The Boston Bruins underwent a radical wave of changes this off-season that left the team looking much different than they did last season, when they came just short of the playoffs. Several months later, as the league gears up for the 2015-16 season, it remains in question whether or not the Bruins are a team who can reach the playoffs.
Much of that question hangs on Boston’s goaltending, led by 2013-2014 Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask. The 28-year-old goaltender was phenomenal in his Vezina Trophy season. His .930 save percentage, paired with a 2.04 goals-against average led him to a 36-15-6 record with the Bruins. He led the league with seven shutouts, and allowed two goals or fewer in 38 of his 58 starts. Long story short, he was the main reason for Boston’s success that season.
Now, a year later, many people wonder whether Rask can make another run at the Vezina Trophy. The answer is yes.
While Rask’s stats last season didn’t quite match up to those from the previous year’s, he was still phenomenal for the Bruins. The Finnish net-minder posted a .922 save percentage, accompanied by a 2.30 goals-against average. Ironically, his .872 shorthanded save percentage last season was better than his Vezina season (.868). He also played in a career-high 70 games (tied for third-most in the league), and saw a total of 2011 shots, 370 more than the year before.
Despite being overworked at the end of the season (he played in 15 of Boston’s final 16 games, including their final 8 games in 15 days), Rask still hung in there for the B’s. From March 28th to April 4th, an 8 day stretch, Rask won five straight pivotal games for the Bruins, averaging an outstanding .959 save percentage. In Boston’s final three games, the exhausted goaltender’s numbers unsurprisingly dropped off a bit.
“I think obviously it’s mentally draining when you’re battling for that playoff spot and you play a lot of games in a row and stuff like that,” he said, according to nhl.com. “You always feel kind of exhausted afterwards. But then when you do nothing for a week or two, then you’re kind of like, ‘All right, let’s play hockey again.’ You’re kind of rejuvenated. I didn’t feel like I took too much [more] time than usual.”
— DJ Bean (@DJ_Bean) August 10, 2015
Let’s make one thing clear: the Boston Bruins didn’t miss the playoffs because of Tuukka Rask. Tuukka put up pretty good numbers, and kept the Bruins in way more games than they should’ve been in. Boston’s problem was their offense. When the going got tough, the Bruins just couldn’t produce. In their last three games, when they needed it most, Boston was held to just four goals. Tuukka Rask was not the issue.
It’ll be interesting to see how Rask performs this season. For one, he’ll have a much different team playing in front of him, which will undoubtedly have an impact on his success (for better or for worse). Whether or not his teammates are competent enough to find themselves playing hockey into May and June is still to be seen, however, you can expect Rask to be up to par (at the least) for Boston this season.
Whether or not Boston is successful this season, Rask is certainly still a Vezina-worthy goaltender.
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!