So I think this is as good of a topic as any to mark my return to writing for the Boston Super Blog. As people who know me and know where my sports passions land it is really simple, I am a Boston Bruins fan for life and I am also a goaltending nerd. That being said I often find myself having conversations where I am either explaining the Rask/Halak controversy or flat out defending Tuukka to people who think every goal he gives up is soft and that he isn’t worth a backup spot let alone the starting spot. Now let me start by saying there are certain things that Rask does that even I find to be absolutely maddening. I believe that Rask can be and has been a much better goalie than he has shown in recent times and that whatever has caused the slow starts in the past two season is definitely concerning.
Another part of me that shapes a large portion of my general thought process is my engineering background; now before you wonder what this has to do with Rask/Halak hang on for a minute. Being an engineer means a few simple things. I love numbers and analysis, I love to over analyze every last detail of anything, and finally I believe that any point can be made or validated by statistics or mathematical modeling. So in analyzing the “Rask is overpaid” or the “Rask doesn’t compare to other goalies being paid to be elite” arguments the first thing to do is to pull the list.
Courtesy of Spotrac https://www.spotrac.com/nhl/rankings/average/goaltender/
So looking at those salaries it is clear to see what we already knew, Tuukka Rask is paid to be an elite, upper echelon goaltender. Now lets look at where these goaltenders sit in the statistics for Goals Against Average and Save Percentage categories. For this analysis I have omitted Schneider and Crawford since they have both had serious injuries.
What is this data showing us? Tuukka Rask ranks 2nd in GAA and SV % for all goalies that are paid in the top 10 for NHL goalies. The only goalie ranked above him is Pekka Rinne (probably my second favorite NHL Goaltender) and yes I grant there is a large difference between their performances (Rinne has been much better) Rask is still performing at or above expectations based on his peers in salary. Furthermore lets look at the 2 highest paid goalies Price and Lundqvist. They have no Stanley Cups between them (a common argument against Tuukka can not win the big game), and they are both performing under the level of Rask this season.
Let’s get to the heart of the debates, Rask is making 7 million dollars this season, and Jaroslav Halak is making 2.75 million dollars this season and yes so far Halak has outplayed Rask (Halak has a 2.36 GAA and .926 save percentage). However I think it is important to understand why Halak is here as a backup making 2.75 million dollars a season. After losing the starting job in St. Louis to Brian Elliot he was traded to the New York Islanders in 2014 and was signed to a 4 year 18 million dollar contract (4.5 million a season for those not wanting to do the math). In the 2016-2017 he lost the starting job to Thomas Greiss and was placed on waivers and sent to the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers. That is what led him to Boston and the 2 year 5.5 million dollar contract he is currently playing for. Halak has always shown flashes of brilliance in his career. Some may remember the hated Montreal Canadians actually trying to decide on whether to keep him or Carey Price early in his career and during his time in St. Louis Elliot and Halak were Jennings Trophy winners for allowing the fewest goals in a season. I have serious questions as to whether Halak could actually sustain his current pace over a full season. A look at his last few games will show an increase in bad goals and a slight decline in the stellar play he was showing before he “took” the starting job from Rask. Rask has also showed very strong since coming back from his personal leave (I am not getting into that) and his performance in the Winter Classic was nothing short of heroic at times (that stop on Kane on the breakaway was a thing of beauty).
I believe that people should really stop trying to run Rask out of town and realize what we have here. We have two goalies that when at the top of their games can play as top 5 goaltenders in the NHL and can split the time to avoid the overworking issues that have plagued goaltenders such as Lundqvist, Price, and even Rinne by the time they reach the playoffs. Also please stop looking at other Goalies salaries and start longing for their deals… Andrei Vasilevsky in Tampa will not be 3.5 million dollars on his next deal, John Gibson in Anaheim will not be playing for 2.3 million dollars for much longer. Just let the historical stats ease your mind (Rask is the career leader for active goaltenders in SV% and GAA) and hope that a rested Rask will be able to pull the Bruins to what we all want… Another Stanley Cup in Boston!!!