By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Bruce Cassidy didn’t love the way that Tuukka Rask tracked pucks in Monday night’s overtime loss to the Islanders.
A few nights later, in a different venue, the Bruins’ bench boss was mightily impressed.
“I thought it was a great goaltended game — by their guy and our guy,” Cassidy said after his guy did enough to help the Bruins earn a 2-1 overtime win. “That’s what you expect in the playoffs.”
Surely, the stat sheet tells a part of the story, as Semyon Varlamov — aka their guy — stopped 39 Boston shots, while Rask — “our guy,” in Cassidy’s eyes — stopped 28 of the 29 shots sent his way, only allowing a goal when Mathew Barzal took three whacks at a puck at the post that eventually trickled across the goal line.
But the stats don’t tell the whole story in terms of the degree of difficulty and the impact of some of those saves.
For the Islanders, Varlamov’s post-to-post stop to deny David Krejci of a surefire goal in the second period was probably his best save of the night.
— 2 Goalies 1 Mic (@2Goalies1Mic) June 4, 2021
For Rask, his back-to-back stops on shots from Jordan Eberle and Barzal in overtime — two of his five saves from the brief extra period — stand out as significant, too.
Tuukka Rask with some major stops just ahead of Marchand’s winner:
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) June 4, 2021
After tying — then passing — Gerry Cheevers for the Bruins’ franchise all-time record for playoff wins earlier this postseason, Rask now has 57 playoffs wins — third-most among active goaltenders (Marc-Andre Fleury, 85; Henrik Lundqvist, 61). Rask’s career .927 postseason save percentage is best among active goalies (with at least 50 playoff starts).
But again, the stats don’t always have the context. In this particular game, Rask twice stopped Anthony Beauvillier on partial breakaways — first with a high blocker side save, later by closing up the six-hole.
“Yeah, he was rock solid,” Cassidy said of Rask. “Solid in goal. On the goal that he gave up, we had a breakdown in front of the net by our D, took the wrong route. Guy stayed with the puck, Barzal, I think Tuukka was strong on the post. Unfortunately, just couldn’t quite seal it. Looked really good in overtime, square to the shooters. Any rebounds, he was resetting. I thought on the PK, held his ice when he had to. So a lot of good things.”
This is technically a stat, but it’s at least a bit more illustrative: Each team landed nine high-danger shots on goal, per Natural Stat Trick. Rask stopped eight, while Varlamov stopped all nine.
Of course, the games can’t end tied, so one of the two veteran goaltenders was going to have to allow the game-winner at some point. Unfortunately for Varlamov, it came in rather embarrassing fashion, spoiling an otherwise sterling evening between the pipes for the home team.
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) June 4, 2021
“It was kind of a weird shot,” Varlamov said after the loss. “But the puck found the net. So that was a good play, I guess, by Marchand.”
A goal that bad in that spot might be enough to make Islanders head coach Barry Trotz seriously consider a change in net, just like he did in the first-round series before Ilya Sorokin rattled off four wins and earned the start in Game 1 vs. Boston. Given Trotz’s comments on the goal, though, he just might be sticking with the veteran who’s stopped 78 of the 83 Boston shots he’s seen over the past six-plus periods of intense playoff hockey.
“That’s a seeing-eye puck that hits almost a 1-inch hole with a puck,” Trotz said of Marchand’s back-breaker. “It’s just, that’s a shot that he’ll want back, but he’ll let it go. No different than he’s done many, many times before.”
Most likely, it’ll be Varlamov vs. Rask once again on Saturday night in Uniondale. It feels safe to expect the high-level goaltending to continue.
“What I thought was a little bit surprising [in the first two games] this series was the amount of goals from two very good defensive teams,” Cassidy said. “And this is more what I thought it would be — a little more of the 2-1 type of games. And sure enough, that was the case tonight.”