Looking at Tuukka Rask’s Possible Impact in Boston

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Boston’s enigmatic, franchise-leading netminder is back in Beantown. Last week, the Boston Bruins signed free agent goaltender Tuukka Rask for the remainder of the season. Rask, who is the winningest goaltender in Bruins history, is coming off of offseason hip surgery to repair a torn labrum and joins a talented Bruins crease already manned by Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman.

Tuukka Rask Looking To Make Late-Season Impact

Rask picked up where he left off this past Thursday. Making his season debut, Rask stopped 25 shots in a 3-2 win over the injury-riddled Flyers. The Bruins are currently 4th in the highly competitive Atlantic Division, with three games in hand on current leader Florida due to game postponements caused by recent COVID-19 surges. This gives Rask plenty of time to get reacclimated to the rigours of an NHL schedule and make an impact on the Bruins’ season.

Current Goaltending Success

When looking at the 2021-2022 Bruins, it is impossible to ignore how much of a bright spot goaltending has been. The Bruins currently rank third in the NHL in goals against with 83, and seventh in goals against per game with an average of 2.59. These stellar team rankings are not surprising considering that Swayman and Ullmark rank 7th and 13th, respectively, in goals-against average (GAA) among goaltenders who have played in at least 15 games. Both goaltenders are also sporting save percentages (SV%) above .915, and combined have only had 3 starts this season ending in a SV% lower than .850.

Although the issues in Boston haven’t stemmed from the crease this year, Rask does provide some stability and veteran leadership. In 14-years, Rask achieved a GAA of 2.27 and a SV% of .921. No general manager in the NHL would scoff at those numbers, much less turn down the opportunity to add that calibre of player. Rask’s consistency and poise in the face of adversity (in a demanding hockey market) make him an invaluable asset for the Bruins, regardless of his role. However, there can only be one goalie on the ice at a time.

Rask’s career SV% is only .004 better than Ullmark’s this year and .003 better than Swayman’s. This negligible statistical difference does not suggest that Rask’s presence will provide a significant bump in productivity to the Bruins’ crease, which begs the question of where Rask will make his presence felt the most.

One word: playoffs.

A Consistent, Veteran Presence

Before Rask’s signing, the Bruins were astonishingly green in the postseason when it came to the blue paint. Ullmark has never competed in the postseason, thanks in large part to him playing in Buffalo. Meanwhile, Swayman has a whopping 19 minutes of NHL playoff hockey under his belt, stopping two of three shots. Enter Tuukka Rask, who has over 100 games played, a 2.22 GAA, .925 SV%, and a Stanley Cup ring to his credit in the gruelling NHL playoffs. Veterans of the game always emphasize the impact of veteran players come every April, especially at a position as important as a goaltender. Combine this with a record of success, and the Bruins have found the missing piece to an extremely well-rounded tandem.

Despite the success that Ullmark/Swayman have had for Boston, Rask will provide dividends and make an impact when it matters: playoff time. When it comes to this franchise, winning is everything, and nobody does it better in Boston than Tuukka.

Statistics provided by Hockey Reference and Puckpedia.

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