It’s not out of line to be concerned about how Tuukka Rask and the Bruins will perform if they get pushed to the brink of elimination. Because their recent history has not been good in any facet.
But what about the way Rask starts in these series?
It’s certainly fair to point out the Bruins’ bad record when their season is on the line and Rask is in goal. They’re 2-4 in those games, including 1-4 in Game 7’s, and Rask has posted a save percentage of .892.
But if you want to point out his numbers at the end of series, then it’s only fair to look at the other end of that spectrum, right? Is it not important for the Bruins to win the first game? So while the Bruins are just 5-4 in nine Game 1’s with Rask as their starting goalie, it’s tough to pin those defeats on the netminder.
All four Game 1 losses were by one goal, and two of them came in overtime. The Bruins scored just seven goals – just 1.75 per game. Meanwhile, Rask posted a .936 save percentage and 1.87 goals against average in those games. Thanks to some OT epics, Rask has logged just under 643 total minutes in his Game 1 career – about 71 per game.
Maybe you want to say Rask should be able to stop a double-deflection in triple-OT. But when it comes to Game 1’s, where would the nitpicking end and the legitimate criticism begin?
And the most recent example of Rask in a Game 1 is perhaps his most shining. He only had to make 26 saves against the Ottawa Senators in last April’s Game 1, but many of them were of the game-changing, momentum-shifting variety. Rask may not have enough playoff games that he “stole” for the Bruins, but last year’s Game 1 was certainly one of them.
So if you’re wondering which Rask the Bruins are going to get specifically in Thursday’s Game 1 against the Leafs, you may not have to. He’s historically lived up to his end of the bargain in series openers. The real question to start the series should be for the likes of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and the Bruins’ other high-end forwards.
Marchand did score in that Game 1 against Ottawa last season. But he ended up with just that one goal in the entire Sens series, and that’s his only goal in his last 18 playoff games. He’ll need to be better on Thursday than he has in his recent postseason history.
One player who doesn’t need to be much better than he has in Game 1’s, however, is Rask. He still has plenty to prove when he gets to a do-or-die situation, and we’ll look at that when we get to it. For now, his recent performances in Game 1 bode well for his ability to get the B’s off to a good start against the Leafs.
And this time, Rask has almost a fully healthy defense in front of him, unlike last year’s decimated group. He has a deeper, more skilled offensive squad than the Claude Julien-led Bruins teams of the past. He doesn’t have much in the way of excuses to falter in this first game.
But when it comes to Rask in series openers, history is on his side.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.