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As usual, Tuukka Rask was quietly elite in Round 1

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Just another outstanding series by the Bruins #1 goalie

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

It’s still astonishing that after all he’s done for the Boston Bruins, there are doubters out there, regardless of how he plays. There they were, whispering and questioning whether or not Rask should even be the Bruins’ starter against their first round series against the Washington Capitals.

And while Jeremy Swayman had an excellent rookie season and looks like he could become a bonafide #1 goalie in the NHL, how could anyone else start for the Bruins?

Tuukka Rask is the one of (if not the) greatest playoff goalies in Bruins history. This isn’t just an opinion; it’s backed up by statistics.

Rask’s career playoff save percentage (.927), goals-against average (2.18), and win total (55) are either the best or near the best for all goalies that have ever dressed in a playoff game for the Bruins. In the Bruins’ series victory over the Washington Capitals, Rask proved once again not only that he is elite, but that he’s perhaps the Bruins’ most important player.

In five games against the Capitals, Rask not only lived up to his previous playoff performances, but actually posted better-than-career-average numbers: he put up an outrageous .941 SV% and a goals-against average of 1.81.

NOT BAD.

What makes these numbers even more ridiculous is that if it wasn’t for a lot of puck luck on the Caps’ part, these numbers would be even better. Seven of Washington’s ten goals were the result of deflections off of sticks, skates, pads, etc. While these goals counted the same as any other goal, they were deflections that any goalie would have been unable to save.

Then there’s always been the knock on Rask that he can’t win big games, which is absolute nonsense.

You could easily look back to the 2013 and 2019 playoff runs to prove this claim is false, as Rask was arguably the reason why the Bruins made it to the finals both years:

  • In 2013: .940SV%, 1.88GAA
  • In 2019: .934SV%, 2.02 GAA

You could also point to the fact that Rask has the third-most wins (10) in series-clinching games among active goalies, behind only Marc-Andre Fleury and Henrik Lundqvist. If that’s not enough, perhaps Games 2 and 5 will convince you that Rask knows how to step up when needed.

In Game 2, if the Bruins go down 2-0 against Washington, this series may have ended much differently.

Instead, Rask made 36 saves, including 12 in the third period, to help the Bruins make it to overtime, where they would eventually win the game on a Brad Marchand one-timer. In Sunday night’s game, the Bruins’ top line will probably get most of the glory for their victory, but Rask’s 40 saves should not be overshadowed.

Yes, the Bruins’ top line scored twice in the second period, but if Rask doesn’t stand on his head and make 20 saves, the period would likely have been a tie game at best, or a complete disaster at worst.

On the evening, Rask’s ability to suck up shots like a Hoover and not allow rebounds was once again on full display.

With a 4-1 series win against the Capitals in the books, the Bruins are now off to face either the New York Islanders or Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2. Both are strong teams, but the Bruins fans should feel optimistic against either opponent.

The Bruins played well against the Penguins all season, and despite losing the first five versus the Islanders this season, the last three meetings between the two teams were a much different story.

Regardless of who Boston faces, Bruins fans should be confident: they have one of the best goalies in the league in net, whether they’re ready to admit that fact or not.