Tuukka Rask has been the subject of a lot of hate recently in Boston sports. Many fans like to use him as a scapegoat for the Bruins underlying problems.
While I was browsing my twitter feed, I came across this tweet from Boston Sports Tonight.
Who is the most underappreciated athlete currently playing in Boston?— Boston Sports Tonight (@NBCSBST) June 26, 2018
I immediately thought of Tuukka Rask. Tuukka is absolutely the most under appreciated athlete currently playing in Boston.
Now, you may be saying that he’s not under appreciated and that he deserves the criticism he gets. But, have you ever stopped to think that being a goaltender is one of the most difficult positions in all of professional sports? Goalies must be agile, quick, calm, and poised. They are the back-bone of a hockey club and they’re the ones that have the biggest influence on the game.
They also tend to take a lot of the blame for the folks in front of him.
Fans main concern is the fact he’s being paid $7 million a year to stop pucks, and sometimes he’s off his game. Obviously his salary is a little high, but you weren’t going to sign Rask for much less than that.
Rask was signed back in 2013 after coming off a great season. He went 19-10-5 with a 2.00 GAA and .929 SV% during the regular season. He was even better in the post season that year, recording a .940 SV% and a 1.88 GAA, to lead the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals.
After the year Rask had in 2013, he was not going to be signed for nothing. A year later, he won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender, so his play was certainly worthy of a 7 million dollar contract.
Since 2015 though, Rask’s play has seemed to decline a bit. Now, this is expected of any player at any position. As players age and move out of their prime, their overall play tends to decline. And I know what you’re thinking, don’t even bring up how Tom Brady is 40 years old and still plays amazing because that guy is not human.
Throughout Rask’s slight decline, he hasn’t had the best team playing in front of him either. The Bruins failed to make the playoffs during both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 season. Is that all because of Rask? I highly doubt it, hockey is a team sport.
The B’s managed to get themselves back in the postseason during the 2016-17 season. Unfortunately we all remember losing to the Ottawa Senators 4 games to 2. I’d like to mention though that the team was pretty much on it’s last legs during that playoff series. Plenty of injuries played a role in that series and Rask actually played pretty well.
This most recent season Tuukka managed to hold a .917 SV% and a 2.36 GAA with 3 shutouts. These numbers aren't terrible, especially while playing behind a team who had some defense issues. Last season wasn’t his best, but it wasn’t his worst either.
Tuukka would be praised in many other NHL cities. So, why does he receive so much criticism in Boston?
Well first of all, Boston sports fans expect nothing but the best from their teams and their athletes. Tuukka has been known to slip under the bar at times and fans don't like to see that. Boston sports fans hold a higher standard for their players than most cities.
Second of all, Massachusetts is one of the best rated hockey markets in the United States. So naturally the fans will be quick to criticize poor play. But, if even Braden Holtby or Carey Price were on the Bruins, I’d bet they would receive just as much criticism as Rask does because of our high standards.
Having high standards for our favorite athletes is great, but sometimes we need to lower the bar and fall back down to reality. Tuukka Rask is no Patrick Roy, he’s Tuukka and he does his job well.
Put a defense like Tampa Bay’s in front of Rask and I can almost guarantee you that he’ll win a Cup. Rask does his job just fine, it’s time Bruins fans start to realize it. There’s more to hockey than just goaltending, it’s a team effort.
If you’re going to criticize Rask, you at least need to criticize the team in front of him as well, because it’s not perfect. Rask deserves to be appreciated, there’s not many guys that are better than he is right now. Give him his 2 U’s, 2 K’s, 2 points, and your 2 cents of caring.