Tuukka Rask is awful this year. There’s no denying it. He has zero shutouts. He’s got no really good stretches of hockey to show for himself. He’s allowed three or more goals in 9 of his 12 starts. That’s not a winning formula. There are a couple questions that have to be asked, in context.
Since Rask arrived in a Boston uniform he has routinely thrown young players and particularly defensemen under the bus. He’s called out Torey Krug, and Adam McQuaid, and others as well. These are only the cases we’ve noted. Given the 2/3rds of a goal disparity between his and Khudobin’s GAA, question number one has to be; Has he alienated enough other players in the lockerroom both by direct action and his reputation that they just don’t want to play in front of him? If the team were older and more mature, this wouldn’t be a question. But let’s look at the players in question, Pastrnak, DeBrusk, Heinen, Cehlárik, McAvoy, and Carlo are all 22 and under. Postma, O’Gara, Vatrano, Kuraly, Swarz, Vatrano, and Agastino have all seen very limited action in the NHL either with Boston or previous teams. That is a very high percentage of the locker room. That is a huge number of minutes a night. Hockey players talk to each other. Many of these guys have played in college against each other, or in Providence together and it’s not possible that any two have had or heard of similar negative experiences with Rask would not have talked about it. I’d bet good money that they talked about it in front of at least one other player who has yet to earn Tuukka Rask’s ire.
The other half of the question is how likely is Rask to recover from this utterly ignoble start? October is normally a mixed bag for him. That’s fine, he’s seen a lot of turnover in front of him in his career and communication is important. For his career he has a .914% in October, this year he was at .896%. For those who came out of time machine and looked at that save percentage no it isn’t 1986, hop back in your hot tub and accept the fact that the .896% that would have been reasonable to good in 1991 is shameful today. November is the month Rask has racked up the most wins in his career. In 68 games he’s a 41-20-7 with a .926%. Putting up those numbers over the course of whole season year in and year out would make someone a first ballot hall of famer. December is also a strong month. January and February, well, not so much. With all the historical data that says he start the year off well, and then dips noticeably what does the season hold for Rask and the Boston Bruins?
Also to be asked about Tuukka Rask is how much of his difficulty playing at a professional level this season is physical, and how much is mental? His win percentage and save percentage are both better after the All Star break each season, a time when the bulk of the games and long distance travel is done. Is he just unable to play eight of ten games in a three week period because he’s not durable? Is he failing to stay hydrated and rested when in the air? Does he over think plays when he’s got time off? If it’s mental did he perhaps come into the season knowing he had no challenger for the number one slot and under prepare? With the season Subban, McIntyre, and Khudobin had int he NHL that wouldn’t be too much of a surprise.
If you’ve ruled out his contract going from full no-movement to an 8 team can be traded list, you may want to rethink that. We all saw the chaos of the final years of Schneider and Luongo in Vancouver, Rask even got to watch the whole playoff run (and several weeks before) from the bench. He has to know as bad as he’s played, as steadily as his numbers have declined year after year that any general manager would be a fool not part with him and his enormous salary at the earliest opportunity. Of the 53 goaltenders to play at least 5 games this season, Rask’s save percentage is 43rd playing on the same team, with the same players and the same coach Khudobin is 2nd in the NHL. With all the young players who will need a new contract and raise over the next two off season on the Bruins roster, and it being unlikely the cap will rise more than 2-3 million in that time, Sweeney has to be looking for cap space anywhere he can find it. The biggest reservoir of room to sign players wheres number 40.