By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Tuukka Rask shocked the bubble with his decision to officially opt out of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.
For the 33-year-old Rask, the decision came with the realization that some things are more important than hockey, and that he needed to return home to Boston to be back with his family. And though the exact issues of the situation are obviously private, it’s a decision that is completely supported by the Bruins, according to general manager Don Sweeney.
“We understand completely where Tuukka is coming from,” Sweeney said before Saturday’s Game 3. “I don’t think it’s any big surprise to us, to be honest with you. We’re privy to information maybe before the rest of the public is, and this has been a difficult decision for Tuukka, but the Boston Bruins are in full support of why he made this decision.
“All of our players, we knew this would be a mental challenge, especially players with families. In Tuukka’s case he has a newborn at home with two other young girls, and he just felt that he needs to be home with them at this particular time.”
It was an undeniably odd restart for Rask, who suffered a broken finger early in training camp but traveled to Toronto, only to quarantine as a result of a cough and suit up for two round-robin games and then the first two games of Boston’s first-round series with the Hurricanes. And though the results weren’t exactly horrible, they were far from the Vezina-worthy line Rask put together prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with one win and a .904 save percentage in four appearances.
“You can’t control the timeline of when the playoffs resumed,” Sweeney offered. “Give Tuukka a hell of a lot of credit for trying to persevere through this and initiate the process to come up and be with his teammates because first and foremost that’s what he wants to do, but the priorities are in the right order and this is what he has to do at this time.”
Rask also made some straight-up odd comments following his Game 2 loss. There’s candid goaltender talk and there’s odd goaltender talk, and this honestly seemed to be more towards the latter, all things considered. It was just a stranger, almost disengaged, approach. It was like talking to a friend who’s down in the dumps and them saying “oh, you know” when you ask them how they’re doing. (That’s almost never a good answer beyond the surface, and Rask’s were no exception.)
Those comments weren’t the reason Rask decided to go home, but they did speak to his struggles adjusting to bubble life.
“I think you can rightfully infer that you know Tuukka was having some tough time being away in this environment,” Sweeney acknowledged when asked about Rask’s comments after Game 2. “And nothing against what the NHL has put together and the intensity of the playoffs. This is playoff hockey, I mean let’s make no mistake about it. The stakes are high and the players are invested and Tuukka in his own right felt that he needed to be elsewhere rather than being here in this current situation.
“He’s the same goaltender that went to the Stanley Cup Final in a Game 7 last year, and he’ll be the same player when we get up and running again next year.”
With Rask returning to Boston, Jaroslav Halak will became the B’s starter in pursuit of their first Cup since 2011.
And the 35-year-old is off to a strong start, as he stopped 29-of-30 shots faced in a 3-1 Game 3 victory.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.