By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins will be playing for Lord Stanley’s Cup next week. There are many reasons why, but there are two very clear reasons at the top of that list.READ MORE: Rally Calls For Asian Studies To Be Added To School Curriculum In Massachusetts
No. 1 is the goaltender. No. 2 would be the power play. Both are performing at historic levels.
We can start with Tuukka Rask, who had himself a very casual 24-save shutout in Game 4 on Thursday night, backstopping the Bruins to a four-game sweep over the Carolina Hurricanes. The goaltender is clearly in a very rare zone right now, as he stopped of 109 of 114 shots in this series and has now stopped 220 of the last 229 shots sent his way during what is now a seven-game winning streak. That’s a .961 save percentage for Rask over that seven-game stretch.
For the full postseason, Rask now has a .942 save percentage and a 1.84 goals-against average. He has two shutouts, both of which have come in series-clinching opportunities on the road — Game 6 in Columbus, and Game 4 in Carolina. With seven career postseason shutouts, Rask now ranks No. 2 all time in Bruins franchise history, one behind Gerry Cheevers. Tiny Thompson and Tim Thomas are tied for third with six playoff shutouts apiece.
Add in Rask’s 54 saves on 57 combined shots in Games 6 and 7 against Toronto, when the Bruins faced elimination, and the netminder has clearly been at his best in the biggest moments of the year.
Rask is well on his way to earning a Conn Smythe Trophy for being MVP of the entire NHL postseason, though he’ll likely need to finish the job with four more wins to achieve that.
Tuukka Rask, through 17 games, 2019
.942 save percentage, 1.84 GAA
Tuukka Rask, through 17 games, 2013
.942 save percentage, 1.78 GAA
Tim Thomas, through 17 games, 2011READ MORE: Dorchester Grandmother Killed By Stray Bullet While Sitting On Porch Identified As Delois Brown
.926 save percentage, 2.42 GAA
In the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, only three times has a goaltender (with at least 14 games played) posted a better save percentage than Rask’s current mark of .942 — Jonathan Quick’s .946 in 2012 is the all-time leader, followed by Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s .945 mark in 2003 and Mike Smith’s .944 save percentage in 2012.
No other goalie still alive in this current postseason has even been close. St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington has a .904 save percentage, while San Jose’s Martin Jones has a .903 — 38 and 37 points lower than Rask, respectively. Breaking it down by even-strength save percentage, Rask’s .945 mark is still significantly better than Binnington’s .917 and Jones’ .910.
Binnington has a 2.67 GAA and Jones has a 2.89 GAA, far off from Rask’s 1.84 mark.
No matter which way you break it down, Rask has been far and away the best netminder of the entire potseason. As a result, he’s been the No. 1 story all postseason long. But the Bruins’ power play is not far behind.
The Bruins failed to score on their first power play on Thursday night, but they took advantage of both gifted power plays in the second period to open up a 2-0 lead that proved devastating to Carolina’s hopes. David Pastrnak scored the first, and it came just 4:46 into the middle period. Patrice Bergeron scored the second, and it came with just under 90 seconds left to play in the period.
With those two goals, the Bruins improved their power play to a 34 percent success rate this postseason, as they have scored 17 goals on 50 power-play opportunities through 17 games.
Among teams in NHL history that have played at least 13 playoff games, the 2019 Bruins have the second-best power play of all time. The 1981 Islanders converted on 37.8 percent of their power play opportunities. Aside from that, nobody’s ever been better than the Bruins on the power play in the postseason.
Those who care about the Bruins who are also inclined to worry may not like the fact that the Bruins will now spend at least five or six days without playing a game. Considering how hot they’ve been in all facets that’s somewhat sensible.
But assuming Bruce Cassidy can do what’s necessary to prevent any proverbial rust from gathering, the Bruins will be entering the Stanley Cup Final with a supreme level of confidence, thanks in large part to the performances they’ve gotten in net and on the power play.MORE NEWS: Water Conservation Urged In Massachusetts Amid Dry Spell