BOSTON – Tuukka Rask wasn’t able to answer the bell on Saturday afternoon with a 24-hour bug that knocked him on his proverbial butt. Some ridiculously thought he was ducking out of a big spot against the Ottawa Senators for a potential playoff bid, and the last minute nature of it seemed like somewhat odd circumstances with Jeremy Smith being called up from Providence.
Instead Jonas Gustavsson got the emergency start for the Black and Gold in the must-win regular season finale, and the Bruins were destroyed by a 6-1 score at the Garden after the B’s backup made 17 saves in the first period.
Rask confirmed on Monday while cleaning out his locker at TD Garden that it was an illness that started the night before, and basically kept him in the bathroom other than an attempt at pregame warm-ups.
“It was [not very good]. I mean I knew I wasn’t going to play, so I just went out there [for pregame warm-ups] and waited until Smitty [Jeremy Smith] came here,” said Rask. “But yeah, when you’re sick you’re sick. Trust me if I felt like there was a chance I would’ve helped the team, I would’ve gone out there. But I couldn’t even stand up really.
“It was terrible obviously, but you know you can’t control it so…it sucks but it’s life, you know? When it happens at the worst possible time, it just happens and you have to just take it, you know?”
Above and beyond that final, GI-challenged game of the year, Rask ends this season on a down note with the Bruins out of the playoffs and his numbers among the lowest of his career after faltering down the stretch behind a leaky defense. He finished 25th with a 2.56 goals against average and tied for 27th with a .915 save percentage, so essentially calling in sick for the must-win final game didn’t sit well with some folks.
It even had Don Cherry calling for Rask to be traded during a phone interview with WEEI on Monday morning after Grapes said Rask “couldn’t stop a beach ball” last week after Boston’s blowout loss to the Blackhawks. For his part, Rask said he wants to be in Boston “for the long run” and has the no-movement clause to make sure that happens.
“I’ve loved every minute being here, and I plan to be here many years to come. So I’m in for the long run, and I want to be part of the solution here, and bring this team back to the playoffs and bring the Cup back. That’s where my head’s at,” said Rask. “If you’re not wanted, then you really don’t have any options, but I doubt that’s going to happen. As I said, I’m here for the long run, and I want to help this team to get back on track. That’s where my head’s at.”
The bottom line with Rask: he needs to be better than this season with a $7 million cap hit for the next five years in Boston, but the Bruins goaltender is far from Boston’s most glaring issue unless he’s again stricken with an ill-timed stomach bug.