I don’t care what the stats say. I don’t care that Tuukka Rask is top 10 all-time in playoff save percentage. I certainly don’t care that the Bruins made it to the 2013 Stanley Cup finals with Rask in net. At the end of the day, Tuukka Risk has never had success in big time games.
Let’s start with the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, where Tuukka’s playoff career started. Considered Rask’s greatest playoff run, the 2013 playoffs began with a match-up against the Toronto Maple Leafs. You remember the series. Boston took a 3-1 series lead in dominating fashion and seemed almost sure to make it to the next round.
After two consecutive losses with Rask in net, the Bruins played a series-deciding game 7. Although Risk did not necessarily have bad games in 5 and 6, he needed to step up in the final game of the series. Instead, Rask allowed four goals, and the Bruins fell behind 4-1. We all remember how it ended, with one of the greatest this period comebacks of all time. What we don’t remember is Tuukka Rask stepping up to help the comeback. They won this series, game 7 specifically, in-spite of the play of their goaltender.
Later in that same playoffs, the Bruins found themselves up 2-1 in the Stanley Cup Finals. After Rask allowed a series-high six goals, the series was tied 2-2 after four games. Bruins fans remember what happened next. Another loss in game 5, followed by two goals allowed in the final two minutes of game 6 to tie the game, and then put the Blackhawks in the lead to eventually win the Stanley Cup.
The following year, Rask found himself in a similar position. Up 3-2 in the series against rival Montreal Canadians, the Bruins needed one win to advance. In a game 6 loss, Rask allowed 4 goals in Montreal. As things came down to a game 7, it was once again Tuukka Rask who came out on the losing end, as the Canadians eliminated the Bruins in the final game of the series.
Although the Bruins were in a slight playoff drought the next two years, there were still some very big games late in the schedules. In the 2014-15 regular season, the Bruins needed a total of three points in three games to guarantee them a spot in the playoffs. With Tuukka Risk in net, the Bruins lost all three of those games and failed to make the playoffs.
The end of the 2015-16 season was very similar, however, there was one major difference. Just like the season before, Boston needed a win in their final game to clinch a playoff spot. Just like the season before, the Bruins lost. However, the actual loss did not go to Rask this time. That’s because Rask sat out with a “stomach virus” despite being on the ice for pre-game warmups. No one was really sure of the severity of the virus, but it’s definitely not a good look sitting out the last game of the season because of a stomach bug.
So now here we sit in the first round of the playoffs before game 6. Although Tuukka did have some solid games so far against the Maple Leafs, he was pulled in game 5 after giving up 4 goals on 13 shots faced. If the Bruins somehow fail to get past the Maple Leafs it will be the fourth straight season they have failed to get out of the first round.
I don’t want this to seem like an overreaction to one bad performance. I’ve been a known Rask doubter for years now. Even with my lack of trust in Rask, I believe they will at least get by Toronto, and possibly even advance deep in the playoffs because the Bruins are that deep. However, if this is another early exit, it may be time to start looking at Risk the same way the sports world looks at the likes of Carey Price, James Harden, Chris Paul and Alex Smith. Guys who are consistently in the playoffs, but could never carry the team to a title.
Photo: Acme World Sports