Despite the way the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs ended for Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, he continues to be mentioned amongst the elite goalies in the NHL and is once again a favorite to win his second Vezina Trophy.
Just hours before puck drop of Game 3 of the Bruins’ second round playoff series with the Carolina Hurricanes in August, Tuukka Rask informed Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney and team President Cam Neely that he had to leave the NHL bubble in Toronto and head home to Boston to deal with a family emergency. Within days of Rask exiting the bubble, Boston Hockey Now confirmed that Rask’s infant daughter had been taken to a local ER as a result of an ongoing health issue she has dealt with.
While the team publicly supported Tuukka Rask in the fallout with the media and fans, BHN also confirmed that Sweeney did his due diligence to see what Rask’s value was on the NHL trade market. According to numerous sources, Sweeney did find some suitors for the 2020 Vezina Trophy finalist, one of them being the Colorado Avalanche, but apparently the return and/or the inability to find a worthy replacement wasn’t worth trading Rask heading into the final year on his contract.
Now, with the 2020-21 season becoming more of a reality, the Bruins continue to stand by Tuukka Rask and pump up his tires, despite what head coach Bruce Cassidy recently acknowledged was an awkward situation.
“Well, Cam and Donny were there [in the bubble],” Cassidy told WEEI earlier this month. “When a player asks for a leave of absence or whatever it is, it usually goes through the GM first anyway, and it did. The timing of it, of course I think it could’ve been better for [backup Jaroslav Halak’s] sake. Would I have preferred it a little bit sooner than that? Yes. But I can’t control what happens with a player’s family and the timing of that, so for me to judge that too harshly would be incorrect.
At the end of the day, we know what Tuukka’s capable of. I think all that the players are concerned about, honestly, is, is he going to help us win? Is he going to help get us to where we want to go? When Tuukka came out and said my family’s in a great place, I’m in a great place, I’m ready to play hockey, I think that’s all we needed to hear. Listen, we’re a family. We support Tuukka and we’re ready to go. I think the guys are confident that he’s back in there.”
Having the trust of your teammates and team is obviously what matters most to Tuukka Rask Rask and despite the skepticism from media and fans alike, Rask clearly still has the respect of those around the game and remains a co-favorite to do what he did in 201314 and win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender.
Rask is coming off one of the best regular seasons of his career as he went 26-8-6 with a 2.12 GAA and .929 save percentage. He is the winningest goalie in Boston Bruins history and he also enters the 2020-21 season in a three-way tie for the best regular season save percentage at .922. While these accolades may be underappreciated in Boston, the rest of the NHL has and continues to take notice. The NHL Network recently ranked as the third-best goalie in the NHL behind 2020 Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebucyk and 2020 Stanley Cup-winning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
“Tuukka Rask does everything in a simplified manner,” NHL Network and former NHL goalie Pang said of the Bruins netminder who also led his team to Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final before losing to the St. Louis Blues. “I think when we look at all the saves these goaltenders are making, more often than not Tuukka Rask is in the middle of the net, in a really good position and if he makes a big save, he doesn’t throw a whole lot of mustard on the hotdog. I think that’s why there are maybe times that he gets criticized because it doesn’t look like he’s working really hard.”