By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — In case you hadn’t noticed, the netminder for the Boston Bruins is on a little bit of a run.

After a mediocre first few playoff games (statistically-speaking), Tuukka Rask has been one of the most significant reasons why the Bruins are not only still playing but are leading 1-0 in their second-round series over the Blue Jackets.

Of his two goals allowed in Game 1 vs. Columbus, the first was redirected by two different Blue Jackets skaters in front of the net, and the second deflected off the posterior of another Blue Jackets skater. Everything else that Rask had the chance to save, he did, continuing his stretch of solid play that extends back to the middle of the series vs. Toronto.

Over his last four games, Rask owns a 3-1 record with a .934 save percentage and a 1.73 GAA. He’s actually been better when the Bruins are shorthanded, evidenced by his 1.000 save percentage on the penalty kill over those four games.

The best performance of that stretch was by far his Game 7 showing, when Bruce Cassidy admitted that the goaltender kept the team alive with a tremendous showing in the second period, when the Maple Leafs landed 13 shots on net and scored just once. Rask made eight saves in that final period of Game 7 to secure the series win, and he topped all four Columbus shots after the rapid-fire goals in Game 1.

Of course, this being a city that for various reasons remains split when it comes to assessing the play of this particular goaltender, reaction to Rask’s current run has not included universal praise. Staunch critics of the netminder admitted the Game 7 performance was good, but followed up that admission with a belief that Rask should perform like that all the time.

While yes, a goaltender carrying a .970 save percentage and a 1.00 GAA in the postseason would be absolutely ideal for a hockey team, it’s not particularly realistic.

So, just as was necessary a year ago, it’s time to take a look at where Rask stands among his contemporaries and historically in terms of playoff performance.

Considering his postseason career began way back in 2010, we’ll look at stats of playoff goalies since then, with a minimum of 50 postseason games played.

(*’s indicate goaltenders who have won a Stanley Cup)

Playoff Save Percentage Since 2010
1. Braden Holtby*, .928
2. Henrik Lundqvist, .926
3. TUUKKA RASK, .924
4. Jonathan Quick*, .922
5. Corey Crawford*, .919
6. Pekka Rinne, .914
7. Marc-Andre Fleury*, .909
8. Antti Niemi*, .905

Even-Strength Playoff Save Percentage Since 2010
1. Henrik Lundqvist, .934
2. TUUKKA RASK, .933
3. Braden Holtby*, .931
4. Jonathan Quick*, .926
5. Pekka Rinne, .924
6. Corey Crawford*, .923
7. Marc-Andre Fleury*, .921
8. Antti Niemi*, .918

Postseason Goals-Against Average Since 2010
1. Braden Holtby*, 2.09
2. Henrik Lundqvist, 2.17
3. Jonathan Quick*, 2.23
4. TUUKKA RASK, 2.25
5. Corey Crawford*, 2.28
6. Pekka Rinne, 2.49
7. Marc-Andre Fleury*, 2.66
8. Antti Niemi*, 2.77

The fact that Rask ranks so highly despite the inclusion of that somewhat-shaky postseason debut in 2010 speaks to how good Rask has been since that postseason. Of course, the Bruins went back to Tim Thomas the following season, and he put forth a historically great postseason in 2011. Rask more or less matched or bettered that performance with his own showing in the 2013 playoffs.

Tim Thomas, 2011 Postseason
.940 save percentage
.949 even-strength save percentage
1.98 GAA
16-9 record, 25 games played

Tuukka Rask, 2013 postseason
.940 save percentage
.945 even-strength save percentage
1.88 GAA
14-8 record, 22 games played

Alas, many folks only remember that 2013 postseason run for the way it ended. (For those who have never rewatched how those final two goals were scored by Chicago, it is recommended viewing for the context of this article.)

So what if we begin this analysis at the reboot of Playoff Tuukka, after he had lost his starting job to Thomas but was thrust back into the starter’s role in 2013?

Postseason Save Percentage Since 2013 (Min. 45 games played)
1. TUUKKA RASK, .927
2. Braden Holtby*, .926
3. Henrik Lundqvist, .925
4. Martin Jones, .923
5. Matt Murray*, .921
6. Corey Crawford*, .920
7. Jonathan Quick*, .920
8. Marc-Andre Fleury*, .918
9. Pekka Rinne, .914
10. Frederik Andersen, .914

Postseason Even-Strength Save Percentage Since 2013
1. TUUKKA RASK, .938

2. Henrik Lundqvist, .934
3. Martin Jones, .932
4. Braden Holtby*, .929
5. Jonathan Quick, .927
6. Matt Murray*, .927
7. Marc-Andre Fleury*, .926
8. Frederik Andersen, .925
9. Corey Crawford*, .923
10. Pekka Rinne, .921

Postseason GAA Since 2013
1. Braden Holtby*, 2.12
2. Matt Murray*, 2.16
3. TUUKKA RASK, 2.17
4. Martin Jones, 2.22
5. Henrik Lundqvist, 2.25
6. Corey Crawford*, 2.27
7. Jonathan Quick*, 2.29
8. Marc-Andre Fleury*, 2.49
9. Pekka Rinne, 2.52
10. Frederik Andersen, 2.63

Yes, surely to the surprise of many, Tuukka Rask has been arguably the best postseason goaltender in the NHL during the span of his career. There’s room for debate there, of course, but that’s not necessarily the point; even being in this conversation is a place many don’t want to include Rask.

And Rask’s standing is not just among his contemporaries. He’s been one of the better postseason goaltenders of all time.

Save percentage tracking dates back to the 1955-56 season, a time when ice hockey was a rather different sport than the game we see today. Nevertheless, here are the all-time leaders in playoff save percentage (minimum 50 games played).

Postseason Save Percentage Leaders: All Time
1. Tim Thomas*, .933
2. Braden Holtby*, .928
3. Jean-Sebastian Giguere*, .925
4. Dominik Hasek*, .925
5. TUUKKA RASK, .924
6. Johnny Bower*, .923
7. Jacques Plante*, .923
8. Jonathan Quick*, .922
9. Henrik Lundqvist, .922
10. Miikka Kiprusoff, .921

In terms of GAA, Rask ranks 12th all-time among playoff goaltenders (again, with a minimum of 50 games played), and he jumps to No. 9 all time if the minimum games played is bumped up to 70. (Rask has played 73 playoff games.)

Even-strength save percentage has been tracked since the 1997-98 postseason, so, bringing back that 50-game minimum …

Playoff Even-Strength Save Percentage Leaders Since 1998
1. Jean-Sebastien Giguere*, .942
2. Dominik Hasek*, .939
3. Tim Thomas*, .938
4. Roberto Luongo, .934
5. Miikka Kiprusoff, .933
6. TUUKKA RASK, .933
7. Patrick Roy*, .932
8. Ed Belfour*, .932
9. Henrik Lundqvist, .932
10. Chris Osgood*, .931
11. Braden Holtby*, .931
12. Curtis Joseph, .930
13. Martin Brodeur*, .929
14. Nikolai Khabibulin*, .928
15. Ryan Miller, .927

Once again, if that minimum were to get bumped up to 70 games, Rask would jump up, this time to No. 3.

Surely, while there’s always room for debate in any sports topic, this lengthy postseason resume should be enough for most minds to agree that Rask is, at the very least, one of the best postseason performers of all time at his position. Nevertheless, the debate will just as surely rage on, unsettled until or if Rask lifts the Stanley Cup over his head, this time as the starter instead of the backup.

Really, it’s that historically great work of Tim Thomas in 2011 that continues to really serve as the main knock against Rask, as his predecessor has really left a nearly impossibly high bar to clear. That’s not entirely fair, and it’s not exactly logical.

The fact is simple. Tuukka Rask has been and continues to be a historically great performer, both in the regular season and the playoffs. That this has become a major point of debate is somewhat baffling, yet nevertheless, it persists.

None of that guarantees anything, and none of it means a Stanley Cup parade can be scheduled through the streets of Boston come late June. But it should at the very least provide a basis of understanding on the always-contentious Tuukka Rask discussion.

While every Bruins fans would love to have seen Rask hoist the Cup over his head several times by now, it does seem unrealistic to wish for him to have performed much better than he has in his career.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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