Tuukka Rask’s Struggles In Bruins-Canadiens Rivalry Greatly Exaggerated

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December 10, 2015

In baseball, it’s a well-known fact that win-loss record isn’t a particularly accurate metric for judging a pitcher’s performance. Good records typically coincide with good pitching, but the opposite is not always true.

The same applies for goaltenders, which is why, when judging Tuukka Rask’s success against the Montreal Canadiens, the scoreboard does not tell the entire story.

An easy narrative to latch onto after Rask backstopped the Boston Bruins to a 3-1 win over Montreal on Wednesday was that of the goaltender finally finding success against the hated opponent that has haunted him throughout his career. After all, Rask had faced the Canadiens on 21 occasions before Wednesday night and beaten them just three times.

But saying that would imply that goaltending has been the issue for the Bruins against the Habs, which, by and large, it hasn’t.

Including Wednesday’s win, during which he stopped 32 of 33 shots, Rask has allowed two or fewer goals in seven of his last 10 starts against Montreal. The Bruins, however, have won just two of those 10 games.

There were some clunkers, sure: He gave up three goals on 18 shots in a loss on Jan. 30, 2014, then was pulled after allowing four on 25 shots in another last October. But overall, the Bruins’ recent failures against their oldest rivals have had more to do with lack of offense than shakiness between the pipes.

Boston’s three goals Wednesday equaled its total from Rask’s previous three starts against Montreal, and even those only came after he carried his squad for nearly two-and-a-half periods. Loui Eriksson didn’t score the Bruins’ first goal of the night until the 7:53 mark of the third, and the Bruins added two more over the next six minutes to pull away.

Rask, meanwhile, allowed only one goal: a no-angle shot from Paul Byron in the first period that bounced off Bruins defenseman Zach Trotman and into the net.

?(Wednesday night), we were able to give him some help in that third period. He was the reason that we were still in the game after two periods,” head coach Claude Julien told reporters after the game, as aired on “NESN Sports Today.”

“He was playing extremely well, making some big saves for us and allowing us to still have an opportunity after two. And in the third period, our guys kind of turned it on a little bit. We got better as a team and found ways to score some goals there.

“Again, the goaltender is so important in this league, and proof is Tuukka?s performance again (Wednesday night).”

Thumbnail photo via Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask
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