By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It appears Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask has heard enough of your Sergei Bobrovsky praise.
In a series headlined by everybody gushing over Bobrovsky (I’m now convinced Felger & Mazz is short for Felgerov & Mazzyuk with the way they’ve fawned over this perennial playoff choker), Rask reminded you that he’s a damn good goaltender behind a series-tying 39-of-40 performance in Thursday’s Game 4 win at Nationwide Arena.
Actually, get rid of that fake goal scored by Columbus and it should be a 39-of-39 shutout for Rask.
It was yet another night of ridiculous chances against Rask, too, including six (six!) stops that came with the Bruins on the power play. All six came on what were legitimately great scoring chances for the Blue Jackets, too. The majority of Columbus’ chances came from between the circles and/or right in front of Rask, in fact, and Boston’s penalty kill rarely helped the 32-year-old goaltender with anything even slightly resembling a clean clear out of danger.
“Tuukka was outstanding,” B’s coach Bruce Cassidy said after the Game 4 victory. “I thought he really fought hard to compete on second chances tonight, especially their power play. I think it was in the third period, there were a lot of second chances.
“I thought he really competed hard to find pucks in there, made some good saves on some odd-man rushes at angles.”
Oh, and he also stopped a penalty shot that could have completely flipped the momentum of this game upside down.
“And then obviously the penalty shot,” Cassidy recalled. “Big turning point in the game.”
Even in a loss, the Blue Jackets finished Game 4 with 3.74 expected goals for, but exited with just one (fake) goal and a loss.
Some of Rask's best from Game 4: pic.twitter.com/66gBzCRoCx— Tucker Boynton (@Tucker_TnL) May 3, 2019
There was no doubt: Rask was the difference.
But this really isn’t anything new if you’ve been paying attention to Rask this postseason.
Through 11 postseason tilts, Rask’s save percentage sits at .933, which is second only to the Isles’ Robin Lehner (his team has dropped three straight games, mind you), while Rask’s even-strength save percentage sits at an impressive .943 (only Bobrovsky’s been better over the entirety of the postseason, with a .948). Focus on this series and you’re talking about a pair of goaltenders with matching even-strength save percentages (a .952 for both Rask and Bob), but with Rask besting Bobrovsky when it comes to his special teams performances on both fronts.
These numbers only scratch the surface.
If we boil this series down to what’s termed as high-danger saves and shots against (basically consider this chances from the slot, off rebounds, or basically anything that makes a crowd gasp), there’s legitimately zero doubt that Rask has been the better goalie in this series. Hell, he may even be the best goaltender in the entire 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Through 11 games, Rask has faced 68 high-danger shots at even-strength play. He’s stopped all but six of those 68 high-danger shots, giving him a .912 high-danger save percentage. That’s the best in the league, and is a staggering .079 better than Bobrovsky’s .833 high-danger save percentage this spring. Rask has also saved 4.38 high-danger goals above average at evens (tops in the league this postseason), while Bobrovsky sits at -0.49 on that front (the seventh-worst figure out of 19 playoff goalies).
But again, throw their first rounds out the window and focus on just this series and you’ll see that Rask has stopped 26-of-28 high-danger chances at even-strength (a .929 save percentage), while Bobrovsky has surrendered four goals on just 19 high-danger chances (a .789). In essence, Bobrovsky has melted to goo when legitimately challenged with anything other than a point shot, while Rask has not.
(I feel like Killmonger right now, pointing at a beaten Bobrovsky and asking if this is indeed your king.)
Stats are sometimes misleading, and the Tuukka Detractors will be the first ones to remind us all of exactly that.
But when things got tight in a pivotal Game 4 — and don’t sleep on the fact that Game 4 was a one-goal game for almost 40 minutes — Rask delivered under the pressure while Bobrovsky crumbled.
It may very well be enough to swing this series in Boston’s favor, especially with the Bruins regaining home-ice in the process.
Now comes swinging the narrative with it.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has also been a voting member of the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association since 2013. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.