Fact: Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is putting together one of the greatest performances in playoff history.
And when it comes to goaltending, we know that it wins championships. Dig into the numbers and you’ll find that save percentage is the perhaps best overall indicator as to who will win it all. In that instance, Rask definitely holds the advantage over his opponent Jordan Binnington of the St. Louis Blues.
Of all the goalies of Stanley Cup Final teams in NHL history, only two have posted better playoffs save percentages than Rask this year: Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Anaheim Ducks in 2003 (.946) and Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 (.946).
And yes, Marty Turco still holds the record for best save percentage in the playoffs with a .952. But he only saw seven games in the 2006-2007 post-season before the Vancouver Canucks eliminated his Dallas Stars from the first round. That kind of flies in the face of that whole save percentage theory, doesn’t it?
After all, Giguere’s trip may have been bolstered by a .960 save percentage ahead of the Stanley Cup Final against the New Jersey Devils. But he was just .910 against the competition on the Ducks’ way to falling to the Martin Brodeur-led opposition. Giguere still scooped up the Conn Smythe despite the losing effort, however.
What this suggests is a deepening of the theory. While goaltending undoubtedly wins championships, a hot goalie doesn’t stay that way forever. It seems simple on its face, but the stories of Giguere and Quick provide evidence. Fatigue settles in and you’ve got a recipe for dropping a few steps along the way.
Luckily, Rask has had plenty of rest leading into the Stanley Cup Final against the Blues. And luckily, his Bruins are doing all they can to make life easier. They’ve been clearing high danger chances from the inner slot and that’s given Rask far fewer top-quality shots against than Binnington.
In fairness to the Blues goalie, he did hold the better numbers in the regular season. Binnington finished 2018-2019 with a .927 save percentage and a 1.89 goals against average. Rask was off with a .912 save percentage and a 2.48 goals against average, a shade above his career average. The Bruins goalie did have 15 more starts than the St. Louis goalie, however.
But it all circles back to Rask in the end and he’s putting up numbers that are impossible to argue with. That could change when the rubber hits the road Monday night, but I wouldn’t count on it. If the Boston netminder keeps this up and maintains his cool under fire, he’ll be hoisting more than a few pieces of hardware in just a little while.
(Photo credit: Getty Images)