Tuukka Rask is set to return in goal for the Boston Bruins on Thursday night. That news is either comforting or alarming, depending on whom you ask.
One of the most polarizing athletes in the history of Boston sports, Rask has been one of the most productive goaltenders in the NHL over his career, including a .926 save percentage and 2.20 goals against average in 93 career playoff games. But there’s also a “0” in the most important stat of all: Stanley Cup championships as the starting goalie.
Rask came so painfully close to getting that first ring as a starter, and locking up a Conn Smythe Trophy in the process, that until he does break through, many fans and media will associate him with coming up short in the biggest moments. For all of Rask’s talent, his availability in recent stretch runs has been inconsistent. His legacy has become one of the most intense sports debates Boston has had this century.
But in the Bruins’ locker room, there’s no debate. Ask winger Brad Marchand, and he’ll tell you Rask’s return will help take pressure off the team as they enter a crucial stretch of their schedule. If you’re one of those who feels un-easy about Rask’s chances of winning, as opposed to relative unknowns like Jeremy Swayman or Daniel Vladar, Marchand feels the opposite way.
“It kind of puts us at ease a little bit,” Marchand said on Rask’s return. “He’s been one of the best goalies in the last decade in this league. When he’s in net for our team, we have an opportunity to win every single night, especially in crunch time when we need him.
“Hopefully he allows us to feel comfortable and give us that extra chance, when maybe we’re not playing at our best that night or we need a save to calm us down.”
Rask will need to get that ring in order to shut up everyone who’s criticized or doubted him over the years, sometimes harshly so. We’ll see if he even gets that opportunity again. But it’s clear that the Bruins still consider him their best option in goal, and when he’s healthy, he’s in. Whether you’re uneasy or comfortable about that reality, this is the ride we’re going to take for the rest of the 2020-21 season.
But we can also take baby steps along the way. For Rask, Step 1 is being there in the first place.
Here are some other takeaways from today’s Bruins media availability ahead of Thursday’s game against the Islanders…
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.