Kalman’s Grades: Bruins Get A-Efforts From Rask, Johnson In 2014

By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) —  It’s a credit to the Bruins that since general manager Peter Chiarelli took over (with an assistant from his predecessor Mike O’Connell, who signed Tim Thomas to a contract extension) goaltending has never been a concern.

Even beyond the No. 1 position Chiarelli and the Bruins have done fine work landing a second goaltender to complement their tandem. This season was no exception.

Here’s a look at how the Bruins’ goaltenders performed in 2013-14:

Tuukka Rask

Contract status: Signed basically for life at a cap charge that might someday look like a bargain if the salary-cap maximum continues to rise the next several seasons.

Grade: A-minus

When the NHL Awards are held next month in Las Vegas, Rask is going to enjoy his first visit to Sin City for more than just the gambling, the food and the Elvis impersonators. It’s a pretty safe bet that Rask will leave town with the Vezina Trophy, becoming the second Bruins goaltender to win the award in six seasons (Thomas in 2009). He was fourth in the regular season in goals-against average (2.04), second in save percentage (.933) and first in shutouts (7). He led the league in 5-on-5 save percentage (.942).

His postseason numbers were equally impressive with a .928 save percentage and 1.99 GAA. However, when the Bruins needed him the most against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference second round series, Rask was unable to come up with that “Superman” save the way Thomas did in 2011. Rask also had some moments of indecision (Max Pacioretty’s breakaway goal in Game 6) and problems exchanging the puck with his defensemen.

If Rask felt like this season was all about justifying his new contract, next season should be all about proving he learned from his mistakes against the Canadiens.

Chad Johnson

Contract status: An unrestricted free agent who hopes he can get on the same plan predecessor Anton Khudobin got on after he left last summer.

Grade: A-minus

Like his predecessor, Johnson had never spent a full season in the NHL before making the Bruins’ roster and had served a long apprenticeship in the American Hockey League with a sparse amount of NHL games sprinkled in over those seasons. And like Khudobin, Johnson proved to be the perfect backup for Rask. After a few subpar performances at the beginning of the season, Johnson played well enough (2.10 GAA, .925 save percentage) to give Rask the required rest down the stretch. He was also 17-4-3, which gave the Bruins enough wins on Rask’s nights off to surge to the top of the NHL standings.

Khudobin’s lockout-shortened one season with Boston produced a 2.32 GAA and .920 save percentage in 14 games. He turned that into a one-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes, who then rewarded him in-season with a two-year extension work $4.5 million. Johnson might not be able to make that type of money, but he’ll definitely be able to find a place to play more.

Niklas Svedberg

Contract status: Restricted free agent salivating over a chance to replace Johnson and push Rask.

Grade: Incomplete

We only got to see Svedberg once in the NHL this season, but he impressed with a 33-save effort in a win against Nashville. The Bruins will probably have to spend a little more on Svedberg (2.63 GAA, .910 save percentage) than they did on Johnson, but it’ll be worth it to see the investment they made in bringing Svedberg over from Sweden pay off at the NHL level in 2014-15.

This is the first in a six-part series grading how Bruins players performed over the course of the 2013-14 season.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.


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