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Mar 7, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) during the second period against the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins have skated without starting goaltender Tuukka Rask in all but one of their last 17 games.

And the only game Rask was dressed for (a Mar. 25 meeting with the Islanders) over that recent 17-game run featured Rask in net for all of 20 minutes before an in-game setback took him back out of action.

The Bruins are aiming for Rask to return to action this Thursday, but this extended absence has predictably prompted another round of reliability-related Rask thinkpieces. It even had one league source telling The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa that something’s happened to Rask down the stretch in four years, and that it’s “gone to [expletive] every time.” Now it’s unclear if that source was outright blaming Rask or suggesting that the Bruins aren’t built to handle a Rask absence.

If it was the former, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy simply doesn’t agree, as the B’s coach of over over four years explained during a Tuesday appearance with Toucher & Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

“I don’t think so,” Cassidy told Rich when asked if that assessment of Rask was fair. “Tuukka had a personal issue last year. We backed him up 100 percent. Unfortunate timing for the Bruins, but family comes first. So we moved on from that in a hurry. The previous year, we went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and [Rask was] arguably our best player throughout the playoffs, so tough to knock him that particular year. I mean, going back to Game 7, I thought were the better team early in the game. We just didn’t finish, [the Blues] did. Give them credit. They were able to win the biggest game of the year. We weren’t quite there, but it certainly wasn’t on Tuukka.”

As always, and for what feels like the millionth time, it’s important to note that the Bruins have supported Rask’s decision to leave the Toronto bubble every single time it’s been brought up. They supported him from inside the bubble, outside the bubble, and support him now. He’s still on the team, and there’s been talk of a possible extension for Rask.

And as it relates to Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, you can focus on the two-goal hole through the first 20 minutes of play, or on the fact that the Bruins didn’t get on the board until Matt Grzelcyk’s goal with just 2:10 remaining in the game. I know which one I consider to be a greater issue, but as always, you are free to do your thing. I feel like we all know how the other feels about that whole mess by now, and why give ourselves the headache again? It’s simply too nice out.

“I think there was something to do with the Ottawa game [but] I wasn’t here then, so I can’t speak to why he didn’t play that game,” Cassidy added, referencing the illness that kept Rask out of a win-and-in game against the Senators on the final day of the regular season in 2016. “So, I disagree with that. I mean, Tuukka has had a few injuries and obviously a couple of setbacks where he wasn’t able to play. But I don’t think it’s something that psychologically that’s going on in his head where he’s planning it out ahead of time [like], ‘Hey, I’m going to kind of screw my teammates here.’

“It’s just the way it’s worked a little bit.”

(Not that I ever doubted this, but it’s always good to know that the coach of the hockey team is a sane human being.)

Cassidy is all too aware of the pressure a goaltender faces (especially one being asked to duplicate or best the once in a lifetime 2011 run from Tim Thomas), too, but is focused on making sure Rask is ready to go and available when needed.

“This [current] injury…  it’s tough,” Cassidy said. “Guys get hurt. He came back a little too soon. Is that his fault? Is that the medical team’s fault? Is that bad luck? I don’t know. But at the end of the day, we want to get him right for the stretch here, because I think every team would tell you that you need your No. 1 goalie. And, you know, that same source might have to look around the league — and I don’t know who that is — and realize that every team is looking for that steady No. 1 goalie.

“And when Tuukka’s on, he’s that guy. I just think it’s that position and this guy right there.

“It’s one of those positions that gets debated a lot. That source could be half of Boston, right? So, who knows.”

You can listen to Cassidy’s full interview with the guys below…

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 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.