For the entirety of the NHL playoffs, Tuukka Rask has received the most consistent flow of criticism from the fans of the Boston Bruins. While he is responsible for some poor play, he has also fallen victim to the dismal play of the players in front of him.
Whenever the season ends, if the Bruins are not the ones raising the Cup, Boston management will have to look at possible solutions for Tuukka Rask.
The Tuukka Rask Dilemma
Rask has what can be described as “Warning Track Power”. The term means that the player has amazing talent and can perform well, but comes up just short right at the tail end. In specific instances, Rask displays this.
Since solidifying his spot in the 2012-13 season as the starting goaltender for Boston, Rask has played well in the starting role. The problem is that he just has not played well enough to win them another Cup.
Rask’s Past Seasons
After relieving Tim Thomas, Rask took the Bruins to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks. He got them to Game 6 and just needed to hold it together for a few more minutes and we would have seen a Game 7. With Chicago’s net empty and 1:16 left in the game, the ever-haunting ‘two goals in 17 seconds’ was born.
For the next two years, the Rask-led Bruins failed to make the playoffs. They placed in the first spot just outside the post-season both years.
Rask got them back over the hump and into the 2016-17 playoffs only to lose to the Ottawa Senators in six games.
This year seemed more promising than ever. Rask rode a 19-game point streak and launched the team into talks of being a championship-contending team. Although he was shaky toward the end of the year, he came back for the first half of the Toronto series. The tail end of that series was rough, but the offence bailed him out.
With a fresh series, all seemed well for Rask after the first game in Tampa Bay. But in the next two games, the Lightning faced a Rask that we saw in Games 5-7 against Toronto.
The Bruins are more than likely going to stick with Rask. He’s been the guy who can get the team into the post-season, although he struggles to get them the Cup.
The Rask situation is a lot like the Claude Julien one a year ago. Julien coached the 2010-11 team to a Stanley Cup and then, in following years, could not get them back there. It’s not that Julien is a bad coach, he just wasn’t the guy who gave them their best chance at another Cup.
The Bruins could explore options of an up-and-coming goaltender. In their system, they have Zane McIntyre in Providence who had a 2.52 GAA of and a .914 save percentage in 47 AHL games this year.
Of goaltenders already in the league that may be a good fit for Boston, Jacob Markstrom has the potential to carry the weight of an NHL season. Going 23-26-7 for the depleted Vancouver Canucks, he posted a 2.71 GAA and a save percentage of .912.
The Bruins tend to prefer trusting their own system, meaning they rarely dip into goaltenders from other teams. Boston acquired Martin Jones from the Los Angeles Kings in the 2015 off-season and dished him to San Jose before he could put his bags down in Massachusetts.
Boston, if they decide to rely on another starter, would also have to find a place to send Rask. There really is no way he would be comfortable being the backup again. This move may be a little more difficult considering he has a $7 million contract with the Bruins.
Luckily for Boston, should they explore this route, there are plenty of teams that are in desperate need of a number one goaltender.
The Carolina Hurricanes took a gamble with Chicago backup Scott Darling, but it did not pay off. The ‘Canes were in the hunt for a while, but the workload proved too much for him and they missed the playoffs.
Influence of Boston
The dealing of Rask is, of course, purely hypothetical. The Bruins may not even move on from him. However, Boston is a powerful city. Fans of any local team expect success in the form of a championship every season and are disappointed when they come up short.
As many Bruins fans call for Rask’s head, there should at least be some acknowledgement that Rask has to be better in the playoffs. Ultimately, general manager Don Sweeney will need to determine what is best even if it leaves some fans unhappy.
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