Debating Tuukka Rask’s Legacy

In the 2005 National Hockey League draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected Finnish goaltender Tuukka Rask with their first-round pick. Before Rask arrived in North America, the Leafs traded the netminder to the Boston Bruins for goalie Andrew Raycroft on June 24, 2006. At the time, it was a minor deal that swapped a veteran goalie for a prospect. Sixteen years later, Tuukka Rask has retired as a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate.

Photo credit: Bruce Bennett – Getty Images

After spending two seasons with the American Hockey League Providence Bruins, Rask was promoted to the parent club and served as a backup for starter Tim Thomas. The Savonlinna, Finland native, showed his enormous potential in 2009-10, playing 45 games with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. Rask was the backup for Thomas in 2010-11 when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.

When Thomas sat out the 2012-13 season, Rask took over starting duties. What resulted was an Eastern Conference championship and a loss in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final. Rask sparkled in those playoffs with a 1.88 GAA and a .940 save percentage. The following season, Rask would win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender and had arrived as a top goaltender in the league.

As Tuukka Rask’s career continued, his relationship with the Bruins fan base would become uneasy. For this reason, his legacy in Boston Bruins history is up for debate. Rask faced some blame in the 2013 Cup loss as the Blackhawks came back late to win game six and take the Cup on the TD Garden ice. In the 2015-16 season finale, with the Bruins needing a win to make the playoffs, Rask was sick and missed the game. The result was a 6-1 loss to Ottawa. The Bruins missed the postseason. The goaltender’s absence drew the ire of Bruins fans and is still mentioned by many today.

And then, there was the abrupt departure from the bubble in August of 2020 during the first round of the playoffs for personal and family reasons. The Bruins would lose the series, and Rask would take more heat from fans and media for not being there for his team. The talented and sometimes mercurial netminder was elite statistically, but questions about his desire and passion for winning persisted.

Where Rask falls on the list of Bruins greats is a question that will take a while to sort out. Is he worthy of having his number retired? He will be the first goaltender in the rafters if the team decides to retire number 40. By retiring his number, the team would be indirectly acknowledging that Rask is the best goalie in their history, ahead of the likes of Thomas and Gerry Cheevers, among others. Is Tuukka Rask the greatest goalie in Bruins history? The numbers reveal that he very well could be.

Rask finished his career with 308 regular-season wins, 56 more than Tiny Thompson. For fans who believe he did not rise to the occasion in the postseason, Rask’s numbers were slightly better in the playoffs. Considering his whole body of work, Tuukka Rask is the best the Bruins have ever had in the net. Will Rask be a Hall of Fame goalie? He just might be. Rask is third all-time in save percentage and 12th goals-against average in NHL history. He will certainly be considered when the time comes.

Tuukka Rask retires after making a comeback attempt that lasted four games. But his legacy will more than likely take shape in the years to come. Rask is a talented goaltender with terrific numbers whose personality and demeanor may be misunderstood. The bottom line is that his teammates think the world of him, and frankly, Bruins fans should too.

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