Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is leaving the NHL bubble and opting out of the Stanley Cup playoffs, he announced via a statement from the team on Saturday.
“I want to be with my teammates competing, but at this moment there are things more important than hockey in my life, and that’s being with my family,” Rask said. “I want to thank the Bruins and my teammates for their support and wish them success.”
The news came less than two hours before the Bruins’ 3-1 victory in Game 3 of their quarterfinal series against the Carolina Hurricanes. Veteran Jaroslav Halak started Saturday’s victory and posted a .967 save percentage.
“We understand completely where Tuukka is coming from,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said. “I don’t think it’s any big surprise to us, to be honest. We were privy to some information before the rest of the public. This has been a difficult decision for Tuukka. But the Boston Bruins are in full support of why he made this decision.
“His family is safe and healthy,” Sweeney said. “But with a newborn and two other young girls it’s been challenging. It’s nothing specific. Fortunately, his family is healthy. To have their dad back to be around on a regular basis is exactly what Tuukka needs to do at this point in time.”
The Bruins won the Presidents Trophy this season as the only team to hit 100 points before the pause. The 33-year-old Rask, who helped lead the team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019, had a strong season, going 26-8-6 with a .929 save percentage.
During the regular season, Rask had the second-highest save percentage at even strength (.939) among 55 goalies with at least 1,000 minutes. For his career, Rask holds the 11th-best goals against average in NHL history (2.26), minimum 100 games played.
Boston hasn’t looked as dominant in the summer’s restart. The Bruins went winless in the round-robin, dropping from the first to fourth seed, and were poised for a tough battle with Carolina in the first round.
Rask ruffled feathers in the hockey world after Game 2, when he candidly discussed playing in the fanless atmosphere.
“To be honest with you, it doesn’t really feel like playoff hockey out there,” Rask said on Thursday.
Rask later expanded: “You’re trying to play as hard as you can. Obviously, you’re playing a best-of-seven series so there’s going to be some battles going on and whatnot. But when you play at your home rink, you play at an away rink, and there’s fans cheering for you or against you … that creates another buzz around the series. There’s none of that, so it just feels dull at times,” he said. “There might be five minutes and it’s just coast-to-coast hockey and there’s no atmosphere. It just feels like an exhibition game.”
On Friday, coach Bruce Cassidy addressed Rask’s comments after they generated a day’s worth of headlines.
“I didn’t speak to him after his comments. Tuukka, I think the Boston media knows him well enough, he answers his questions how he feels,” Cassidy said. “It is a unique environment, but to me there’s playoff intensity on the ice. You just need to control what you can control when you’re a player and, in my situation, a coach. The way I look at it, at the end of the day, they’re going to hand out the Stanley Cup this year to someone. We’ve got to play our best hockey if we want to be that team.”
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara also answered questions about Rask on Friday.
“I think we all have to realize it’s an adjustment and something that’s completely new and none of us have ever experienced,” Chara said. “So first of all, Tuukka has his rights to his views and opinions. I don’t think he meant anything bad about it, he was just kind of being honest. It does feel a little bit different from the other playoff experiences we’ve had with all of the fans and emotions. I think we’ll just continue to make adjustments going forward and feeling more comfortable in the environment that we are playing in right now.”
The Bruins hope Halak will quickly get comfortable in net and bring with him some of his past postseason success.
He helped the 8-seed Canadiens pull off upsets against the Penguins and Capitals in 2010. Halak has played a total of 10 playoff games since playing in the conference finals in 2010.