Tuukka Rask has been lights out since returning from injury on April 15, as he is now 6-0-0 with a .943 save percentage in that span following a 20-save shutout against the Devils Monday night.
With the Bruins officially clinching a playoff berth with the win, the question becomes how many more starts Rask will get over the final five regular-season games.
According to the veteran goalie, it won’t be many.
“Probably one or two games, I’m guessing,” Rask said after the game. “That’ll be it.”
There had previously been some thought that Rask could use as many games as possible to get into a rhythm before the playoffs, but Rask’s play suggests he is already there, and his comments suggest rest would be more beneficial than reps when it comes to postseason preparation.
“Yeah, at this point, less is more, I’d say,” Rask said.
Rask suffered an upper-body injury back on March 7, when he left the ice at the end of the game grabbing his back after a collision that had taken place a short time earlier. He returned on March 25, but played just one period before re-aggravating the injury. He then missed three more weeks before finally returning -- the Bruins hope for good -- on April 15.
In answering a question about the physical and mental challenges of this season and whether he is now 100 percent physically, Rask said he’s not.
“I don’t think I’ve been 100 percent physically, I don’t know since when,” Rask said. “That’s probably been this year for me -- physically, just grinding it out. … It’s always a challenge physically and mentally, but I think we should be proud of how our team handled this past month or so, when we’re playing every other night or a back-to-back situation. Gotta be proud of the guys and how they’ve handled that. But personally, I think the physical aspect has been more challenging for me.”
It’s obviously not ideal for the Bruins that Rask isn’t 100 percent yet, but if a little more rest down the stretch helps him continue to play the way he’s been playing, they can live with that.
Rask only playing one or two more games could also open the door for Jaroslav Halak to get a start or two. Halak returned on April 23 after a bout with COVID-19 that cost him nearly three weeks, but he has not yet gotten a start as rookie Jeremy Swayman has passed him on the depth chart with his excellent play across eight starts.
The Bruins' remaining games are Tuesday at New Jersey, Thursday and Saturday at home against the Rangers, Monday against the Islanders, and then Tuesday at Washington.
Regardless of how things play out over these final five games, Rask said he’s looking forward to the playoffs and thinks the Bruins, who are now 10-2-0 since the trade deadline, are playing the right way and ready to chase “bigger goals.”
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but I think lately we’ve kind of found our game and our identity and stuck to it,” Rask said. “Every year you make the playoffs, you can check that box off. It’s a great accomplishment, but we have obviously bigger goals in mind, and we get to go for it again.
“…That’s always the best time of our careers and our season, the playoff run,” Rask added. “Hopefully, 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 getting to see a little bit more of the normal atmosphere inside the Garden and outside the Garden. Really looking forward to that. And then, we’re going to get our second vaccine soon too, so hopefully these restrictions and this pandemic are going to be kind of somewhat over sometime soon.”