Philadelphia are locked in first place with identical 27-22 records. Boston will return to the hardwood on Wednesday when they host Utah.

* Despite beating the Bobcats, and tying the 76ers – Boston remains the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, and would most likely face Miami in the first round of the NBA playoffs. However, there is still roughly four weeks of regular season basketball remaining, so we’ll see if the Celtics can earn a higher seed.

* The Boston Bruins will look to earn their third consecutive win on Tuesday when they welcome the Tampa Bay Lightning to the TD Garden for a 7:30pm face-off. The Black and Gold remain one of five teams that hasn’t clinched a playoff spot, but it’s likely that a few more wins would secure them the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

Daily Noontime – March 14, 2012

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat-up the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, 6-1! (Photo Credit: SB Nation)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Happy Wednesday to everyone! Let’s get the day started with some headlines and news from Boston and New England!

* The Boston Bruins trailed Tampa Bay by four goals after one period, and never recovered, as the Lightning beat-up the Black and Gold on Tuesday, 6-1. Jordan Caron netted the only goal for Boston, while Marty Turco and Tim Thomas combined for 11 saves between the pipes. Boston is currently 1-3 in their last four contests, and will attempt to end their three-game skid on Thursday when they face-off against Florida.

* Sources confirmed that the New England Patriots are working toward finalizing a deal with wide receiver Matthew Slater, which should be completed by Wednesday. Also, there is no news on Wes Welker‘s contract, but it’s possible that due to various free agent signings, he’ll be asking for a decent amount of money.

* The Boston Celtics will return to the hardwood on Wednesday evening when they tip-off against the Golden State Warriors. Boston is 1-1 on their current eight-game road swing, and have won three of their last five matches.

* UMass’ men’s basketball team earned a first round NIT victory against Mississippi State on Tuesday, 101-96 in double overtime. The Minutemen will return to the hardwood on Thursday when they take on Seton Hall.

* Finally, the Boston Red Sox picked up their seventh win in the Grapefruit League on Tuesday, as they defeated the New York Yankees, 1-0.

Daily Noontime – March 13, 2012

Paul Pierce paced the Celtics with 25 points on Monday, which lifted Boston past Los Angles! (Photo Credit: NBA.com)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Good Tuesday to everyone, and welcome into yet another amazing edition of the Daily Noontime! Let’s kick-start the day with news and headlines.

* The Boston Celtics snapped their one-game losing skid in Los Angles on Monday, as they defeated the Clippers, 94-85. Paul Pierce paced all scorers with 25 points, while Rajon Rondo tallied 10 assists. Boston will continue its eight-game road trip on Wednesday when they travel to Oakland to face the Golden State Warriors.

* During Boston’s match against Los Angles, Ray Allen sustained a left ankle injury, which the shooting guard believes won’t hamper him going forward.

* Sources confirmed late Monday evening that former New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss has inked his name on a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers. The highly touted wide receiver did not play this past season, but certainly is excited about returning to the gridiron.

* The Boston Bruins will attempt to end their two-game losing streak on Tuesday when they travel to Tampa Bay for a 7:30pm face-off.

* Finally, the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team will begin their quest toward a NIT championship on Tuesday when they tip-off against Mississippi State at 7:00pm.