There has been no better netminder in the storied history of the Boston Bruins than Tuukka Rask. That is as close to a lock as there can be. The numbers and the longevity bear witness to that fact. Fifteen seasons, 564 games played, 308 wins with 2.28 Goals Against Average, .921 Save Percentage, and 52 shutouts. Mix in a Vezina Trophy in 2013 as the NHL’s best goalie.
Rask, who turns 35 next month, announced his retirement yesterday as his attempt to come back from off-season hip surgery had hit some snags over the past few weeks. In four games, the 2022 version of Tuukka Rask went 2-2 with a 4.28 GAA and a .844 SV%, well below career averages for the Bruins’ all-time leader in games played and wins.
Rask last played on January 24, 2022, in a 5-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. A “lower-body injury sidelined him.” When it was terrible for Rask this season, it wasn’t pleasant. He surrendered ten goals on 39 shots in four periods in the two losses. In a 7-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on January 18. Rask gave up five goals on 12 shots in the one period of action. Not all of the goals were on him, as the Bruins defense has struggled at times this season.
“Today is a day that I hoped would never come,” wrote Rask in a released statement. “But now that it’s here, I feel I owe it to every one to hear it from me. When I made the decision to have surgery on my hip last summer, I did so knowing that the road to recovery would be challenging. I also knew it was something I would have to do if I wanted to give myself a chance to play my best hockey again.
“The rehab, the workouts, the practices — all of it was with the intention of getting back to where I needed to be to help my teammates win games and make another run at the Stanley Cup. Over these last few weeks, I’ve realized that my body is not responding the way it needs to for me to play at the level I expect of myself and that my teammates and Bruins fans deserve. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement from the game of hockey.”
Love him or hate him, the 6′-3″ Finn has deserved both praise and disdain during his run in Boston. Since carrying the bulk of the workload starting with that Vezina season in ’13, Rask has racked up some impressive numbers overall.
Five hundred forty-four starts, 308-165-66 record, the 2.28 GAA mentioned earlier, and .921 SV% and 52 shutouts in the regular season.
All-Time, Rask currently sits 33rd overall in Wins, 12th in GAA, and 3rd in SV%. His shutouts rank him 21st, tied with former partner in crime Jaroslav Halak.*
Among active goalies, Rask is/was 4th in Shutouts and Wins and 1st in GAA and SV%.* Rare company in a league that features the likes of Andrei Vasilevski, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Jonathan Quick.
The usual knock by fans is playoff Tuukka. But even those numbers hold up to scrutiny. In post-season play, Rask went 57-46 in 104 games. He carries a 2.22 GAA and .925 SV% and seven shutouts into the history books. Rask is in a three-way tie for eighth all-time in SV% with Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Dominik Hasek, while that number is 4th best among active keepers. His GAA is good for fifth among active goalies and 21st overall.*
If it can even be called one, the drop-off comes in Stanley Cup Finals. As the starter, Rask is 5-8 in two SCF appearances (13 games). His 2.32 GAA is 34th (5th among actives), and the .923 SV% is 14th overall, tied with Eddie Belfour and Henrik Lundqvist. It ranks fifth among active goalies.*
But even those numbers aren’t all that bad when compared against his SCF foes Corey Crawford in 2013 ( 1.90 GAA & .931 SV% in 12 SCF games) and Jordan Binnington (2.75 GAA .912 SV% in 7 games).*
Rask 2-4 16 GA .932 SV% Crawford 4-2 15 GA .925 SV%.** Rask is equally good head-to-head against Crawford in the ’13 finals.
Rask 3-4 17 GA .912 SV%. Binnington 4-3 18 GA .925 SV%. Again, Rask is in Binnington’s ballpark. **
The real crux of the matter should come down to Game Seven. Game seven is where the stats start to tank. In six games, 3-3 won-lost record (take away the Toronto Maple Leafs and Rask is 0-3 in Game 7’s) 3.35 GAA .867 SV%. 13th and 15th respectively among actives, 62nd and 52nd all-time. Rask wasn’t the guy for the job when push came to shove.
You can’t forget the collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, either. The Bruins were ahead three games to none and lost four straight. They lost Game 7 4-3 AT HOME after squandering a 3-0 in the first period!
Game 7 of the 2014 second round against the Montreal Canadiens. Rask gave up three on 18 shots AT HOME. The Bruins, again, couldn’t close out a 3-2 series lead.
In 2013, the Game 6 performance against the Chicago Blackhawks hurt. Two goals in 17 seconds to turn a 2-1 lead with 1:16 to play into a 3-2 series ending, Cup-clinching loss AT HOME only adds to the negative legacy.
In-Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues in 2019, Rask allowed four goals on only twenty shots. Sure the Bruins only scored one goal on 33 shots in that game. His counterpart, Binnington, outplayed Rask. Twice in seven years, an opponent raised the Stanley Cup in your building in front of your fans.
It’s the at-home playoff losses. UGH!
I give Rask a pass for the situation in the bubble in Toronto during the COVID marred season in 2020. That was a rough time and was a big ask for a parent—no qualms with his decision to leave. The optics looked terrible, but his teammates knew the situation behind the scenes.
Without a doubt, his number 40 belongs in the TD Garden rafters. If Terry O’Reilly and Rick Middleton can pull that rope, there’s no argument here about that. While the Hockey Hall of Fame will probably come calling, I don’t believe he warrants that distinction. I tend to think of those honors for the best of the best. I’m just a small hall guy. Maybe it’s just too soon for me to think of Rask and the HHOF in the same breath.
“While I am sad to say goodbye to the game I love, I am so very thankful to have shared these last 15 years with the greatest teammates and fans in the best sports city in the world,” Rask added in his statement. “We have shared so many special memories over the years — bringing the Cup back to Boston in 2011, our runs to the Final in 2013 and 2019, playing overseas in the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, and China, and of course the Winter Classics. I am also so thankful that I was able to represent Finland on the world stage and win a bronze medal in the 2014 Olympics.
“While these experiences were all incredible, what I will remember most about all of them is the bond I had with my teammates, coaches and team staffs, the memories that we will always have, and the friendships that will last a lifetime.
“Through all the ups and downs, I am so grateful for all the support this team and the people of Boston have given me. I will miss everything that comes with representing the Boston Bruins. But now, I am excited to spend more time with my family and friends who never stopped supporting my dream. Boston is special for so many reasons and will always be our adopted home. We look forward to remaining a part of this amazing community,” continued Rask’s statement.
“I especially want to thank the Jacobs’ family, Cam Neely, Don Sweeney, my coaches, the equipment staff and the rest of the team support staff for all they have done for me throughout my time with the Bruins organization. I’ve never wanted to play for any other team. I’m so proud to have worn the Spoked-B for my entire career and wouldn’t have it any other way.”
I will miss Tuukka. He was steady and reliable. You knew he would get more than his share of starts throughout the season. You knew he’d carry you far, probably just not far enough. Tuukka was also great to interview. He didn’t pull punches, he answered the questions honestly, and he called himself out. The Bruins were lucky to have traded for him and that he lasted as long as he did here. As a fan base, we are fortunate to have had him between the pipes for 15 years.
You look at what some other franchises have gone through to find “the guy,” and it takes years. I think Jeremy Swayman is the guy for the Bruins now. Fingers crossed. Think of all the goalies we sat through to get to Tuukka. Andrew Raycroft, Hannu Toivonen, Alex Auld, and Manny Fernandez. They had a good thing with Rask and Tim Thomas, but that would only last so long. Thank god for Tuukka Rask.
*According to QuantHockey.com
** According to Hockey-Reference.com