By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Bruins won their Game 7 to advance out of the first round on Wednesday night, but plenty of fans are sure to express their displeasure with the goaltender over the coming days, weeks, months and years. Such is generally the case in Boston, especially when the goaltender allows four goals, and especially when that goaltender’s name is Tuukka Rask.
Obviously, the numbers look pretty wretched. The Maple Leafs scored four goals on 16 shots through two periods, before Rask stopped all eight Toronto shots in the third period. The Bruins won 7-4. But considering the four goals allowed for Rask came after Rask allowed four goals on 13 shots and got pulled in Game 5, the rage was roaring in living rooms around New England, with much of the ire directed at No. 40 in black. (Believe me: I saw some of your tweets, people.)
It’s an emotional game. It happens. But now with the benefit of retrospect and with the comfort of knowing that the team for which you root has won the game, I’ve go a question: Which of the goals allowed did you really want Tuukka Rask to stop in Game 7?
Here’s a review.
First: Patrick Marleau’s PP Redirect
You don’t last 87 years in the NHL like Patrick Marleau has without picking up a few tricks along the way. Camping out in front of the net and redirecting a shot while standing about one foot in front of the goaltender would qualify as one.
If you pick this one, you should probably throw your television in the garbage and move to Botswana. Nevertheless, here’s a poll:
Second: Patrick Marleau’s Wrister From The Right Dot
Jake DeBrusk scored on a power-play redirect of his own to knot the score at one goal apiece, and the building was jumping. But then the Leafs, as they did all series long, scored almost immediately after. The building was no longer jumping.
This one came after a Torey Krug turnover in the defensive end. Mitch Marner (Toronto’s best player all series) gathered the puck in the slot and squared to shoot. But with four Boston jerseys between him and Rask, Marner looked up and opted to pass to Marleau at the right faceoff dot.
The savvy veteran cocked his shot as if he was about to release a one-time slapper, but instead settled the puck before roofing a wrister inside the far post.
The shot sailed directly over the shoulder of Rask, who said after the game that he was reading one-timer. And just like that, the Leafs had two goals on their first five shots.
Third: Travis Dermott’s Long Wrister, Deflected Off Kevan Miller
This one looked pretty bad in real speed — did that shot just go in from there?! — but then you saw the replay. The long wrister from the top of the circle was deflected off Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller’s stick right in front of the net, propelling it up toward the crossbar and over the glove of Rask.
One thing about NHL shots that change direction when they’re 5 feet in front of you? You can’t save them on purpose.
Nevertheless, here’s a poll. This time, the suggestion to move overseas will not be explicitly stated but should nevertheless come across as being aggressively implied.
Fourth: Kasperi Kapanen’s Shorthanded Breakaway
The real pain in this one, if you’re Rask, is the fact that you played this breakaway pretty well. You were ready for it, and you did what should have been necessary to make the “timely save” that everyone always yearns for so that you could “stand on your head” and “steal a game.”
But Kasperi Kapanen was just better.
Kapanen looked like a kid who has spent all of his free time preparing for this very moment, breaking free from a puck battle with Brad Marchand to walk in all alone on Rask and bust out a move as if he was casually coasting in on a shootout attempt in early December.
Again, Rask played it well initially. He moved left to right with Kapanen, perhaps expecting a backhand, before Kapanen slammed on the brakes to deke to the forehand. Rask was beaten but recovered quickly to outstretch his left leg as far as possible. Kapanen made a superhero effort while having his legs taken out from under him by Rask to keep the puck on his tape and gently slide it around Rask’s left toe.
Not a bad way for a 21-year-old to pick up his first playoff goal.
Any way you slice it, the stats were rough for Rask in Game 7. But the stats are numbers on paper. The game is played on ice with a rubber puck, and strange things happen.
Despite the panic setting in with many fans, Rask said his confidence never wavered.
“It can’t in that situation,” said Rask. “You try to stay tall there and play your angles right and make some saves. Definitely it’s a little bit easier when you have experience from that kind of game. I was trying to stay calm and battle through it.”
That he did, and head coach Bruce Cassidy was rewarded for not pulling the plug on Rask’s night early, as he did in Game 5.
“I don’t think there was a doubt that if we got ourselves back tied or in the lead, that Tuukka would be fine down the stretch,” Cassidy said. “The guys have confidence in our goaltending. They have all year. … At the end of the day, he
found his game, and like I said, we picked each other up, and off we went.”
And now off they go to Tampa Bay, to face the well-rested Lightning in the conference semifinals. Stats may not account for circumstances, but regardless, Rask will be eager to post a save percentage better than the grisly .898 he just posted in the first round. For what it’s worth, Rask went 3-1-0 with a .926 save percentage and a 2.00 GAA in four starts vs. Tampa this year — not bad, considering the Lightning ranked first in the National Hockey League with 3.54 goals scored per game.
The challenge upcoming will be immense, but Rask at least saved himself from being the fans’ No. 1 target on talk radio and Twitter for the upcoming six months. For now, anyway.