43°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Tuukka Rask’s Hot Start Puts Doubts on Defense

Tuuka+Rask
Picasa
Tuuka Rask

The last couple of seasons have not been kind to the Boston Bruins or their fans. Back to back seasons finishing just outside the playoffs makes for a very unenthusiastic fan base. It also means the team doesn’t even get a high draft pick. However, the team has gotten off to a pretty good start this season, at 5-4-0 and 10 points on the year. The most promising signs for the year has come from Tuukka Rask. Rask remains undefeated, and is responsible for all of the team’s wins.

Currently, the Boston netminder has a record of 5-0-0, with a 1.20 goals against average (GAA), and a .961 save percentage (SP). These are stellar numbers for the former Vezina Trophy winner, considering Rask has been less effective each season since he won the award for best goaltender in 2014. When Rask won the Vezina Trophy in 2014, he posted a GAA of 2.04 and an SP of .930. In the years since, he has posted GAAs of 2.30 and 2.56 and SPs of .922 and .915, respectively.

A return to form for Tuukka Rask could make all the difference between missing the playoffs again or making them.

The truth, that many believe, is that you simply need a great goaltender to win in this league. it doesn’t matter how good the defense is in front of him; he will face chances against quality opposition and needs to be able to stop them. Chances are, even if you don’t have a good goaltender, once you get into the playoffs, the team you will face will have a top goaltender.

The balance of power in the league has shifted towards the teams that have the best goaltenders. Those are the teams that will make it far, come April, May, and June. Look at the Pittsburgh Penguins: why did they struggle to win in the playoffs the last few years with Marc-Andre Fleury, even with their ability to score? Well, Fleury has a well-documented record of playoff struggles over the last four or five years. Often times, no matter how often the Penguins score, it just would not be enough to offset Fleury’s inability to keep the puck out of the net.

It’s no coincidence that Pittsburgh’s postseason woes coincided with the emergence of Matt Murray. His goaltending, combined with the stellar defense and tremendous offense in the postseason, is what allowed the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup for the second time since 2009.

I’m not saying that the Bruins are as good as Pittsburgh was last season. They don’t have any players with the caliber of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, and they certainly can’t defend like the Penguins can. This season will ultimately come down to how good the defense will be in front of Rask. The defense needs to be able to limit the chances he faces, or they risk wearing him out before the playoff discussion even begins.

Only time will tell if Rask will be able to keep up his fantastic performance this season, or if the defense can keep him fresh for the stretch run. But if that happens, expect to see the Bruins, at very least, playing into late April.