Speaking with the media two weeks ago, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask made it clear that he’s not 100 percent.
Oddly enough, that admission came after his first shutout of the year. And after Rask’s second shutout of the campaign, this time in a postseason-clinching victory in New Jersey, Rask once again noted that he’s not at 100 percent.
“I don’t think I’ve been 100 percent physically, I don’t know since when,” a chuckling Rask admitted when asked about the battle of mental vs. physical fatigue. “But that’s probably been this year for me physically, just kind of grinding it out mentally.
“Obviously I didn’t play for a month or whatever there, so you kind of get a break from hockey in that regard. I guess it’s always a challenge physically and mentally. But I think we gotta be proud about how our team handled this past month or so when we were playing every other night or a back-to-back situation. Gotta be proud of the guys, how they handled that. But personally, I think the physical aspect has been the most challenging this year for me.”
Truth be told, you wouldn’t know it, as the 34-year-old Rask has been nails since returning to the lineup last month.
Following Monday’s 20-save shutout win, Rask is now 6-0-0 with a .943 save percentage in seven games since Apr. 15. (His worst effort over that stretch, a 24-of-28 performance in Buffalo on Apr. 23, ended with a no decision as the Bruins clawed back late and saw Jaroslav Halak tagged with the eventual game-winning goal against.) Rask has also posted an all-situation high-danger save percentage of .909 over that span, which ranks as the second-best figure among the 26 goalies with at least 300 minutes in net since Rask returned to the Boston lineup last month.
Perhaps most importantly, Rask’s puck-tracking seems to be there and at its 2021 best, the movement in the crease hasn’t been stiff, and there really hasn’t any close calls or noticeably labored movements after whistles. I would even argue that Monday featured the most active Rask to date, with more than a few puck plays in an effort to spark the B’s rush the other way.
So, if this is what you’re getting at less than 100 percent, it would behoove the Bruins to take any and every extra measure to inch Rask closer to 100 percent for when these teams truly begin to matter in a best-of-seven format. For Rask, that would include ‘one or two’ more starts over the final five games of the B’s regular season slate.
“At this point, less is more,” offered Rask.
Especially with Rask, who opted out of the 2020 bubble in Toronto after his daughter was involved in a medical emergency back in Boston, ready to turn the page and focus on a closer to ‘normal’ postseason run in Boston.
“[The playoffs] are always the best time of our careers and our season,” said Rask. “I think we’re going to have a little bit more fans in the building, kind of pump up the atmosphere. The weather’s going to be nice, things are opening up around Boston. So you’re definitely going to see a little bit more of the like the normal atmosphere in the Garden and outside the Garden.
“Every every year is different. Every situation is different. Obviously, it’s nice to make the playoffs have a chance to compete. Really looking forward to competing again.”
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.