On a busy night of NHL action in the midst of a playoff push, some goalies stood above the rest. Plus, this is a historic day for goaltending in the hockey world.
Rask Ends Flyers’ Streak on Birthday
The Philadelphia Flyers haven’t lost a game since Feb. 15, a 5-3 loss in Florida against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since then, they’ve won nine games in a row, and have won each of those games by two girls or more. But playing Tuukka Rask can cure a hot offense pretty quickly, and Tuesday’s game against the Boston Bruins did exactly that to the Flyers.
Rask has been sensational this season and is numbered amongst the NHL’s best goalies for a reason. His .929 save percentage (SV%) and 2.12 goals-against average (GAA) are both near the top of the league. And his 36-save shutout against the Flyers counted for his fifth, which moved him into a tie for second place in the league, trailing only Connor Hellebuyck’s six.
The shutout was also the 50th of Rask’s career, which ties him with teammate Jaroslav Halak and Detroit Red Wings legend Chris Osgood for 30th all time. It wasn’t the Flyers’ best effort, as they managed just six high danger chances (HDCF) and 2.33 expected goals (xG), but still, Rask had to be sharp. After the game, he spoke to the media about the significance of his historic shutout.
It’s a great milestone. I didn’t even realize, but thanks for telling me. But, I’ve been around for many years, you know? I guess it’s one of those things where you play enough games, these milestones happen, and, you know, it’s definitely a good one.
As we covered this morning, it was also Rask’s 33rd birthday, so it was a happy day all around for the Finnish legend. He trails only Pekka Rinne in shutouts amongst Finns and with needs just 29 more wins to pass both Kari Lehtonen (19 ahead at 310) and Miikka Kiprusoff (28 ahead at 319) to step into second place behind Rinne (359) as well.
History for Sawchuk and Roy
Today was also a successful day in history for two of the most legendary NHL goalies of all time.
Sawchuk Reaches 39
Many consider Terry Sawchuk to be the greatest goalie of all time. And on this day in 1951, he began to build to his legacy. Even though he was just a rookie, the 7-0 victory his Red Wings managed over the Chicago Blackhawks that night earned him the record for most victories in a season: 39. Sawchuk would go on to win five more games, finishing with a total of 44, a milestone he’d repeat the following season.
These days, while 40 wins is still a tremendous accomplishment, it is relatively commonplace in the grand scheme of things. Since Sawchuk set the milestone, 72 goalies have reached or surpassed 39 wins in a season. But Sawchuk’s 44 actually stood for a good time. It wasn’t until Bernie Parent’s 47 wins in 1973-74 that anyone passed him, and to this day, only seven goalies have surpassed 44 victories.
Roy Sets the Mark
Speaking of since-surpassed records, the legendary Patrick Roy, another candidate for NHL G.O.A.T., took the career lead in wins amongst then-active goalies, passing Grant Fuhr at 376. His opponent that night? Fuhr, who started for the St. Louis Blues in a 3-2 defeat.
Roy had a few more wins to collect in his career — 175, to be exact. He finished with 551, which puts him in a comfortable second place all-time. Of course, no one will likely ever catch Martin Brodeur’s 691 wins, and it is appropriate that Roy and Brodeur, the best goalies of their era, will be eternally linked at the top of the NHL leaderboards.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.