Bruins

Mike Milbury votes ‘no’ on Bruins number retirement, Hall of Fame for Tuukka Rask

"I think Rask has been a great goaltender for his career...but I don't think he deserves to be in the rafters or the Hall of Fame."

Tuukka Rask Bruins
Tuukka Rask. ohn Tlumacki/Globe Staff
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With longtime Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask officially announcing his retirement Wednesday, the questions about his legacy in Boston and the NHL more broadly are ramping up.

Does Rask, the Bruins’ franchise leader in wins with 308, deserve to have his No. 40 retired by the team one day? Might he even merit an eventual call to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto for his work over 15 seasons in Boston?

Though former Bruin and NHL analyst Mike Milbury congratulated Rask on a “terrific” career on Thursday morning, for Milbury the answer to both those questions is “no.”

“I think Rask has been a great goaltender for his career. I think he deserves a pat on the back and a piece of cake on his way out the door. But I don’t think he deserves to be in the rafters or the Hall of Fame,” he said during his weekly appearance on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show”.

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The ex-Bruins defenseman and coach acknowledged Rask’s accolades, which include one Vezina Trophy honor as the league’s best goaltender, a Jennings Trophy (fewest goals allowed) and two All-Star teams, in putting him in the Hall-of-Very-Good. He also has the fourth-best regular-season save percentage in history (92.1), and his franchise-leading 308 wins also rank 33rd all-time among professional netminders.

But though Rask owns a 57-46 record in the playoffs and the ninth-best postseason save percentage ever (92.52), he never led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship in eight playoff runs as a starter with the team. Boston fell short twice with Rask in goal: first to the Blackhawks in stunning fashion in 2013, and then to the St. Louis Blues in a 4-1 Game 7 drubbing.

Rask’s lone Stanley Cup win in Boston came in 2011 as a backup to Tim Thomas.

“It’s not like he was in Game 7s stopping pucks, left, right and center on the way to championships and trips down the highway with a bunch of guys drinking beer on trucks to celebrate a Stanley Cup championship,” Milbury explained. “I think he was great –no, I’m going to stop short of great–very, very good goaltender who was great in a regular-season kind of way but didn’t deliver championships. That’s the difference.”

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Milbury also pointed out that negative perceptions about Rask’s personality could be a possible impediment to his legacy, including a Boston number retirement, as well. He echoed sentiments shared on the show that hockey did not appear to be Rask’s top priority at all times, such as when he backed out of the 2020 playoff bubble due to an apparent family emergency.

“There’s so little about Tuukka that says, ‘I love it here in Boston. I’ll do anything for the Bruins. There’s nothing I won’t do for Boston,'” he explained. “His passion was not ever visible. I’m not sure it wasn’t there. It just doesn’t make it a point of interest for fans.”

Whether that image of Rask should count so heavily against his accomplishments on the ice is another matter. His attempts to play through and come back from what turned out to be a career-ending hip injury, as well as his insistence on returning to the Bruins and no other team, also appears to fly in the face of some of those assessments.

Nonetheless, it seems the debate about Rask’s place in Bruins and NHL history will take some time to sort itself out as he heads into retirement.

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