How long can Bruins count on Tuukka Rask as their No. 1 goaltender?

DJ Bean
·3 min read

Bean: Bruins are facing a major dilemma in net moving forward originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

I'm just as tired of writing Tuukka Rask's name as you are reading it.

"Hate" is a strong word, but not strong enough when it comes to how I feel about the Rask conversation. I don't even care to note that he's the best goalie the Bruins have ever had, because there's a loud segment of Bruins fans who think he's a bum. I don't feel like correcting them anymore, because the conversation just goes the same way every time.

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"Rask chokes in big moments."

"He's top 10 in all-time playoff save percentage."

"Yeah, until they need to win."

"You need to win a lot of games in the playoffs. He's top 10 in all-time playoff save percentage."

"Well he sucked in Game 7 against the Blues."

"'Sucked' is exaggerating, but he wasn't good. He was better than his teammates, who didn't score until garbage time."

"Well they're never going to win with him."

Probably not.

That's because Rask is entering the final year of his contract and the Bruins do not look like Cup contenders right now. They were a paper tiger last season even with Rask being a Vezina finalist. Their roster has only gotten worse.  

So, in all likelihood, Rask will eventually depart the Bruins having never led them to a title. He'll join Boston greats like Ted Williams and Logan Mankins as players with similar fates, but unlike the others, he'll be blamed for it.

The "when" of it is worth questioning, though. Really, the Bruins' plan in net should be simple. Rask and Jaroslav Halak are both up after the coming season. Their best goaltending prospect is Jeremy Swayman. The 2017 fourth-round pick was the nation's best goalie in his final year at the University of Maine, but he has yet to even play in the AHL.

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The Bruins also have 23-year-old Dan Vladar, who just had his best season in Providence by posting a .936 save percentage in 25 games. Most know him for being the poor kid who got thrown into that Game 3 ass-kicking against the Lightning and gave up three goals on 15 shots.

So the plan should be obvious: Ride out this season with Rask and Halak, then make your decision based on how Swayman or Vladar look in Providence.

In a perfect world, Swayman looks great and appears primed to earn starts in the NHL. Depending on how close or far he is, the Bruins could try to re-sign one of their goalies for another year as they break in their goalie of the future.

Would Rask want a one-year deal, though? He's hinted at retirement and he'll be 34, so if he's signing another contract, you'd have to think it would be short. It's hard to imagine Rask becoming bad by then, so one more year could make for an easy transition.

If Swayman looks like he'll be a ways off and the team doesn't see Vladar as an ace, that's where the Bruins could be in trouble. Counting on Rask to play several more years seems unrealistic, so they could end up like so many teams in the league: without a goalie and searching for one.

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We haven't seen that around these parts for a long time, though. The Bruins have been spoiled by going from years of Tim Thomas to years of Rask. If they can extend that run of reliable, great goaltending, the transition from the Chara era to whatever's next will be that much easier.

If not? You dummies will long for the day you had a situation as good as the prime years of Tuukka Rask.