Rest is on the way for Tuukka Rask as Bruins clinch playoff spot
All Tuukka Rask needed for his 52nd career National Hockey League shutout was a 20-save performance as the Bruins skated to a 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Monday, punching their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With their spot in the playoffs locked in for the fifth straight season, rest is on the way for Rask in what has been a grueling season for most.
“One or two games I’m guessing, that’ll probably be it,” Rask said when asked how many of remaining five games he expects to play in. “At this point, less is more.”
A few weeks ago after a shutout of the Buffalo Sabres, Rask admitted he was still nowhere near 100 percent as he worked his way back from an injury.
And still, even with a 6-0-0 record, a .943 save percentage and a 1.64 goals-against average since his return, Rask is far from 100 percent.
“I don’t think I’ve been 100 percent physically, I don’t know since when. That’s probably been this year for me physically, just kind of grinding it out mentally,” said Rask.
“Obviously I didn’t play for a month or whatever there, kind of get a break from hockey in that regard. You’re just rehabbing and trying to get back out there. It’s always a challenge physically and mentally, but I think we’ve got to be proud of how our team handled this past month or so playing every other night or back-to-back situations.”
The Bruins remaining five games are still important. Other than getting their game to where they want it to be, and making sure they’re in a good position entering the playoffs, seeding is still up for grabs.
The Bruins enter Tuesday third in the East division, three points behind the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins who are tied atop the division. The Bruins have two games in hand on the Penguins and one on the Capitals.
Jaroslav Halak will get the start Tuesday night.
“Tuukka is probably going to play two more games—home games. Won’t be the back-to-back, won’t put him in that, haven’t put him in that position all year going into the playoffs,” said Cassidy.
“After that we’ll sort who gets what game. Let’s see how Jaro does tonight first and foremost, see where his game is at. We know Tuukka is on his game and we know that Swayman has played well for us as well. “
With four games left after tonight, I would guess Swayman gets the two other starts, giving Rask just enough rest to get himself ready for a playoff run, and hopefully doing so without killing the momentum he’s built since his return.
“I think we’ve been playing really good hockey the last few weeks. I think we’ve found our identity and stuck with it for the most part and that’s what it takes,” said Rask.
“You look at our division and no matter who we play, it’s going to be a challenge to win four games. The way we’ve been playing lately we’re going to at least give ourselves the best chance to do that and hopefully make a run.”
The Bruins are a whole new team since the trade deadline and finally look like a Stanley Cup contender. If that is to be true, the Bruins will need Rask to continue with the play he’s shown over the last three weeks.
“That’s always the best times of our seasons and our careers—the playoff runs,” said Rask. “Every year you make the playoffs and you can check that box off, it’s a great accomplishment in this league. We have bigger goals in mind and we get to go for it again.”