Even in a pandemic, the hot take machine continues to strike its venom on Tuukka Rask.
Yes, the all-time winningest goaltender in Bruins franchise history isn’t immune from criticism. Some critiques were warranted. Others not so much.
And here we are in the middle of August for the latest controversy — if you want to call it that — surrounding the Finnish netminder. This time it circles around Rask’s comments on the playoff atmosphere inside the Toronto bubble following Boston’s Game 2 loss to Carolina.
“You’re trying to play as hard as you can. Obviously, you’re playing a best of seven series so there’s going to be some battles going on and whatnot But when you play at your home rink, you play at an away rink, and there are fans cheering for you or against you, and that creates another buzz around the series. There’s none of that, so it just feels dull at times,” Rask said to reporters via Zoom.
“There are moments that — ok — there’s little scrums and whatnot, but then there might be five minutes and its just coast to coast hockey and there is no atmosphere. It just feels like an exhibition game.”
There’s some honesty here. Playing competitive professional hockey — at its highest level — inside a bubble without any spectators after a long four-month layoff isn’t the ideal of circumstance. I imagine the remaining 16 teams playing in Toronto and Edmonton still haven’t gotten used to the conditions even though they’ve been in their respective cities for the last three weeks.
But there’s also a time and place to make that statement. Had Rask said this on an off day the reaction probably wouldn’t have been as viral as it was in the heat of the moment following a tough one-goal loss, especially in the postseason.
Rask didn’t skate during Friday’s practice. I imagine he’ll have to follow up his comments in some fashion during his next Zoom availability.
His teammates, and his head coach, however, wouldn’t publicly condemn his words during Boston’s latest media session.
“I didn’t speak to him after his comments. I think the Boston media knows him well enough. He answers his questions about how he feels,” Bruce Cassidy said. “It’s a unique environment, but to me, there’s a playoff intensity on the ice. You just have to sort of control what you can control when you’re a player – in my situation, a coach. The way I look at it, at the end of the day, they’re going to hand out the Stanley Cup this year to someone. We’ve got to play our best hockey if we want to be that team.”
“I think we all have to realize it’s an adjustment. It’s something completely new and none of us have ever experienced this,” captain Zdeno Chara added.
“First of all Tuukka has his right to express his kind of views and opinions. I don’t think he meant anything bad about it. He was just kind of being honest. It does feel a little bit different from other playoff experiences we’ve had, all of us have had in the playoffs with the fans and emotions. I think we just continue, going forward, making these adjustments and feeling more comfortable with the environment we are playing in right now.”
If anything, the Bruins echo Rask’s thoughts on adjusting to the bubble. But these comments aren’t the main concern from an on-ice standpoint heading into Game 3.
Yes, Rask could’ve made another big save or two to give his team a chance, but his teammates left him out to dry for the most part with their sloppy turnovers against an opportunistic Carolina squad. Rask hasn’t looked like the goalie we saw in last year’s Cup run, sporting a sub .900 save percentage through the first two games of the series, and the Bruins need him to step up if they want to go far in this unusual postseason.
The Bruins have several question marks — including David Pastrnak’s status — that they need to address entering their third game in four days on Saturday. Heck, Cassidy might want to call on Jaroslav Halak for Game 3 to give Rask a breather after starting back-to-back nights.
These comments could become a distant memory by this time next week, however, and Rask will likely have another chance to silence his doubters.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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