Tuukka Rask officially passed Gerry Cheevers for most franchise playoff wins after last night’s 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals. Rask is also the winningest regular-season Boston Bruins goaltender in history.
Rask is no stranger to criticism among fans. He is scolded for never winning a Stanley Cup, and many think he is at fault for losing in the Stanley Cup Final in 2013 and 2019. He is also looked down upon for leaving the bubble during last year’s playoffs to tend to a family emergency involving his daughter.
No matter what feat Rask overcomes, it is never good enough. However, is the criticism really fair?
Rask vs. other goaltenders
A lot of people like to compare Rask with Tim Thomas. The two goaltenders have totally different styles, but since Thomas won a Cup in 2011, he is highly regarded.
During the 2011 playoffs, Thomas was 16-9, had a 1.98 goals-against average (GAA), and a .940 save percentage (SV%). In the 2013 playoffs, Rask was 14-8, a 1.88 GAA, and a .940 SV%.
Rask has the better numbers but is still underappreciated.
He is also ranked #11 out of 50 goaltenders for the best career GAA. Rask’s career GAA is 2.27. Some notable goalies in front of him are Dominik Hasek, Ken Dryden, and Martin Brodeur. That’s great company.
Rask also ranks #9 all-time for playoff save percentage with .926.
2013 and 2019 losses
Nobody wants to relive this, but were the two infamous goals in 17 seconds really Rask’s fault?
It’s hard to make those saves when the only defenseman in front of the net was Zdeno Chara who couldn’t stop Bryan Bickell. The go-ahead goal had Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference defending, and you can even see Rask try to push Ference aside because he cannot see what’s going on. This results in a quick tip-in off the post from Dave Bolland and the Blackhawks win the Cup. Rask didn’t even have a chance to find the puck or know where he was supposed to move.
In 2019, the St. Louis Blues defeated the Bruins 4-1 in game 7. Rask was in net and is blamed for blowing the game. However, the Bruins offense only scored one goal. You can’t win a game by not scoring goals. Not to mention, the four goals scored were arguably due to lack of defense.
Blaming the goalie is a copout
The 2019 loss resulted in just one goal being scored by the Bruins and it was thanks to defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. You can’t win games without goalscoring, and Rask had no help in that department. While the 2013 loss wasn’t due to lack of scoring, it does fall on the defense for not being in front of the net to help Rask out. It’s not just Rask that needs defending, it’s any goalie that gets blamed for losses when there is an entire team in front of him that needs to do their jobs.
It’s a poor excuse to blame just one guy in pro sports, depending on the situation. For example, the quarterback gets unfairly criticized if the offensive line doesn’t block anyone like they are supposed to.
It’s sad Rask has given his all to this team with no thanks in return. Luckily, most fans do appreciate him, but the ones that don’t are severely against him and want his head on a stake.
Hopefully, truly knowledgeable hockey fans can see that his numbers are outrageous and goalies like this don’t come around very often. Rask doubters have already called for Jeremy Swayman (who is 22 years old) to be the new starter.
Imagine trying to run a veteran out of the net so you can have a kid with no experience in goal just so you can treat him the same as you treated Rask?
Couldn’t be me.