How Rask is viewed in Boston, if he might never play for the Bruins again, and the situation for the remainder of the playoffs.
Tuukka Rask opted out of the remainder of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs before the Bruins game three contest with the Carolina Hurricanes. Backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak would go on to lead the Bruins to a 3-1 victory in that game.
Let's just face it. Tuukka Rask has faced far too much criticism from both Boston media and fans, and that was long before he chose to opt out. He is constantly chastised for his so called "failure in important games." The fact is though, that without Rask, the Bruins often wouldn't make many of those "important games."
Take last year's Cup Final run for instance. Rask is blamed for losing game seven, but the truth is the Bruins were a few bounces away from winning that game despite what the score says. In addition, Rask was the Bruins undisputed best player those entire playoffs. Had the Bruins won that game, Rask was going to win the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoffs MVP.
A lot of people were also rubbed the wrong way a bit about Rask's comments after game three. He said, “To be honest with you, it doesn’t really feel like playoff hockey, there’s no fans. It’s kind of like you’re playing an exhibition game...But it’s definitely not a playoff atmosphere.”
He later added that, "it just feels dull at times. There are moments that, OK, there are little scrums and whatnot. But then there might be five minutes, and it’s just coast-to-coast hockey and there is no atmosphere. It just feels like an exhibition game.”
Rask is going to take even more heat now in Boston because of his decision to opt out. It really is unwarranted though. You really can't blame someone for wanting to be with their family, especially after his wife recently had a baby.
Now the timing of his decision was not great. For the Bruins, it would have been better if he had chosen to not play before this whole thing started, or even after the round robin games. But he didn't know. I'm sure he thought that he would be fine for the whole playoffs, but he just wasn't. Sometimes you just don't know until you do it.
As far as the talks about if he will ever play for the Bruins again, it really depends on his choice. He still has one more year on his contract. He also mentioned earlier this year that he will contemplate retirement at that time, despite being just 33 years old. The thought is that he might just retire before next season.
I think that is a very possible outcome. If he doesn't though, he will still play in Boston. It is not like they are going to trade him or something because he chose to opt out. I have a lot of respect for Jaroslav Halak, and fully believe he can lead the B's to the Cup, but I don't want him as our full time starter next year. Neither does Bruins management.
I've also heard opinions that the team won't accept Rask back in the locker room after he "bailed on them in the playoffs." That is just ridiculous. Hockey players, and especially those on the Bruins have a lot of respect for each other. His teammates also realize how much Rask has meant to them over the years. That will be no problem at all.
There are a few goalies that could step up should Rask retire, but none of them are ready to start at the NHL level. Daniel Vladar and Max Legace are both with the team right now, but Jeremy Swayman might be the franchise's future starter. He spent the year at the University of Maine, where he was the undisputed best goalie in the nation. He was also a Hobey Baker award finalist for the best overall player in college hockey.
In terms of this season's playoffs, I fully believe the Bruins can win the Cup with Halak in net. Will it be more difficult? Absolutely. Sometimes things like this can unite a team though, so I am hoping that is the case here. Jaro Halak is a good gaolie. My biggest concern with him is that he might not be as consistent night in and night out throughout the entire postseason as Rask.
For certain stretches during the year Halak was the superior goalie to Rask though. Don't count the Bruins out yet.