Following their elimination from the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs at the hands of the New York Islanders last Wednesday night, members of the Boston Bruins met with the media for their final availability of the season on Friday.
Monday morning, it was coach Bruce Cassidy’s turn. While there was not much eye-popping stuff that came from the Bruins bench boss, there was one thing that the coach touched on and that was the goaltending situation in the series against the Islanders.
Last week, Tuukka Rask revealed that he played the second half of the season and the two rounds of the playoffs with a torn hip labrum, which will require offseason surgery that will keep him out until January or February of 2022. That is of course if he re-signs with the Black and Gold as he is a free agent this summer.
Monday morning, Cassidy said that Rask met daily with the coach, medical staff, and goalie coach Bob Essena to see how the 34-year-old was feeling and whether or not he would be able to play in the next game of each series. It was clear, the Bruins were riding Rask despite his health because they felt he gave them their best chance to win.
What were those meetings like? We’ll never know, but it’s clear that Cassidy and everyone involved thought that Rask gave the Bruins the best chances the next game each night, despite his health.
Was that the right decision? It’s debatable. Unlike last season when Jaroslav Halak was pressed into action in the first round of the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes when Rask left the Toronto playoff bubble to tend to a family matter, Halak was not even on the playoff roster, beaten out by rookie Jeremy Swayman this season.
So why not go to Swayman? Maybe because he was a rookie and the pressure would have been too much compared to the regular season? One thing is for sure, with the way the Boston defense was at the end of the Islanders series, there is not much more anyone could have done to save the Black and Gold and their season. Too many injuries and too much inconsistent play with a bunch of turnovers and easy chances for the Isles to take advantage of did in Cassidy’s crew.
It appears that Cassidy thought that Rask, despite being hampered with his injury, gave his club the best chance to win each night. If not, he would have thrown Swayman into the fire and given the youngster an opportunity in the playoffs. It’s clear that the Bruins were never going to make a switch in net, regardless of the situation. Cassidy made that felt with his comments Monday morning. They were riding an unhealthy Rask as long as they could.