Bruins

How latest Tuukka Rask news impacts Bruins' goaltending for rest of season

Bruins

The Boston Bruins gave Tuukka Rask a chance to compete for a job on the NHL roster last month, but it appears that comeback attempt will be short lived.

The Athletic's Fluto Shinzawa reported Tuesday night that the Bruins expect Rask to end his return and that he could "finalize his retirement decision in the next few days."

Suspension coming? NHL offers Marchand in-person hearing for Penguins incident

The Bruins will return to their goalie tandem from the start of the season in Linus Ullmark and rookie Jeremy Swayman. It's quite possible this is Boston's duo in net for several years to come.

Let's take a look at how this major development with Rask impacts each of these three goalies.

Linus Ullmark

Ullmark is the No. 1 goalie for the Bruins going forward.

After a slow start to the season, he's been much better over the last two-and-a-half months with a 13-4-1 record, a .916 save percentage and a 2.25 GAA since Nov. 20.

What's happening with Rask is why the Bruins made a great decision signing Ullmark as a free agent last offseason. It was always going to be a tough ask of Rask to come back from a significant hip injury at 34 years old. The Bruins needed protection and Ullmark has been solid for them. 

There's still room for improvement, but Ullmark has been pretty dependable for the Bruins and given them a chance to win a lot of games. Barring a serious drop in performance, he's the likeliest candidate to start Game 1 of the playoffs in May.

 

Jeremy Swayman

The Bruins need Swayman to be a lot better going forward than he showed in Tuesday night's 4-2 loss to the Penguins at home. The B's led 2-0 but coughed it up in the second period when the Penguins scored twice.

Swayman allowed three goals on 24 shots overall. Danton Heinen's second goal of the second period was one that Swayman absolutely needed to come up with.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy wasn't afraid to single out the goaltending following the defeat.

“Goaltending picks you up some nights. It can deflate you (in other games),” Cassidy said. “I think we saw both in the second period. So it gets away from us a little bit. Turnover, we have a D joining and we didn’t have possession of the puck. Not a great decision, didn’t defend it very well. But you’re not going to play a perfect game. Their guy made more stops than our guy did. I think that ends up being, to me, the bigger story of the game.”

Swayman has been mostly good this season, posting a 8-7-2 record with a .914 save percentage and a 2.35 GAA. However, as 98.5 The Sports Hub's Ty Anderson points out, Swayman has struggled in his eight starts versus playoff teams with a 1-6-1 record and a .900 save percentage.

The Bruins have 38 games left in the regular season, which is more than 24 of the league's 32 teams. It's a jam-packed schedule that will test Boston's depth and stamina at each position, and goaltending might be at the top of the list.

Swayman needs to provide quality outings on a consistent basis so Ullmark can remain well-rested for the playoffs. The Bruins need two good goalies to survive this brutal stretch of 38 games in 80 days.

Tuukka Rask

Hip injuries are really tough for goalies, so you have to commend the effort Rask gave in rehabbing for many months and getting to a place where he could return to game action.

If this is it for Rask, it's been a heck of a career. He would finish as the Bruins' all-time leader in wins (308) and saves (14,345). He's tied with Tim Thomas for the franchise's top save percentage (.921) and his 2.10 GAA ranks second behind Tiny Thompson. 

Rask won the Vezina Trophy in 2013-14 and finished second in 2019-20. Put simply, Rask was one of the best goaltenders of his era, and his consistency was quite impressive.

Of course, the one blemish on his resume is the lack of a Stanley Cup title as Boston's starting netminder. He came pretty close a few times, including the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks and the 2019 Stanley Cup Final versus the St. Louis Blues. The 2019 loss, in particular, really stings because the Blues were an inferior opponent and the Rask (and the Bruins as a team) played poorly in Game 7 at home.

 

That said, his playoff stats are really strong overall. Rask's .925 playoff save percentage is the 10th-best all time among goalies with 25 or more games played.

Rask's career numbers are very much worthy of the Hall of Fame, and his No. 40 is worthy of retirement to the rafters at TD Garden.