Rask’s Unbeaten Home Streak Has Landed Him In Vezina Contention

ap-12-23-19-tuukka-rask-bruins-vs-washington-capitals-1577741231

(NHL with AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The Bruins’ latest winning streak came to an end Sunday afternoon in Detroit, though one streak remains intact for the Bruins’ starting netminder, Tuukka Rask.  Following the 4-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes Saturday afternoon, Rask extended his home regulation winning streak to 18 games.  Rask has not logged a regulation loss at the TD Garden since April 6, 2019, against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The streak also breaks Gilles Gilbert’s 17-game winning streak to open a season, set back in 1973.

Rask is in the midst of an impressive year and is in contention for the NHL’s best goaltending trophy: the Vezina.  Considering goalies who have played more than 25 games this year, Tuukka leads the league with a 2.14 goals-against average and ranks second with a .929 save percentage behind Columbus’s Elvis Merzlikins.  He sports a 20-5-6 record with 67 goals against, which ranks sixth among NHL goalies.

The Bruins sit atop the NHL standings with 80 points, three points ahead of the surging Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals.  It’s no coincidence that Rask is among the top three goalies in contention for the Vezina, and his team is the best in the NHL.  He’s even made a case for the save of the season.

When it comes to the Vezina race, Rask has some stiff competition.  To open the year, Rask ranked behind Pekka Rinne, Frederik Andersen, and 2019 winner, Andrei Vasilevsky.  All three have been atop the goaltending ranks for the past few years.  Rask currently has the second-best chance to win the trophy behind Winnipeg Jets’ netminder, Connor Hellebuyck.

Hellebuyck is having a remarkable year in goal for Winnipeg.  He is leading the NHL with 1,306 saves and has been able to maintain a .920 save percentage.  To put this in perspective, his team has allowed 1,420 shots through the 46 games he’s played this year.  Rask has seen 942 shots and has saved 875.  Hellebuyck’s goals-against average sits at a high 2.67, which gives Rask has an opening to reclaim the trophy.

Rask etched his name in the Vezina trophy’s history books once before.  In the 2013-14 season, he ended the year with a 36-15-6 record and a league-leading .930 save percentage.  Tuukka also recorded a 2.04 goals-against average and seven shutouts.  He has consistently been a rock for the Bruins, including his performance in the playoffs.  This past playoff run, Rask was always the best player on the ice for the black and gold.  He led all goaltenders in the playoffs (who played past the opening round) with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage.

The Bruins have historically been a strong home team.  They rank first in the NHL with a 19-2-9 home record, and it’s no secret that Rask has been the main contributor to that success.  The Bruins are a few trade deadline pieces away from hoisting their seventh Stanley Cup.  They have the makeup, leadership, and experience to make another deep playoff run.  If Rask can continue his torrid pace at home, the Stanley Cup may be in a different set of hands at the TD Garden in June.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 165 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Bruins Game 13 Preview: Nashville Predators

Pekka Rinne, David Backes

Credit: AP Photos

By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

The Boston Bruins will travel to Tennessee on Saturday to take on a tough customer in the Nashville Predators. The Predators are currently the NHL with a 10-3-0 record good enough for 20 points.

The Bruins, on the other hand, are part of a three-way tie for second place in the Atlantic Division with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. The B’s sport a 7-3-2 record which makes for a successful month of October – especially considering the injury bug they have been handed.

Who’s Hot?

Boston’s first line was firing on all cylinders once again in their game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. David Pastrnak registered a goal while Brad Marchand tallied two. Meanwhile, Patrice Bergeron assisted all three of those goals. There’s no question that the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line is one of the best – if not the best – in the business right now.

Jaroslav Halak has been stellar to start the 2018-19 season and will be getting the call for the second game in a row on Saturday. He is 4-0-2 as of now with a whopping .947 SV% and 1.51 GAA. Even with a struggling bottom-nine, Halak has been able to rob goals and thus games from his opponents. The Bruins will need him to continue standing on his head if they hope to skate by the Predators on Saturday.

The Predators have forwards almost as lethal as Boston’s top line. Ryan Johansen leads the team in assists with 13 while his linemate, Filip Forsberg, has tallied a team-leading 10 goals to start the season. Viktor Arvidsson follows closely behind with eight goals himself.

But the Predators have a number of lines that have been contributing their fair share thus far. Second-line center Kyle Turris, for example, has three goals and eight assists. Even the notorious Zac Rinaldo has tallied a goal. But it’s not just Nashville’s offense that is off to a hot start, it’s their defense as well.

Out of their top-10 producers thus far, the Predators’ top-two defensive pairs make up four of those spots. P.K. Subban leads the defense with two goals and eight assists, but he is closely followed by his fellow defensemen. The good doesn’t end with their production – they have been able to play shutdown defense thus far and are a huge reason why Nashville is ranked third in the league in goals against this season.

Who’s Not?

Boston’s depth has still failed to show much life. In fact, with David Backes ready to return on Saturday, the Bruins sent Ryan Donato down to the Providence Bruins of the AHL. Other youngsters such as Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen, and Jake DeBrusk haven’t met expectations. The former has just a goal and an assist thus far while the latter two players have tallied only three points apiece.

The Bruins will also need more out of their veterans who have also failed to do much. With Backes returning, perhaps he can spark some life in the B’s. However, the 34-year-old failed to register a single point in his seven appearances prior to suffering the injury that has sidelined him for the past five games. Boston will need their depth to get going if they hope to defeat a very deep Nashville team.

Bruins vs. Predators Outlook

The Predators will be everything but an easy opponent. The Bruins will need their first line to lead the charge which will be tough – they are pinned against arguably the best defense in the NHL at this juncture. Boston will also need Halak to have another stellar game if the Bruins want to survive the offensive onslaught they’re sure to endure.

Marchand Predators

Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Pekka Rinne has returned to action. While Nashville’s starter is unclear at the time of publishing, many expect him to get the start – it is his birthday, after all. In order to win, the Predators need to quite simply keep doing what they’ve been doing. The Bruins have been a very hot-and-cold team to start the 2018-19 season, and they’ll need to find their A-game if they want to claim victory over the best team in the NHL.