I might actually hate Tuukka Rask.
It’s a shame because he’s a perfectly nice guy and a great goalie. I just hate him because every time I hear his name, it means I have to correct somebody.
Mike Felger, whom I don’t hate, started a narrative surrounding the Bruins goalie in recent years that has given him hours and hours of radio content and, to be fair, made me a couple TV dollars here at CSNNE in my part-time days because we wanted to yell at each other about it.
The narrative is built on two ideas. One is that Rask is good, not great. The other is that Bruins beat writers, a group that included myself for six years, want you to think that Rask is “elite” because they like the guy personally.
What’s actually true: Rask is one of the better goalies in the league and he’s dropped off in the last two seasons. The beat writers (and numerous others) are simply pointing out when far-fetched things are being said.
Over the course of this silly two-year argument I’ve pointed out such things as Rask having the best career save percentage in NHL history and his contract not being a drastic overpay, even though it is an overpay. I’ve pointed these things out because if you’re going to present an argument as to how good a player is, you should probably include things like basic statistics.
Rask would not be in the group of players I’d say I was particularly “tight” with while on the beat, because Rask isn’t really tight with anyone in the media. He’s a very nice guy, but he doesn’t stand around schmoozing with the media outside of interviews. I’m pretty sure the longest non-hockey conversation I’ve had with him was over how cool the John Varvatos Peace polos look, but come to think of it I think there may have been a sponsorship in play there. He may have been using me.
I say this to help illustrate that Felger’s repeated suggestion that players just bat their eyes at the writers to make them say good things doesn’t hold water. Not to be that guy, but Felger hasn’t covered the team since 1999, so any talk of how players and/or coaches get along with media members is a complete guess on his part.
Back to responding to the far-fetched stuff. The NHL Network, which has released multiple lists that have been mocked across the hockey world, put out a list ranking Rask the 14th-best goalie in the league. The argument here is that Rask belongs in the top 10 over such players as Jonathan Quick, Cam Talbot, Pekka Rinne and Martin Jones.
Ty Anderson wrote something similar over at WEEI.com, saying there are only four netminders he would definitely put over Rask.
Those disagreeing with the NHL Network list are not insisting Rask is the best. They’re using context to explain why, even with back-to-back seasons of a .915 save percentage, he’s better than the Talbots and Joneses of the world.
Where it gets out of control is when Felger doesn’t have anybody to provide context or point out when what he says is ridiculous. That leads to mutations of his silly theory, which is how you end up with this:
this is astoundingly bad— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) August 8, 2017
Jonathan Quick played in just 17 games last season and has a career save percentage of .916, meaning Quick’s numbers on the whole roughly equal Rask at his worst (.915 save percentage the last two seasons).
Things got so bad with Jake Allen last season that the team pulled him three straight games and had him stay home from the next road trip. John Gibson has not played 55 games in a season.
Jones’ save percentage over the last two years is a shade below Rask’s with four fewer shutouts, and that’s made up Jones’ entire career as a starter. Also, a top-10 goalies list should probably include Cory Schneider, who is second among active goalies in save percentage.
Trying to correct these kind of things is probably futile, because I and many others have been combatting it for two years now and it won't die. There will be another silly Rask argument that won’t be swatted down quickly enough, and then there will be another bitchy column from me. Talk to you then.