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 5, 2012

Rajon Rondo recorded a triple-double against New York on Sunday! (Photo Credit: USA Today)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Good Monday to everyone! Let’s kick-off a brand new work week with some kick-butt news and headline from the city of champions, Boston!

* The Boston Celtics extended their current winning streak to four games, as they defeated the New York Knicks on Sunday, 115-109 in overtime. Rajon Rondo once again ignored the ongoing trading rumors by finishing the game with 18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists, while Paul Pierce paced the Green and White with 34 points. New York’s Jeremy Lin finished with 14 points, five assists and four rebounds. Boston will conclude its five-game circuit on Tuesday when they host the Houston Rockets for a 7:30pm tip-off.

* The Boston Bruins have dropped two of their last three, as the New York Rangers defeated the Black and Gold on Sunday, 4-3 at Madison Square Garden. Derek Stepan netted the go-ahead goal at 12:21 to secure the win for the Rangers, who snapped a one-game losing streak. The Bruins will return to the ice on Tuesday when they face-off against the Maple Leafs in Toronto.

* According to reports – Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has yet to make any announcement on Tuukka Rask, who sustained a lower-body injury on Saturday against the New York Islanders. However, once Sunday’s game concluded against the Rangers, the Bruins announced that they should have a better gage on the goaltender’s injury, as well as his status on Monday, (when news becomes available, we’ll link it on the blog).

* Finally, various reports on Monday have confirmed that eight more men have announced that they were abused by a former Boston Red Sox clubhouse manager, who is now dead. For more information on this particular story – CLICK HERE.

Daily Noontime – February 9, 2012

Neither Tim Thomas or Tuukka Rask could stop Buffalo's offense on Wednesday! (Photo Credit: Zimbio.com)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Happy Thursday to everyone, and welcome into yet another grand edition of the Daily Noontime. Here are some headlines and news to kick-start the day!

* The Buffalo Sabres walloped the Boston Bruins on Wednesday evening, 6-0 in upstate New York. Both Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas surrendered three goals, as well as combined for 23 saves, while Boston’s offense tallied 36 shots on Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller. Also, this was the second time in February that the Bruins have finished the game with a “goose egg” on the scoreboard. Boston will look to rebound on Saturday when they host Nashville for a 1:00pm face-off.

* Boston College’s men’s basketball team stunned No. 17 Florida State on Wednesday in Chestnut Hill, as they overcame a slow start to defeat the Seminoles, 64-60. Freshman Jordan Daniels led the Eagles with 21 points, as well as provided four trifectas and five assists. The Eagles are now 8-16 overall, and 3-7 in ACC play.

* The Boston Celtics will look to continue their winning ways on Thursday when they host the Los Angles Lakers for an 8:00pm tip-off. The Green and White are currently riding a five-game winning streak, while the Lakers have lost two of their last three contests.

* Doc Rivers was one happy father on Wednesday evening, as he watched Austin Rivers sink the game-winning three-pointer for Duke, which lifted the Blue Devils past the North Carolina Tar Heels, 85-84.

Daily Noontime – February 3, 2012

Despite turning away 28 shots, Tuukka Rask allowed three goals on Thursday! (Photo Credit: Zimbio.com)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Happy Friday everyone, and welcome into yet another amazing edition of the Daily Noontime.

We’re t-minus two days away from the big game, too, so let’s get through this particular day, so we can all get ready for Super Bowl XLVI!

* The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Boston Bruins for the fourth time this season, as the Black and Gold lost at home on Thursday, 3-0. Tuukka Rask recorded 28 saves between the pipes, while the offense compiled 47 shots on net. The Black and Gold will look to snap their one-game losing streak on Saturday afternoon when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 1:00pm matinee.

* Edwin Jackson won’t be sporting a Boston Red Sox uniform this spring, as he and the Washington Nationals reached an agreement on a one-year deal.

* The New England Patriots and New York Giants will have their final media session on Friday, which will be followed by commissioner Roger Goodell, who is expected to meet with the media for his “State of the NFL.”

* On Thursday, the NBA Eastern Conference and Western Conference All-Stars were announce, but nobody from the Boston Celtics was selected to start the exhibition contest. However, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo are the leading vote-getters to join the team from the east.

* Finally, Harvard University’s men’s basketball team will look to earn their seventh consecutive contest on Friday when they welcome Cornell University to their home court for a 7:00pm tip-off, (Noontime Sports will be at this particular game and will be providing updates).

Carolina Sweeps Season Series Against Boston

 

By Matt Noonan 

BOSTON, MA – It’s never enjoyable to be on the losing end in sports, especially against a last place team in the Eastern Conference, ahem… the Carolina Hurricanes.

Boston proved they’re vulnerable Thursday evening at the TD Garden, as a full capacity crowd watched their hometown Bruins struggle immensely, and earn an ugly 3-0 beating.

“Yeah I think sometimes we’re working, [but] we’re not working smart and there’s a fine line there, and we’re not doing that right, it’s obvious,” said a disgusted Patrice Bergeron.

The Bruins center continued by saying, “We know where to be on the ice, we know how to execute, we know the system and we’re just not doing it. We’re just not in sync and it shows.”

Despite following the “so-called” system, the Black and Gold tallied 47 shots on net in a span of 60 minutes, (22 in the first period and 20 in the third period), but didn’t send a puck past Carolina goaltender Cam Ward, who earned his third shutout of his NHL career against Boston.

“I felt like I was seeing the puck well and for the most part,” said Ward. “I was really happy with my rebound control and we had to get off to a good start because we know that they play extremely hard, especially in their building, [but] to walk away out of the first period with a 1-0 lead, we felt good about that and improved our play in the second period.”

Boston also didn’t compliment Tuukka Rask, who recorded 28-saves between the pipes, and allowed one goal in each period.

“We had a lot of shots, but we just let them see the puck pretty well and didn’t go to the net too hard at times and, you know, let them get those easy shots. But, you know, I mean, tough game,” said Rask.

Carolina has now won six contests on the road this year, two of them in Boston’s barn, which certainly is a red flag for head coach Claude Julien, who appeared quite dumbfounded after his Boston’s eighth loss at home.

“There are certain teams during certain years that will give you a hard time, and they have. They’ve played us well, and they’ve made it hard on us, [but] at the same time, they’ve come in here with lots of confidence, [and] they beat us the last three games, I’d say pretty soundly, and so that’s what the situation is,” said Julien.

The season sweep marks the first time in Carolina history that the franchise has defeated the Bruins in a regular season series, too.

“Tonight we were just really bad. We just didn’t play well,” said Boston’s captain Zdeno Chara. “[It was] just a really bad night for us.”

The Bruins will look to bounce back, and recover from their awful performance on Saturday when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 1:00pm matinee.