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Thank You, Tuukka

Patrick Smith. Getty Images.

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I was visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame in the summer of 2006 when a young staff member said to me, "Tuukka Rask, eh?"

"Huh?" I replied, thinking he may have been speaking a different language.

"I see your hat," he said pointing at my Bruins lid, "and you guys got a good one". 

I'd only heard Rask's name once before, when the Bruins traded for him about a week before my HHOF trip but I was hardly familiar with his pedigree. Certainly not as familiar as this teenaged Leafs fan who'd already realized that his team's front office made yet another huge mistake when it unloaded the Finnish prodigy for Andrew Raycroft. His acquisition would go on to become one of the top two trades in team history.

16 years later, Tuukka Rask retired after spending his entire NHL career in Boston, where he established himself as one of the game's elite netminders and became the best goalie in Bruins history. Cool and collected in the crease, Rask provided the Bs with a bona fide #1 goalie for nearly a decade and an opportunity for this iteration of the Bruins to become legendary. 

His career save percentage of .921 is bested only by HHOFers Ken Dryden and Dominik Hasek (both tied at .922). His playoff save percentage of .925 (same as Hasek) is incredible and only eight goalies have a higher one. His 308 wins place him 33rd on the all-time list for wins but he accomplished that in just 564 games (32nd place Kari Lehtonen needed 649 games to reach 310 wins and it took 34th place Billy Smith 679 games to get 305 wins). He won the 2014 Vezina Trophy and came in second for the award in 2020 (despite having a better SP and GAA than the winner).

He was reliable, dependable, consistent, and excellent---there were very few off nights for Rask. He also marched to the beat of his own drum and had the ability to ignore all the noise. Which meant he was built to play in Boston.

Yet because the team twice came agonizingly close to putting themselves alongside the fabled Big Bad Bruins in team lore but came up short both times and Rask—-the player most responsible for the team even getting those opportunities—-was in net, he gets shouldered with the blame among a particularly dopey segment of the Bruins fan-base and even dopier media types. 

"He can't win the big one" is such fetid bullshit. Rask never gave up a shot from the red-line or sent a pizza up the middle to cost the Bruins a playoff series or a Stanley Cup. He won plenty of big ones and to say he 'blew' Game 6 in '13 or Game 7 in '19 is foolish, particularly when you look at numerous errors made elsewhere (had the Bs won the Cup in 2013, Rask would've been the clear-cut Conn Smythe winner.). But we're not here to dissect old Cup games or parse over dipshit sports radio statements.

We're here to praise Tuukka Rask as the best goalie this franchise ever had and to thank him for everything he did here. He was a beloved, model teammate and a guy who gave the franchise no headaches off the ice. 

Rask's return this season provided the Finn proper closure on his career. Rather than wondering "what if?", Rask busted his ass to return to the game after hip surgery. However his play just wasn't up to the lofty standards that he and we were used to. But he retired knowing that he left it all out on the ice and has no regrets. Nor should he.

As a lifelong Bs fan, I'm damn glad we had this guy and will miss him manning the pipes on Causeway St. I'm grateful for what he did for the Bruins on and off the ice. 

Tuuks, you were always appreciated here. Thanks for everything you did in the Black and Gold. Enjoy retirement and best wishes.

Winslow Townson. Shutterstock Images.

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