The NHL is considering a very controversial move in the wake of the world meeting David Ayres, the Emergency Backup Goalie (EBUG) who took hockey by storm Saturday night. But first, Tuukka Rask’s historic streak came to an end on Tuesday.
Rask’s Streak Ends at 20
To say that the Boston Bruins have been dominant at home would be an understatement. Prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Calgary Flames, they had only lost in regulation at home twice this season. That means that in all but two games, the Bruins had secured at least a point at home, for a total record of 21-3-9. Rask is a big part of the reason for that terrific record, as he has been fantastic all season.
Rask is one of the best goalies in the league, so it’s no surprise that he’s good at protecting home ice. But the numbers he is putting up there are other-worldly. Prior to Tuesday’s loss, he was 14-0-6, with a .933 save percentage (SV%) and a 1.97 goals-against average (GAA) in TD Garden. All three of Rask’s shutouts also came in Boston.
But all great things must come to an end, and on Tuesday, Rask’s 20-game home point streak did exactly that. The Flames manhandled the Bruins, with Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund each scoring two goals, and Matthew Tkachuk adding a goal and two assists. After the game, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy did not point at his goalies. Instead, he criticized the effort level of his entire team.
Clearly not good enough. I thought some guys came to play and some guys didn’t. Didn’t break a sweat, some of them it looked like. I’m sure there was effort, they were trying, they were just in between, couldn’t execute or whatever. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t good enough.Bruce Cassidy on the Bruins loss to the Flames
Prior to Tuesday, the Bruins had not played in Boston since Feb. 15, so it may be that the long road trip ruined their rhythm. They’ll get a chance to redeem themselves against the Dallas Stars on Thursday night, whereas the Flames will move on to play the Nashville Predators the same evening.
NHL Evaluating EBUGs
David Ayres truly was a miracle on ice Saturday night, exactly 40 years after the more famous event of the same name. The 42-year-old arena worker with a 15-plus-year-old kidney transplant stepped onto the ice at Scotiabank Arena on Hockey Night in Canada and beat the vaunted Toronto Maple Leafs in pads that their American Hockey League goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo had left behind. From there, he became a national and international treasure, appearing everywhere from The Today Show to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
But now, with the NHL general manager meetings looming in Boca Raton, Florida starting Monday, the league’s brass is considering a solution that would make such cinderella stories impossible in the future. The GMs are expected to discuss potential changes, a decision which NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly explained to NHL.com:
I think it’s a fair question. It’s something we’ve given some consideration to over the years. As recently as last year, we discussed [it] with the general managers. It happens very, very rarely, but when it happens, it obviously raises everybody’s attention to the issue and whether there are fixes that need to be made to that particular issue.
The particulars of this issue have sparked opinions from every corner of the hockey world, with some, like former-GM-turned-analyst Brian Burke criticizing the League for allowing a 42-year-old goalie on the ice, and others, like the cast of the blue-collar Spittin’ Chiclets podcast celebrating the rags-to-riches story of the moment.
The question for general managers is: if a change is to be made, what should it look like? Daly didn’t have immediate solutions:
There’s no easy fixes to it. Particularly, we have to work with the [NHL] Players’ Association. Who’s a player? Who’s not a player? What qualifies all of that? But obviously we want what’s best for the game, and we want to make sure people aren’t putting themselves in danger by playing goal in a National Hockey League game. … So that’s obviously something we have to continue to work through
It seems like there are more questions than answers right now. But there’s no question that Ayres and his triumph are a huge victory for the league, something that the Carolina Hurricanes at least are acknowledging.
Ayres Sounds the Siren
The Hurricanes spent Tuesday night celebrating Ayres and his story. The mayor of Raleigh, North Carolina named the day “David Ayres Day” in the city. Ayres himself toured around various media stops as he made his way down to PNC Arena. Then, he got the game started by sounding the ceremonial horn the Hurricanes play at the start of each game.
The team also gave Ayres a sweater signed by the fans, and plan to give him part of the proceeds from the shirts they are selling bearing his name and number. Though the Hurricanes were one of the busiest teams at the deadline, they didn’t forget to stop and celebrate the amazing moment and the man that created it. Unfortunately, the fun stopped there, as they suffered a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars.
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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.