You have to wonder how the Boston Bruins’ season might have gone had they known what they had in Tuukka Rask just six months ago. He has always been decent in the AHL, but never exactly dominant. In fact, a few years back I would have told you his success in Providence was a direct result of playing for an incredibly efficient defensive team.
Now the Bruins are paying a 35-year old goaltender $5 million a season for the next three years (four including this season), and he’s already been passed up by younger a much cheaper goaltender who has held this team together through an insane amount of late-season adversity.
It’s tough to exactly fault the Bruins, however. Here they have a goaltender who was coming off an incredible, Vezina-winning season who did everything he possibly could to carry his team in the playoffs. Sure, the warning signs were there — yet, the Bruins finally had some solid goaltending on a team that was ready to contend once more.
So they give Thomas the big contract, and gave Rask the modest two-year extension after just nine total NHL games.
Rask has since taken the starting goaltender’s spot from Thomas, and will be starting for the Bruins once the playoffs begin. With just 45 games under his belt this season, it’s tough to directly compare him with the other goaltenders in the NHL — but Thomas won the Vezina with just 54 games last season, so what the heck.
Rask leads the NHL in both goals-against average (1.97) and save percentage (0.931), but more importantly he’s winning more than losing. Thomas wasn’t exactly putting up bad numbers this season; he just couldn’t win. For a team that had high playoff hopes after last season, it was a tough pill to swallow that their champion goaltender was seemingly unable to win any games.
So now we have Rask, with two shutouts and a 8-5-1 record since the Olympic break as the Bruins lost some their most important player (Marc Savard) and faced a drought of scoring. The Bruins will be the least-offensive team in the playoffs and Rask will be called upon to be the savior for the Bruins as he’s been all season long.
And the $5 million goaltender who can’t win any longer? He’ll be on the bench, ready to jump in if needed and watching his much cheaper counterpart in net.