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Can Sergei Bobrovsky beat Tuukka Rask?

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The Blue Jackets will count on Bob again

Columbus Blue Jackets v Boston Bruins Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Columbus Blue Jackets finally know that they’ll play the Boston Bruins for round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ve talked about the forwards, so now let’s break down the goalies.

Boston Bruins

Bruins Goalies in 2018-19

Goalie (Playoffs) GP GS W L T/O GA SA SV SV% GAA SO
Goalie (Playoffs) GP GS W L T/O GA SA SV SV% GAA SO
Tuukka Rask 7 7 4 3 0 16 223 207 0.928 2.32 0
Goalie (Regular Season) GP GS W L T/O GA SA SV SV% GAA SO
Tuukka Rask 46 45 27 13 5 109 1245 1136 0.912 2.48 4
Jaroslav Halak 40 37 22 11 4 90 1158 1068 0.922 2.34 5

By the numbers, Jaroslav Halak was the better goaltender for Boston in the regular season, despite Tuukka Rask receiving slightly more work. The Bruins rode Rask to the second round, however, as he stepped up his game in the playoffs and allowed only one goal in Game 7. Rask struggled to close out the season but never let his save percentage dip below .900 in the postseason, bolstered by a 30-save performance to win Game 2.

Rask saw two games against the Blue Jackets this season. On March 12, the CBJ hung five on him (and one on Halak) in a 7-4 Columbus win. Rask would rebound less than a month later, stopping 32 of 34 shots in that ugly 6-2 Boston win on April 2—the only blemish for the Blue Jackets since March 21. Halak started against the Blue Jackets days after appearing in relief, stopping 24 of 25 shots to help the Bruins to win on March 16.

Bruins Goalies 5v5

Goalie (Playoffs) GP TOI SA GA Sv% xSV% dSV% LDSv% MDSv% HDSv% GSAA
Goalie (Playoffs) GP TOI SA GA Sv% xSV% dSV% LDSv% MDSv% HDSv% GSAA
Tuukka Rask 7 351.7 189 12 93.65 92.52 1.13 96.55 90.79 92.31 2.14
Goalie (Regular Season) GP TOI SA GA Sv% xSV% dSV% LDSv% MDSv% HDSv% GSAA
Tuukka Rask 46 2156.92 958 70 92.69 92.39 0.3 96.67 93.13 81.5 2.88
Jaroslav Halak 40 1836.18 885 56 93.67 91.83 1.84 97.78 93.02 85.47 16.3
corsica.hockey

Thanks to corsica.hockey for these goalie stats. As a reminder, Delta/Adjusted Save Percentage (dSv%) shows the difference between a goalie’ expected save percentage and his actual save percentage, demonstrating the difference between a particular netminder and an average replacement facing the same quality of shots. Rask has a positive 1.13 dSv%, in the playoffs, lagging slightly behind Bobrovsky’s 1.53 dSV%.

Rask holds the edge in Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA), which represents number of goals allowed by a goaltender compared to what a league average goalie would’ve allowed. Rask’s two goals made the difference in a tight series against Toronto. Interestingly, Jaroslav Halak’s 16.30 GSAA ranked third out of all goaltenders during the regular season.

Nobody in the playoffs has turned in a high danger save percentage (HDSv%) than Rask at 92.31. HDSv% measures save percentage on shot with a Fenwick shooting percentage equal to or greater than 9 percent. Rask has stepped up his game in the playoffs.

According to MoneyPuck.com’s goalie data, only Carter Hutton was better than Rask at controlling rebounds. His 3.13% rebounds per save during the regular season bested Bob by a full percentage point, though his 95.18% save percentage on unblocked shots is exactly the same as Bobrovsky’s.

Rask knows what it takes to win in the playoffs, and it’s unlikely the Blue Jackets can rely on a dip in performance like they saw from Vasilevskiy. Additionally, Boston boasts an extremely capable backup in Halak. This could be a 2018 Washington situation, where the Bruins could change the momentum by swapping goalies mid-round and causing trouble for the CBJ.

Blue Jackets Goalies in 18-19

Goalie (Playoffs) GP GS W L T/O GA SA SV SV% GAA SO
Goalie (Playoffs) GP GS W L T/O GA SA SV SV% GAA SO
Sergei Bobrovsky 4 4 4 0 0 8 117 109 0.932 2.01 0
Goalie (Regular Season) GP GS W L T/O GA SA SV SV% GAA SO
Sergei Bobrovsky 62 61 37 24 1 153 1756 1603 0.913 2.58 9
Joonas Korpisalo 27 21 10 7 3 67 651 584 0.897 2.95 0

Sergei Bobrovsky, first period of Game 1 aside, looked completely different than any Bob we’ve ever seen in the playoffs. He allowed only one goal each in Games 2 and Game 3, made some huge saves, and was generally the reliable goaltender you need to win playoff games. That was the biggest question for the Blue Jackets heading into the playoffs, and he—so far—has seemed to answer it. Now can he keep it up?

Against the Bruins this season, Bob wasn’t so hot. He got the win on March 12, but allowed four goals on 31 shots and followed that up with a 19-save performance on 23 goals on April 2. That’s an .852 save percentage this season against Boston, for those of you scoring at home. In hasn’t gotten much better for the all-time series. From The Athletic:

Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets: Bobrovsky has started rewriting his reputation in these playoffs, with a .932 save percentage in the first round vs. Tampa Bay, the first series win of his career. Boston has been one of the clubs to give him trouble in the regular season, though. He’s 3-6-2 with an .889 save percentage and 3.90 goals-against average (the highest against any opponent) in 12 career games vs. the Bs.

Blue Jackets Goalies 5v5

Goalie (Playoffs) GP TOI SA GA Sv% xSV% dSV% LDSv% MDSv% HDSv% GSAA
Goalie (Playoffs) GP TOI SA GA Sv% xSV% dSV% LDSv% MDSv% HDSv% GSAA
Sergei Bobrovsky 4 204.08 98 6 93.88 92.35 1.53 98.15 92 84.21 1.5
Goalie (Regular Season) GP TOI SA GA Sv% xSV% dSV% LDSv% MDSv% HDSv% GSAA
Sergei Bobrovsky 61 2881.48 1449 119 91.79 91.77 0.01 97.29 89.18 83.73 0.2
Joonas Korpisalo 27 1153.08 557 50 91.02 91.89 -0.87 98.47 92.27 72.17 -4.83

Bob found himself in the middle of the pack these playoffs with respect to advanced goalie stats, but it’s clear how he too improved his game in the playoffs relative to the regular season. The 1.5 GSAA proved important for those Tampa Bay games that were closer than their scores indicated, and a .93 save percentage is nothing to sneeze at.

If Bob plays the way he did in the first series, the Blue Jackets stand a pretty good chance of knocking off the Bruins. He’ll get some defensive help if Markus Nutivaara or Ryan Murray are able to return to the lineup, and if Vladislav Gavrikov pans out as well. He just needs to keep it going...and forget about most of his previous interactions with the Bruins.

(By the way, Blueshirts Breakaway did a great job of explaining advanced goalie stats a few years ago. Check out this post if you’d like to learn more.)