David Krejci is out with another injury. This time it appears to be his back. Tuukka Rask is in the middle of his fourth down trending season in a row. Krejci is 31 and has as storied an injury history as he has a playoff pedigree. Rask has suffered abdominal and hip injuries and then this year a concussion. Additionally Rask has suffered “illnesses” in remarkable proximity to big games for the last several years.
So which of them is more important?
Ordinarily this isn’t a question. The goalie is about 40% of any teams success. A number one goalie is a huge part of the fortunes of team. The counter argument to the value of a goalie is that a top center is a makes a goalie better by helping keep the puck out of the defensive zone and limiting the shots on net by creating offense. A number one center can create a lot of offense, and a lot of sustained puck possession.
Here’s the problems. Yes, plural. Rask is no longer a legitimate number one goaltender. Krejci is not a number one center. While Krejci has gone from leading the NHL in playoff scoring two out of three seasons, Rask was once upon a time a Vezina winner.
Today, Tuukka Rask has turned in two league average at best seasons. David Krejci has been pretty consistent in his scoring over the years. The drop last year was both remarkable, and worrisome. But it brought Krejci from above average to about average for a #2 center in the NHL. There is no way to damn the decline of Rask with faint praise. While Krejci was elite six to ten weeks a spring a few years ago, at about the same time Rask was a Vezina quality goaltender in about the same span.
The drop off is more extreme in Rask’s case than anything seen in Boston in a very, very long time from any position. Rask is currently displaying numbers that wouldn’t have kept a goalie in the NHL fifteen years ago. With an .899sv% Rask is 42nd in the NHL among all goalies with 7 or more games played. That’s in the bottom 20% of the NHL. Of the 74 goaltenders to start games in the NHL so far this year, Rask ranks 62nd. That QS% is .308. That’s a 7 million dollar a year giving you worse play than career AHL guys getting called up because the first two goalies are unavailable.
Replacing Krejci’s numbers isn’t as easy being 98th out of the 194 centers to play seven games might suggest. With the number of games he’s missed Krejci’s standings in points per game are much more relevant. Among those same 194 centers he is 31st in PPG, which puts him slightly ahead of Bergeron.
The production isn’t the only factor to consider. Whatever other issues he may have had, there’s never been an issue with David Krejci scapegoating team mates. No one has ever questioned Krejci’s willingness to play through injuries. Krejci has played with a remarkable, and not always talented assortment of wingers and been able to concoct points both on the powerplay, and at even strength. He’s even been strong penalty killer when called upon.
Right now, today, barring further serious injury to David Krejci, even as he sits on the shelf nursing his ailing back, he’s the more valuable of the two players.