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Second Round

Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Tuukka Rask

Workload, unique approaches of goalies could impact series between Blue Jackets, Bruins

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent

Goaltending is an integral part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. To better understand the strengths and weaknesses of each goalie, the 100 most recent goals allowed for each in the regular season and every goal in the playoffs were charted, with the help of Apex Video Analysis and Save Review System from Upper Hand Inc., to see what patterns emerge. 

Tuukka Rask was well-rested after playing 46 games this season, and coach Bruce Cassidy said it paid off with a refreshed-looking Rask earning the Game 7 win for the Boston Bruins against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference First Round. 

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Blue Jackets series coverage]

 

Sergei Bobrovsky was a lot busier, playing 62 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the regular season, but has had plenty of time to rest after sweeping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning with an impressive performance in the first round. Columbus last played April 16.

The unique approaches of Bobrovsky and Rask, as well as the effects of workload, could help decide the best-of-7 second-round series between the Blue Jackets and Bruins, which starts with Game 1 at TD Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS). 

Here is an in-depth look at each goalie's game:

 

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Bobrovsky had four shutouts and a .951 save percentage in his final nine starts of the regular season to help the Blue Jackets surge into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He allowed three goals on 13 shots in the first period of Game 1 against the Lightning, and then finished with a .932 save percentage for the series. That should earn the two-time Vezina Trophy winner some reprieve from criticism that came from his .894 save percentage in 19 NHL playoff games coming into this season. 

He won't get a lot of breaks from a Boston offense that scored 23 goals in the first round, including seven power-play goals on 16 opportunities.

 

GOAL TRENDS

Cross-ice play, quick shots: There weren't a lot of goals-against in the Tampa Bay series to dissect, so the trends of past seasons prevail. Most prominent is the need to create lateral plays and finish them with one-timers and quick releases. 

Though creating this category of high-quality chances is a great way to score on most goalies, it seems especially important against Bobrovsky. Plays across the slot line, an imaginary line splitting the offensive zone in half from the goal line to the top of the face-off circles, accounted for 48 of the past 100 goals scored against him in the regular season. It's the third straight season he was well above the 35.5 percent average for the more than 5,500 goals charted during the three seasons of this project. One-timers and quick-releases accounted for 45 goals, above the 37.5 percent average.

Top half of the net: Even with lateral plays and quick shots, it's still important to get shots at least over the leg pads, if not higher, against Bobrovsky, one of the fastest goalies in the NHL. He is rarely out of any play, something Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, the leading scorer in the NHL in the regular season, discovered after being robbed on a 2-on-0 with center Steven Stamkos 23 seconds into the second period of Game 1. Bobrovsky got his pad across to make the save, and had vertical coverage with his glove over top, preventing Kucherov from making it 4-0 with a goal that could have changed the series. Instead, Bobrovsky made a momentum-changing save. 

Less skate on post: Bobrovsky is powerful moving into and off his posts, able to take away the bottom of the net with a skate on each post when play is behind the goal. He gave up six sharp-angled goals among the 100 tracked and has made a conscious effort to reduce exposure from the gap between the bottom of his pad and post when his skate blade is up against it by shifting the skate inside the post so the bottom of the pad seals it. But on quick wraps and lateral plays, the blade often still is the first point of contact, and the small gap remains.

Swivel into post: On rebounds, Bobrovsky moves into his post in one sweeping motion from higher in the crease, using his back leg to swivel into his reverse-VH as he hits the post, which leaves his back pad off the ice and susceptible to quick bank shots from sharp angles.

 

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Rask had his worst save percentage (.912) of any full NHL season. He was better in the first round, with a .928 save percentage against Toronto. Like Bobrovsky, he has backed off some of the extremes in his game that made him an easy target for pre-scouts in past playoffs, but there still are a few unique trends in his game.

 

GOAL TRENDS

Beat the bump: Rask modernized his post-integration habits during the past couple seasons, using his back leg more to pivot around and move off his posts from reverse-VH. But he still prefers to anchor himself on the post with the shin of his pad and "bump" off it with a narrow butterfly that limits coverage along the ice and delays his exits off the post. Rask does get a better post seal using his method, but his goal totals on low-high plays were up to 16 this season from 12 last season, and it played a role in two goals in a Game 3 loss to the Maple Leafs.

Moving into shots: Rask does a good job moving his body into shots, rather than relying on his hands to reach, something that opens holes. But what normally is considered a strength can work against him when he goes from subtle shifts to bigger side-to-side slides, especially on longer-range shots. Though his deflection numbers dropped in the regular season (from 22 percent in 2017-18 to 14 percent this season), they accounted for five of 16 goals (31.3 percent) against the Maple Leafs, and three of those were against-the-grain tips that caught him moving the wrong way. 

Wide off the rush: Rask's goals-against on lateral plays across the slot line were down from 50 percent in 2017-18 to 34 percent this season, but these plays accounted for seven of 16 goals (43.7 percent) against Toronto. Rask tends to start wide of his crease on rush chances, increasing the distance to cover on cross-ice passing plays. It left him diving awkwardly across on a 3-on-2 rush that gifted forward Kasperi Kapanen an open net for the winning goal in Game 5.

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