By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — A quick glance at the stat sheet from Wednesday night’s opening game of the series between the Bruins and Senators shows that Ottawa managed to get just 27 shots on net. (Can someone in the advanced stat community tell us if that is good?) And so, seeing Tuukka Rask’s 26 saves on the stat sheet might not be the first thing that jumps out on Thursday morning.
But as anybody who watched the game knows, Rask was the difference between a 2-1 Boston win and a 5-2 Ottawa blowout. He was that good.
Of the Senators’ 27 shots, six came from within 15 feet (according to the official play-by-play, which isn’t always 100 percent accurate), and Rask stopped them all. The one goal he did allow came when Adam McQuaid misplayed a bounding puck at center ice, lost a foot race with Bobby Ryan, stumbled to a knee in the corner and left Zdeno Chara all alone to handle a 2-on-1 down low with Ryan and Derick Brassard. Rask actually made the initial save, but with McQuaid stuck in the corner after an impromptu pirouette, no Bruin was around to clean up the loose puck. Ryan scored off his own rebound.
But that was the only rubber to find its way past Rask on Wednesday night, as the Finnish netminder inched past Jonas Hiller to sit at fourth all time in playoff save percentage.
At least a dozen of Rask’s saves were immense, and so narrowing down his best of the night is no easy feat. Nevertheless, here’s an effort to condense it down to three. This list is, of course, open to interpretation.
1. The game could have really gotten off on the wrong foot for the Bruins if not for Rask. After Charlie McAvoy failed to get a puck deep on a dump attempt in his first NHL shift, the Senators quickly turned up ice. Clarke MacArthur carried up the right wing and fired a snap shot from the dot on net. Rask made a pad save and kicked the rebound directly to the slot, where Mark Stone was barreling toward net. Stone fired on net, but Rask made a blocker save to deny the early opportunity.
2. Late in the first period, the two teams exchanged breakaways. After David Pastrnak failed to get a shot off on his attempt, Dion Phaneuf sent an incredible 140-foot pass to spring Derick Brassard on a breakaway. Brassard opted for a forehand shot to the blocker side, but Rask turned him away. It was big, being a breakaway and all, but it doesn’t crack the top five.
5. Second Period, 13:54, Chris Wideman, ~15 feet
If there’s one criticism often said about Rask, it’s that he “goes down too early,” even though he’s a butterfly goalie and dropping to the ice is part and parcel with the style. Nevertheless, dropping to the ice does generally open some opportunity for shooters. But being 6-foot-3 has its benefits, and Rask showed that he can still cover those top-shelf shots while down on the ice to make this save.
Every save is crucial in a tight playoff game, but a 2-0 lead in Ottawa against a team that knows how to protect leads would have been nearly insurmountable.
4. Third Period, 9:18, Tommy Wingels, ~5 feet
In a tie game midway through the third period, Tommy Wingels didn’t get too much behind a one-time bid from the slot, thanks to an aggressive stick check from Ryan Spooner.
But the rebound ended up sliding right back to Wingels, who flicked a backhander toward net. The puck was heading toward the far post before Rask kicked out his left leg to make the save and send the puck well out of harm’s way.
Unfortunately there’s no slow-motion replay available, but utilize those pause and play buttons to see how quick that reaction was.
3. Second Period, 7:36, Clarke MacArthur, ~12 feet (Power Play)
The Senators were thirsting for the opening goal in the second period, and a power play seemed like the prime opportunity. Really, they should have had one, as Bobby Ryan artfully jumped on a deflected shot behind the net and quickly sent a no-look pass to Clarke MacArthur, who was open in the slot.
MacArthur fired a quick one-timer toward the far post, and even though Rask was still stuck on his right post, he was able to make a reactionary kick save with his left leg to fend off the scoring threat.
It’s the type of subtle save that Rask often makes that doesn’t land on too many highlight reels, because he’s not diving or flipping around, but it perfectly displays his elite mobility while down on the ice.
2. Third Period, 18:51, Mike Hoffman, 49 feet
The Senators pulled goalie Craig Anderson with 82 seconds to play in a one-goal game in order to mount their final offensive push. They’d manage to get three shots on net during that time (while missing the net on two other attempts and having one more blocked), and Rask stopped them all. It was this one (the second in the video above) that may not have seemed like too much in the moment but was anything but easy.
As Hoffman releases his shot, there’s a significant amount of traffic in front of Rask:
But as you can see, Rask is crouched, peeking his head around the tuchis of Bobby Ryan to try to get a look at the shot. He was able to see enough of it, despite the 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara also standing between Hoffman and the net, and was able to make the save, deaden the rebound, and cover it up for a stoppage of play. That was just some solid, professional goaltending in crunch time of a playoff game.
1. First Period, 12:33, Bobby Ryan, 2 feet
While everybody expected a boring matchup between the defensive-minded Bruins and the 1-3-1 trap-using Senators, the first period ended up being as exciting a period of hockey as is possible. The teams combined for 23 shots, but both goaltenders stood tall.
Perhaps Ottawa’s best chance came a little more than midway through the opening 20, when Derick Brassard carried the puck across the left dot and sent a cross-ice saucer pass past a sprawled-out John-Michael Liles, hitting Bobby Ryan directly on the tape.
Ryan may have thought he’d have himself an easy goal to send the home crowd into delirium, but Rask had the play read perfectly, moving right to left and stuffing Ryan with a casual toe save.
Adding to the impressiveness of the save is that Rask actually went for the poke check and missed:
But he was able to simultaneously shift his momentum while making the poke attempt, leading to the save: