With recent quality improved, Bruins’ Rask gets another shot at Sabres

Rask/By S. Bradley

By virtue of him being the first Bruins goaltender off the ice today after the morning skate, Tuukka Rask seems scheduled to get the start against Buffalo tonight at TD Garden.

Bruins head coach Claude Julien is a big believer in redemption, so it stands to figure he would turn to his NHL sophomore just a few weeks after the bench boss pulled Rask after one period of a wild 7-6 loss at Buffalo New Year’s Day night.

Rask’s brief appearance against the Sabres on the first night of 2011 was one of just four times the netminder didn’t provide Boston with a quality start so far this season. Quality Starts are defined by Robert Vollman of Hockey Prospectus as any game during which a goaltender allows two or fewer goals and/or produces at better than the league average as far as save percentage. For this season and all the years since the lockout, that number has been around a .913 save percentage.

While Rask is just 4-9-1 on this season, he has 10 quality starts and his 71-percent rate of producing a QS is good enough to rank in the top 10 in the NHL among goaltenders with at least 10 starts. That the Bruins are 4-5-1 in Rask’s QS performances (teams generally win 75 percent of their starters’ QS outings), shows that Rask’s lack of success has more to do with the team in front of him than his play. For comparison’s sake, Tim Thomas has produced a QS 78 percent of the time.

Another interesting stat created by Vollman is the Really Bad Start, which is any game the starter doesn’t stop at least 85 percent of the shots against. Rask has suffered just two of those, including that New Year’s game. So if he gets the start tonight, Rask will be looking to keep his QS streak alive and erase the memories of that awful game in Western New York.

If it makes Rask breathe any easier, Buffalo will be without winger Drew Stafford. The Sabres forward, who has scored four goals against the Bruins’ Finnish goaltender (and three more against Thomas), is out with an injury tonight. A QS is a QS regardless of who’s in the opposing lineup.

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