Through 3 rounds, 2019 Tuukka Rask has been better than 2011 Tim Thomas

Scott McLaughlin
May 17, 2019 - 12:45 pm

Tim Thomas won two Vezina Trophies as a Bruin, but what he's most remembered for is his Conn Smythe Trophy-winning 2011 postseason, when he led the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup since 1972.

With the Bruins back in the Stanley Cup Final this year, and with Tuukka Rask playing great throughout these playoffs, it's worth seeing how he compares to Thomas through this same point in 2011.

The results? A pretty clear victory for Rask, actually. Through the first three rounds in 2011, Thomas was 12-6 with a .929 save percentage and 2.29 goals-against average. Through the first three rounds this year, Rask is 12-5 with a .942 save percentage and 1.84 goals-against average.

Broken down by round, Thomas had a .926 save percentage in seven games against the Canadiens, .953 in four games against the Flyers, and .916 in seven games against the Lightning.

While everyone remembers Thomas' diving save in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Tampa Bay and his shutout in Game 7 of that series, it might be easy to forget that he actually gave up four or more goals four times in that series, which was actually a  pretty high-scoring affair prior to the incredible 1-0 Game 7.

Rask has gone .928 in seven games against the Maple Leafs, .948 in six games against the Blue Jackets, and .956 in four games against the Hurricanes. He has allowed more than three goals just once this postseason and has given up two goals or fewer in 12 of 17 games, including each of the last five. Rask this year and Thomas in 2011 each had two shutouts through the first three rounds.

It's also worth noting that Rask's first three opponents were better offensive teams during the regular season than Thomas' first three. Rask's averaged 3.49, 3.12 and 2.96 goals per game, respectively, while Thomas' averaged 2.60, 3.12 and 2.94, respectively.

Of course, we absolutely need to point out that Thomas did his best work in the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. That's where it went from a very good playoff run to a legendary one.

In seven games against the Canucks -- who led the league in offense that year with 3.15 goals per game -- he had a remarkable .967 save percentage. And he was tested. He stopped 33 of 34 shots in Game 1, 40 of 41 in Game 3, 38 of 38 in Game 4, 36 of 38 in Game 6, and 37 of 37 in Game 7. That is still pretty mind-boggling to think about.

So yes, Rask has been phenomenal so far this postseason. Even better than Thomas was through this same point in 2011. But what he does in the upcoming Stanley Cup Final will ultimately decide whether this run gets to be mentioned in the same breath as Thomas' for the rest of time.

If he's not great and the Bruins come up short, all of this will be diminished. We know this because it's already happened to Rask once.

In 2013, he had a .943 save percentage through the first three rounds -- actually a point higher than this year! -- but because the Bruins lost to the Blackhawks in six games in the Cup Final, the narrative became that Rask didn't get it done on the biggest stage and still had something to prove. His very good first three games in that series against Chicago (.960 save percentage) were completely overshadowed by a subpar final three (.899).

Rask can end that narrative once and for all if he finishes strong and helps the Bruins lift the Cup this time around.

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