Speed, size, light-weight equipment and the latest advancements in technology. That’s the name of the game in the modern day National Hockey League.
Combine those traits together and you have some of the world’s premier athletes barreling down the ice at unearthly speeds. For instance, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid — a two-time fastest-skater winner — clocks in at over 40 km per hour on several occasions.
While McDavid is an outlier, it has become increasingly harder across the league to avoid catastrophic collisions with netminders, especially when players get a head of steam through the neutral zone. Tuukka Rask found out that out the hard way against the New York Rangers.
Rask exited the Jan. 19 contest with a concussion after colliding with Filip Chytil during the first period. Chytil flew through the offensive zone untouched and made a B-line for the crease. The Rangers youngster tried to avoid contact after Rask made an initial save. But Charlie McAvoy’s bone-crushing hit on Chytil caused Rask’s head to slam into the post and ice.
“It’s just a hockey play. It’s one of those things where the guy is obviously not trying to hit you and the d-man is trying to make a play. If the timing is a split second off, you get the worst part of it,” Rask said about his collision with Chytil.
“Unfortunately, the way the game is played these days is so fast. A lot of that speed is built up through the neutral zone; so if a couple guys are in wrong positions, the next thing you know one guy is trying to make up for that and it’s the perfect storm.”
The injury happened just before the bye week, allowing Rask to rest and recuperate for a full nine days. He took the time off to heal and spend most of those nine days in the Carribean with his family.
Rask returned to practice at Warrior Ice Arena on Wednesday — just two days after being placed on injured reserve. There’s a good chance he’ll get the nod Thursday night when Boston hosts the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden.
“Good chance. We are going to wait, normally I’ll announce it the day before but let’s see how he does in the morning,” Bruce Cassidy said about Rask’s potential return. “It’s his first full practice and we want to be sure there’s no fatigue. Assuming he’s ready to go and feels good about everything, then like I said there’s a good chance he’ll get in.”
Rask appears closer to full recovery. But the issue of potential hazards in today’s game won’t go away anytime soon. Players are bigger, stronger and faster than any previous era, thus providing weapons when collisions are unavoidable.
The 31-year-old netminder, however, offered a simple solution.
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
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