Is Tuukka Rask the Rodney Dangerfield of the Boston sports scene? Former Boston Bruins goalie Reggie Lemelin believes he is and also thinks that Rask doesn’t get enough respect around the NHL either.
“Tuukka Rask’s not just the Rodney Dangerfield of Boston but of NHL goalies too; he ‘can’t get no respect’” Lemelin recently told Boston Hockey Now.
Even with the NHL on pause for the past two months, Rask has still been a lightning rod for criticism; so much so that his teammate and captain Zdeno Chara made a point to come to his defense on Instagram last month. In a Zoom conference call with the media Monday, Rask was asked why so many in Boston can’t seem to give him his due props?
“It’s something that I think I’ve said a thousand times previously, it comes with the territory,” Rask replied when asked about Lemelin’s Dangerfield analogy. “In a town like this, people love their sports. It doesn’t matter if it’s basketball, hockey, baseball or football. There’s always the fans out there who want to see you win and succeed, but they have their right to criticize you. And I’ve accepted the fact that my job is what it is. Sometimes people praise you, and sometimes they don’t.”
When Lemelin and Andy Moog patrolled the Bruins crease from 1988-92, the only championships the city of Boston had tasted since Bobby Orr and the Big Bad Bruins hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972, was the Celtics dynasty of the 1980’s. With Lemelin between the pipes in the 1988 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Bruins beat the Canadiens in the playoffs for the first time in 45 years.
“That was my first year and Andy’s first year and after we beat Montreal, it was like we won the Stanley Cup,” Lemelin recalled. “I was like ‘Hey this is just the second round, we still got two to go!’ but it was so great to be a part of that and that run even though we lost in the Final.”
It wasn’t until the Red Sox broke the curse in 2004, that the city was reminded what winning a championship felt like. Over the last 20 years though, between the Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Patriots, Boston has been blessed with eleven championships and the expectation around Boston sports now is to win a championship or else! As Lemelin pointed out, that’s likely why, despite being the winningest goalie in franchise history with a record of 291-158-64 in 536 NHL games as well as a 2.12 GAA, .929 save percentage and 50 shutouts, Rask gets the Dangerfield treatment. He also made a point to note that Rask is an even better person than he is a goalie.
“I’ll tell you what, I got to know him personally at a few different Bruins golf tournaments and some other events and he’s a great guy,” Lemelin said of Rask. “He’s performed so steady and so well but I think it’s the expectation level here in Boston because we have so many good teams that keep winning championships. It carries from one sport to the next here and if you don’t win the championship the fans are like ‘What are you doing? You’re supposed to win!’ but I think he’s just a fantastic goalie. He had an unbelievable playoff last year and then the last game, the whole team laid an egg but everyone blames him? It’s not right.”
Rask – who said Monday he’s not thinking of retiring – understands the championship ultimatum attitude in Boston and hopes to meet those expectations before his contract runs out after next season. Until then, he plans to just continue to perform to the level that still has him amongst the NHL’s elite goalies with a 26-8-6 record this season and a league-leading 2.12 GAA and .929 save percentage.
“I just try to do my job as good as I can every night, give us a chance to win, and then what comes with that, it comes,” the frequently embattled goaltender said. “But maybe in the future after I retire and look back, you kind of appreciate yourself more and see what you did and obviously this city is known to win championships, and your success is measured by winning championships.
I’ve gotten to the Finals with the team twice as a playing goalie. Didn’t win, but I think it’s still a great accomplishment to reach that point, going to the Finals. Obviously it would be nice to be known as a champion in those years, but it didn’t happen and we just have to live with that. I think I’ve played a good career so far, and hopefully, there are some more years left and even maybe a championship in the future and hopefully, I can improve my play as well.”