What’s up with Tuuka Rask?
I’ve always defended Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. His record and his statistics speak for themselves. I knew him as a mild acquaintance during my days in Boston and he was always very kind
Since winning a Stanley Cup as a young back-up, basically as a spectator in the playoffs in 2011, he has backstopped his team to two Stanley Cup Finals. Unfortunately for him and his teammates but fortunately for his doubters, the Bruins lost both series in 2013 and then again last season. Critics often point to his “inconsistencies” and to what they refer to as his “excuses”. By the way, he’s playing with a broken finger on his glove hand and he hasn’t mentioned it once since being asked by colleague Jimmy Murphy why he was wearing a splint in an NBC Sports interview last month. However, in this postseason things have become a bit odd.
After the Bruins second round-robin loss in Toronto, his first appearance in a game in the bubble, he referred to overcoming stiff hip flexors. OK, that’s not a biggie, especially for a goalie coming off a four-month layoff. A few of us get sore hip flexors climbing two flights of stairs. The odd stuff came this past Thursday following the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2. When a player, particularly the one manning the most important area of the ice, begins to ponder his own excitement level, it’s enough for some to take pause.
“I’m just trying to have fun and play the game, I’m not stressing too much about the results and whatnot, it’s August, I haven’t played hockey in forever, so just go out there and see what happens,” is EXACTLY what Rask said Thursday.
There is no sugar-coating or trying to interpret this, as some fans blinded by their Black and Gold glasses have tried to do since then. Results, in the postseason, as we know, are everything. They are wins and losses. This is a do or die series to advance to another and hopefully another after that and then to the Stanley Cup Final. That’s why Rask and the Bruins are here. It’s why they get paid and why many of them truly play the game, to hoist Lord Stanley!
After a follow-up question about the intensity of the Hurricanes forecheck, crease traffic, and playoff hockey, he raised a few eyebrows again.
“It just feels dull at times,” Rask replied. “There’s moments where, OK, there’s scrums and whatnot, but then there might be five minutes where it’s coast to coast hockey. No atmosphere, it just feels like an exhibition game. You know, we’re trying our best to try and ramp up and get energized and make it feel like a playoff game,” he added.
Tuukka misses the fans. At one point he mentioned the excitement of playing in front of the home fans, and the different dynamic energy-wise of playing in front of the road fans. I get it. He’s being honest. We’ve talked about this before. Yes, it sucks without fans. But again, it is what it is, and all of the teams are in the same bubble. Like it or not Tuukka, there’s still a Stanley Cup to win!
Time To Focus On Game, Not Lack Of Fans
Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy is not convinced his goaltender has brought his best game yet either.
“His game yesterday, I thought that there were some good goals and good shots. Obviously, those one-goal games, each goalie, they need to make the extra save somewhere along the way and we didn’t get it. They did,” Cassidy said after practice on Friday.
So where does this leave the Bruins? They likely stick with Rask. I would. If matters go south or further south, in Game 3, then maybe a change is necessary and they turn to Halak. I don’t feel the urgency at this point because I still think Rask is the best goaltending option. The Bruins brain trust of course has likely discussed, as they should. It’s their job to cover all of the bases especially as it relates to your most important player. But when it’s all said and done, come lunchtime Saturday, I’d be shocked if it’s not once again, Tuukka Time!
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