Who Should the Bruins Ride as the Number One Goaltender for the Rest of the Season?

( Photo Credit: ESPN / AP Photo )

By: BNG Staff | Follow us on Twitter @BlackNGoldPod

The Bruins have two experienced, talented goalies to rely on. Both Tuukka Rask and Linus Ullmark have more than proved their worth on the ice. However, switching back and forth between the two rather than having an established starter and second could be causing issues for the team. 

Riding the hot hand might be going out of fashion as a goaltending strategy, but it makes sense for a team to focus their energy and resources on one goalie. The Bruins will have to decide whether or not that’s going to be the old hand or the newcomer.

Like a lot of big decisions surrounding starting lineups, making a big choice between two players like that is always a gamble. Most teams don’t have the luxury the Bruins do, though — both Rask and Ullmark are safe bets. 

Taking a risk and betting on success isn’t just for coaches, though. Changes to sports betting laws have made it more accessible to Americans who have started to realize what most of the world already knew — sports betting on the best online bookmakers is a great way to get more involved with the game.

Although the NFL might be the most popular sport to bet on in the United States, betting on the NHL is growing as people realize that not only that it is a more exciting sport than football is, it’s a more exciting betting environment as well.

The Bruins might not be having the most exciting season so far — or at least not the most rewarding — but they are still a talented team with a chance to sort themselves out. Choosing to focus on either Rask or Ullmark could be that chance.

The Season So Far

The Bruins haven’t necessarily had a bad season so far, but for a team who is used to leading their division, sitting in the middle of the pack has to be uncomfortable. Despite standing at fourth, they’re still eight points clear of the fifth team and only three points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs at third.

A lot of the Bruins’ success this season can be linked back to David Pastrnak. The winger’s two goals in the game against the Anaheim Ducks secured his place in the history books as only the 11th Bruins’ player to score at least 20 goals in six consecutive seasons.

Besides one or two heavy losses, with last month’s 1-7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes springing to mind, the Bruins’ goaltenders have usually been able to keep the team within three goals of their opponents. As Rask continues to rehab, it’s likely their numbers will improve.

Tuukka Rask

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

Tuukka Rask has long been considered one of the best goaltenders currently playing. The 34-year-old Finnish player was awarded the Vezina Trophy during the 2013-14 season. The Vezina Trophy recognizes the best goalkeeper in the NHL, and with Rask’s record, he was the obvious choice to win.

He started his career with the Bruins in 2008 as the backup goaltender for Tim Thomas, and by 2013 he had replaced him as the starting goalie. He has held onto that position until an injury in 2021 pushed the Bruins to sign Ullmark on as starting goalie.

Rask is both one of the oldest players on the team and one of the players with the longest tenure on the team. He was acquired by the Bruins in 2006 – meaning he has now spent nearly two decades in the black and gold. 

In 2015, his talents as a goaltender had been recognized further afield than most. The speed and tenacity that Rask plays with was honored by scientists who named a newly discovered wasp species after him. The teams who have been shut out by him have certainly felt that sting!

Unfortunately for Rask, the last five years have been plagued by injuries. In 2016-17, he suffered from a groin injury that required surgery. January 2019 brought a concussion. In March 2021, he missed several games due to an upper-body injury and needed surgery for an injury to the acetabular labrum in one hip.

Linus Ullmark

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

Unlike Rask, Linus Ullmark is a new addition to the Bruins’ lineup. After spending the first few years of his career with the Buffalo Sabres, he was signed by the Bruins in July 2021 and played his first game in October of that year.

At 6’ 4”, the Swedish 28-year-old is a presence on the ice. His career average save percentage is an impressive .913, with a career-high in the 2017-18 season of .935. He isn’t known for his shutouts — he’s only had three so far — but he’s a consistently talented player.

Having played for Modo Hockey (a second-tier Swedish team), the Rochester Americans, and the Buffalo Sabres before coming to Boston, Ullmark has gained experience at various levels and under multiple coaches. This diversity of training has helped shape him into the player he is today.

It’s a tough decision that Bruins’ coaching staff have to make — ride the loyal player who has given so much to the team and proven himself time and time again or ride the younger, fresher player who is eager to make a name for himself with a team that can appreciate his abilities.

Either choice is a good one. With Rask’s current form, though, it would probably make the most sense to keep Ullmark as the starting goaltender. Then Rask can come on and play when needed without overstressing his old injuries. This seems like a healthy balance for both players and the team as a whole.

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