Kalman: Tuukka Rask's injury epitomizes Bruins’ season so far


Are the 2018-19 Bruins cursed?

If you’re inclined to believe in such things, you’d pretty much have to subscribe to such a theory when it comes to the team that just can't stay healthy.

Heading into their 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers at TD Garden on Saturday, the Bruins had lost 162 man games to injury through 48 games with Joakim Nordstrom still sidelined with a fractured fibula.

And then with 1:28 remaining in the first period, Rangers forward Filip Chytil not only scored a goal to make the score 1-1 but crashed into Charlie McAvoy and then goaltender Tuukka Rask, leaving Rask flat on his back for several minutes.

After being examined by trainer Donnie Del Negro, Rask was helped off the ice and didn’t return. He was diagnosed with a concussion shortly after he left the game. Coach Bruce Cassidy said Rask, who is on a seven-game point streak (6-0-1), entered the NHL concussion protocol.

“The best-case scenario for those is usually the next day if he’s doing well. Then he’s up and running and it shouldn’t be too badly affected by it other than the immediate … kind of pain and symptoms,” Cassidy said. “If he’s not, then it’s one of those where you just keep your fingers crossed and hope it settles itself out quickly.”

The Bruins don’t play again until Jan. 29 because of their bye week and then the All-Star break. That should give him and the rest of his teammates time to rest and recuperate. It’ll also give them some time to reflect on their recent play, which has been spotty.

Boston’s loss to the Rangers wasn’t just symbolic of the type of first 49 games they’ve played because a key player was injured and they were able to battle before coming up one goal short. They missed Zdeno Chara for 19 games, Patrice Bergeron for 16, Kevan Miller for 26 and Torey Krug for 11. Yet they went into their nine days off in a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

But recently they’ve been trying to buck an ugly trend of letting standings points they should have slip out of their hands against lesser teams like the Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils, all of whome are in the bottom half of the conference. Cassidy didn’t want to insult any team and credited the Rangers for their improved play of late (they’ve won three in a row).

However, he couldn’t help but acknowledge there’s a problem when it comes to the Bruins and teams behind them in the standings.

“So, that’s another thing that needs to be addressed. Are we playing down to the level of competition or are we going to play to our standard?” Cassidy said. “I think that the message from us as a coaching staff over the last two, three years is we need to play to our standard. So, I guess that’s the message we have to get back to and start measuring ourselves against our best selves, so to speak.”

The Bruins just got to the cusp of complete health on New Year’s Day. Despite losing three of their past four games (1-2-1), they’re 6-3-1 since the turn of the calendar – respectable enough considering injured players sometimes take time to get up to speed, chemistry takes time to grow.

But now Rask leaves the lineup. We don’t know how long he’ll be out or if he’ll miss any games, we just know that right now he might be the most indispensable Bruins player. Jaroslav Halak once looked like he was going to challenge for the Vezina Trophy. He’ 1-3-0 with a .856 save percentage in 2019. A team that had no worries about riding Halak while Rask was struggling and taking a brief leave of absence from the team should have some qualms about leaning on Halak now.

Perhaps the well-time arrival of the bye week and All-Star break is proof that the Bruins aren’t cursed. Depending how the next nine days unfold in Rask’s life and what the stretch run holds for the Bruins in terms of health and on-ice results, we’ll know if they’re going to be more fortunate in the final third of the season. Of course, they can’t control how quickly Rask recuperates, but they’ll be fully responsible for how they handle playing the games and battling for a playoff spot.