Throughout the first six games of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, goaltending has been the main headline across all sports outlets. From the twelve goals scored on Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen in the first two games combined, to Tuukka Rask being pulled in Game Five after allowing four goals on thirteen shots.
As the old story goes, good goaltending is required to win the Stanley Cup. That was evident in the back-to-back Stanley Cups by the Pittsburgh Penguins as much as it was evident for Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins in the 2011 Cup run. Rarely do you hear of a playoff story where the number one goaltender on the team gets pulled in a series. Well, for both Andersen and Rask, they have been pulled from the crease and replaced with the backup tender for the remainder of that game.
However, Game Seven is a completely different hockey game altogether. The pressure of elimination with the excitement of advancement into the next round. Do or die. In a goalie’s career, a Game Seven win can boost your confidence for a long time, while a loss can haunt a goalie. Even though hockey is a team sport, the goalies do in fact take some of the blame upon themselves.
Both Tuukka Rask and Frederik Andersen have experience with losing in the seventh game of a series as well as winning. Which goaltender can put the past in the past and lead their team to a second-round matchup?
Frederik Andersen – TOR
Although Andersen is known today as the starting goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Andersen started his young career with the Anaheim Ducks, where he played 125 games over the course of three seasons. However, the trouble in Anaheim was the surplus of good goalies. The Ducks management was forced to decide on whether or not to keep John Gibson or Frederik Andersen.
This dilemma eventually led to the June 2016 trade that sent Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a 2016 1st Round Pick (Sam Steel) and a 2017 2nd Round Pick (Maxime Comtois).
Since joining the Leafs, he has yet to play in a Game Seven. During the 2016-17 season, Andersen and the Leafs were eliminated in the Game Six to the Washington Capitals. With that said, Frederik did, in fact, play in two do-or-die games with the Anaheim Ducks.
2013-14 vs Los Angeles Kings
Frederik Andersen was thrown into the Game Seven experience in his very first season in the National Hockey League. Following a six-game victory over the Dallas Stars in the first round, the Ducks were forced to battle Californian rival, the Los Angeles Kings in the second round.
The series was a back and forth one, the first two games went to the Kings, then the next three to the Ducks, until L.A won the sixth game, leading into the ever-exciting Game Seven.
After the six games ended as one or two-goal games, Andersen would allow six goals on 30 shots, losing the game 6-2 and forced to enter the offseason with a second-round loss.
Even though the loss was heartbreaking, it is the first playoff season for the young Denmark goalie, meaning there are many more years to follow to make up for the defeat.
2014-15 vs Chicago Blackhawks
The Anaheim Ducks continued to play as a dominant team during the 2014-15 regular season. The team battled to a 51-24-7 record, good for first place in the Western Conference and only four points behind the New York Rangers for the top spot in the National Hockey League.
With relative ease, the Ducks would sweep the Winnipeg Jets and knock off the Calgary Flames in five games in round one and two respectively. This would lead into a Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks, who were looking to continue the modern-day dynasty that they have built over the previous years.
The series was one of the most entertaining ones throughout that specific season. Three overtime games between the two teams including a triple overtime and a double overtime in the mix as well. While Andersen played solid throughout the series, when it came to the deciding game, Andersen allowed five goals from the stacked Hawks team, losing in the West Final Game 7, 5-3.
As per Matt Kalman, (@MattKalman on Twitter), Andersen is 0-2 in Game Seven outings, with a goals against average of 3.65 and a save percentage of 0.848%.
Tuukka Rask – BOS
If you play for any Original Six team, it is typical to feel criticism from the fan base. However, Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask, seems to get the most talk around him for his play in the crease. If he stands on his head one game, you’ll hear about it. If he has a bad game, you’ll hear it from the other side.
Some of the most criticism that Rask gets from time-to-time, is his struggle to come through in high-pressure situations. While in some cases that may be true, Rask does have a better record in Game Seven appearances than his goaltender counterpart.
2009-10 vs Philadelphia Flyers
For Bruins fans, this one hurt. After leading the team three games to zero in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, Boston lost four games in a row following that third game, as the Flyers would finish the ‘reverse sweep’.
First, Boston would lose in overtime, 5-4, followed by a 4-0, 2-1, and 4-3 loss in the final game. Just like Andersen, Rask lost in Game Seven for the first time in his very first playoff season that he was deemed the starter.
Rask would not get the opportunity to play in any game sevens the following year, as that would be the year that Tim Thomas led the Boston Bruins to their 2011 Stanley Cup. However, it would indeed lead into his second experience with a game seven.
2012-13 vs Toronto Maple Leafs
This seems familiar.
When talking about the 2012-13 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs, it sounds a lot like deja vu to the 2017-2018 playoff round one that we are talking about.
In the 2012-13 postseason, the Bruins started off against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a Game One win, by a score of 4-1. The B’s looked great in that first meeting, but the Leafs would fire back, winning Game Two, heading back to Toronto. In Toronto though, Boston would come out victorious in both meetings, winning 5-2 and 4-3 in overtime.
Things were looking great for the B’s. In a lockout season, they started off with a 3-1 series lead and Tuukka Rask had only allowed ten goals in the four games. Then, it all went south.
Boston lost the next two games, creating a Game Seven matchup in Boston. Toronto exploded for a 4-1 early in the third period and it was looking like the Maple Leafs would complete the comeback that no one thought they could pull off.
Nathan Horton brought some life back into the team with the second goal, followed by Milan Lucic’s tally with just under two minutes to trail in the final frame. Then, as we all know, Patrice Bergeron would rifle a shot from the point, beating James Reimer and tying the game at four a piece. Not far into the first overtime session, Bergeron would strike for the second time in the game, winning the game and series for the Boston Bruins on home ice.
Boston would follow up with series wins over the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins before falling in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals to the Chicago Blackhawks – the same year that Andersen lost to the Hawks in the Western Conference Finals.
Rask would get the win in the game, but all thanks to the surrounding cast, who came back from the 4-1 deficit. Rask did allow the four Toronto goals on the 28 shots he faced within that game.
2013-14 vs Montreal Canadiens
At the same time that Frederik Andersen lost in his first Game Seven, Tuukka Rask would be in a tight series with the bitter-rivals, Montreal Canadiens.
The Bruins were the team to beat that season. After a Stanley Cup Finals appearance the year prior and a Presidents Trophy during the past 82-games, the prediction from most analysts was that the Bruins would be back contending again. But, the Canadiens had other plans.
The first game of the series went to double overtime, making the series that much more entertaining from the get go. Unfortunately for Boston, they did not come out with the victory in that game. After falling 2-1 in the series, Boston would fire back and lead the series 3-2.
With two chances to eliminate Montreal, the Bruins would fall short of the Eastern Conference Finals due to a 3-1 loss in Game Seven. Tuukka Rask allowed three goals on only 18 shots against. Not all of this series can be blamed on Rask though. The Bruins only scored one goal in Game Six and Seven combined, disappointing Bruins fans everywhere who anticipated another deep playoff run.
Also according to Matt Kalman, Tuukka Rask is 1-2 in the postseason, with a goals against average of 3.63 and a save percentage of .849% in Game Sevens.
Both goaltenders are nearly identical when statistics are brought up, meaning no real statistical benefit will come about. However, both goalies have different experiences that must occasionally play back in their mind from bad and good do or die scenarios. Tonight’s game will be a goaltender battle, just like the other ones. The better goalie will most likely advance to Round Two.