2017 Playoff Preview: Craig Anderson vs Tuukka Rask
In an unexpected matchup, the Boston Bruins will take on the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Everyone had their hopes up for a “Battle of Ontario” meeting. All the Toronto Maple Leafs had to do was acquire a single point in their last game of the regular season against Columbus, but they failed to do so, sending the Sens to Boston.
The series will feature two unconventional goaltenders, by today’s standards, in Tuukka Rask and Craig Anderson. When on their game, they are both smart, aggressive, and incredibly fun to watch. Both have the potential to be streaky, which can be good and bad. The playoffs are a crapshoot most years. If one of these goalies can get hot at the right time, their team could go a very long way.
(statistics via Corsica Hockey)
Anderson only appeared in 40 games this season, as he was in-and-out of the lineup in order to spend time with his wife Nicholle, who is undergoing treatment for a rare form of head and neck cancer.
The entire goalie community banded together in support of the Andersons, and seeing Craig lift the cup at the end of the season would be a fitting conclusion. Staggeringly, he somehow managed to perform extremely well considering the off-ice distraction in his life.
Anderson had a whopping 15.30 goals-saved-above-average in his limited action. His excellent play, with some help from Mike Condon, helped propel an underdog group in Ottawa to the playoffs. Can they go any further? It won’t be an easy task with that lineup, but he’ll have the majority of the goalie community (that aren’t Bruins fans) rooting for him.
After winning the Stanley Cup in 2010-11, the Bruins have had a hard time replicating that success. They reached the cup final once, in 2012-13, with Rask as their starter – but the NHL is a league of “what have you done for me lately.” Failing to qualify for the playoffs two years in a row has put their goaltending under the spotlight – which ultimately led to the firing of head coach Claude Julien.
Rask has been far from spectacular in 2016-17. He posted a negative 5v5 goals-saved-above-average for the first time in his long NHL career. At -3.46, it hardly cost his team, but he has heard some harsh criticism from the local media.
With Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron at the top of their lineup, and perennial playoff performer David Krejci as their secret weapon, you can never rule the Bruins out. They are hardly a complete team, but great goaltending could put them over the top. Could this be Rask’s final chance to lead the Bruins to glory before he is shipped out of town?
As stated above, both of these goaltenders like to play a rhythm-based, active style. That has the potential to lead to some very exciting moments if both are on their game. It may not be the most talked-about series heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it could be when the first round comes to a close.