By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
The second President of the United States John Adams once famously said that “facts are stubborn things”. The 19th-century writer and humorist Mark Twain also opined, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
When it comes to Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask the truth is that his legacy lies somewhere in the middle of the wisdom offered long before the National Hockey League began a little over a century ago.
Rask’s name will forever be on the Stanley Cup as long as the most treasured trophy in North American sports is raised over the heads of the last team standing in the most difficult championship tournament to win in perhaps the entire world of athletic competition.
Even so, those who have called into question his ability to play his best when the games meant the most – myself included – have often pointed to his tendency to deliver when the white-hot spotlight has shined its brightest.
Nevertheless, it takes a numbskull of epic proportions not to admit when they have proven wrong – some of us more than others – and that is exactly what the 32-year-old netminder has done since the middle of last season.
The stats speak for themselves. Rask is the Bruins all-time leader in wins between the pipes for one of the Original Six pioneering franchises with 270. His career save percentage of .922 is best among those who have been labeled number one in the net for the Black and Gold – even better than his ultimate albatross and former teammate Tim Thomas (.921) – and the ease in which he displays his talent for his craft might just be another reason that he’s been undervalued in the eyes of some of those who follow hockey in Boston.
In his six games played during the B’s 7-1-2 start to the season, the once-again Fabulous Finn is unbeaten in regulation (5-0-1) while posting an otherworldly .952 save percentage and adding two shutouts to bring his total to 47 in his 13 years patrolling the crease on Causeway Street.
Anyone who has watched head coach Bruce Cassidy’s club during the first month of this campaign knows that the formula for victory has comprised solid defense, outstanding special teams, an unstoppable David Pastrnak and great goaltending.
And not necessarily in that order on any given night.
If the Bruins top line played the way they have during the first month of the season in Game 7 at the TD Garden back in June, Rask likely would have been named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner for his impeccable postseason play and thereby tossing the monkey that is the shadow of Thomas’ performance in 2011 off his back forever.
That is what makes his start to the 2019-20 season even that more impressive. It would only be human nature to have a letdown – especially for a guy who has been a chronic slow-starter throughout his career – instead, Rask has continued to take his game to another level.
While general manager Don Sweeney’s squad might have some things to figure out at the forward spots, he certainly can sleep well knowing that he has one of the best in the game in goal every time that Cassidy calls upon number 40 to mind the net for his club.
It may have taken longer than it should have, but you can count me among those who will no longer label Rask for anything other than what he has proven he is – the best goaltender in the history of the Bruins.