Last night in Columbus, the Bruins needed a win to avoid facing elimination in Game 5 and they got a brilliant performance from Tuukka Rask. The longtime starter was close to unbeatable, only giving up one goal on a play that should’ve been blown dead after the puck hit the netting.
Columbus’ 40 shots aren’t the most Rask has faced this season or even just this post-season, but he faced an absolute barrage of shots from the slot, as Columbus did everything it could to claw its way back. They even had a penalty shot but Boone Jenner couldn’t convert.
The Jackets were particularly aggressive in the first period. Of their 15 shots on net, 13 came from the slot, forcing Rask to make tough saves again and again. When the whistle blew after the Bruins 4-1 win, Rask’s game was arguably his best effort of the playoffs, with an actual to expected goals against mark of -4.2 matched by no other goalie this postseason. This means he saved his team about four goals relative to league-average goaltending. In fact, the next-best performance was Mike Smith’s shutout in Game 1 of Round 1, but that -3.3 mark still trails Rask’s by almost a full goal. Going back to the regular season, his mark was bested by only eight performances.
As much as the skaters have done some amazing work, like this near-impossible goal by Artemi Panarin in Game 2, this series has turned into a battle of two former Vezina winners at the top of their game. Now the series is a best of three and the pressure is on for both goalies to continue beefing up their highlight reels as they fight for a spot in the Conference Finals.