Bruins admit there will be 'challenges' to keep Rask in the zone after long layoff

Bruins admit there will be 'challenges' to keep Rask in the zone after long layoff

BRIGHTON, Mass – For most members of the Bruins, the 10-day reprieve between the Eastern Conference Final and the Stanley Cup Final is going to be a very good thing for healing bumps and bruises, and for recharging the batteries after playing 18 bruising postseason games in the first three rounds.

Interestingly enough the Bruins indicated they’ll be scrimmaging to stay sharp with pseudo-game conditions, and they will also hit the New England Patriots for advice about the two weeks spent preparing for the Super Bowl. But even the largest amount of rust will probably be gone for most players after the first period of Game 1 at TD Garden regardless of the opponent.

“Ultimately it will be up to him about getting a read on where the players are, first of all mentally and physically. We’ve given them the first couple days off, we’re going to practice for a couple days,” said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “We now know the schedule, so we can start to forecast. A little bit depends on where the players are at.

“[Zdeno Chara] missed the final game. We have to give guys the appropriate time to recover and then go to work. I think our guys know how to practice. We’re a team that likes to practice, except for [David Krejci], who has publicly stated that he doesn’t like to practice. But I think this time of the year he’ll show up and practice accordingly.”

The one exception to all of this could be Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who has been “in the zone” for the first three rounds of the postseason while leading all players as the top candidate for the Conn Smythe Award this spring. Rask is an amazing 12-5-0 in 17 games with a 1.84 goals against average and a .942 save percentage, and is coming off a blistering .956 save percentage in the Eastern Conference Final sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes.

He’s consistently been Boston’s best player throughout the postseason, and will need to be in the Stanley Cup Final if the Bruins hope to win it all. There’s also the unique challenge for the Bruins of ways to keep Rask “in the zone” even though he’s going to go almost two weeks between playoff games, and that’s something the B’s acknowledged as they rested this weekend after capturing the Eastern Conference.

“I think Tuukka missed, when he was concussed, I think he missed quite a bit of time then came back and played well,” said Sweeney. “He’s in a really good place, a really good place mentally and physically and his routines. He’s gone out game days. In the past, he hasn’t. He’s gone out for specific reasons. I think he’ll continue to do those things. It’s just the game, to get into the flow of the game and speed of the game you can’t ever simulate, so there will be challenges, certainly. Tuukka is in a really good place, and I expect him to return there.”

Certainly the Black and Gold will need him "to return there" if they hope to come home with the Cup. 

As Sweeney referenced, Rask missed 11 days sandwiched around the week-long bye and NHL All-Star weekend after getting concussed in a collision at the net with Filip Chytil, and then made 38 saves in a 3-2 OT loss to the Flyers when he did return from the long layoff. So there’s hope that Rask can stay dialed in despite the lengthy break in between series, but it won’t be a lockdown certainty until things get going with either the Sharks or the Blues on May 27 at TD Garden for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Until then the B’s coaching staff has to work on keeping the team as sharp as possible, and hope that Rask remains “in the zone” for at least another three weeks. 

Bruins will seek advice from Patriots about long layoff>>> 

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Zdeno Chara joins Patrice Bergeron in admirable action this week while attending Boston protest

File photo

Zdeno Chara joins Patrice Bergeron in admirable action this week while attending Boston protest

The Boston Bruins leadership group has shown they are about more than simple lip service and social media posts when it comes to what’s been going on in this country over the last few weeks.

Patrice Bergeron made a $50,000 donation to a pair of worthy causes this week in the Boston branch of the NAACP and Centre Multiethnique de Quebec while releasing a lengthy, passionate statement through the Bruins.

B's captain Zdeno Chara was spotted in all his 6-foot-9 glory walking in Boston on Friday afternoon during one of the protests through the city streets while sporting a Bruins mask in the crowd.

None of this is a surprise as both the 43-year-old Chara and the 33-year-old Bergeron have fostered a welcoming, friendly environment in the Bruins dressing over the years. The Bruins veterans don’t even really use the word “rookie” because Chara has always believed that it creates unnecessary separation between younger and older teammates that shouldn’t exist in a team setting.

Bergeron is partially credited with helping pull a black teammate named Gemel Smith out of a mental funk that he was mired in during his time with the Bruins. Bergeron urged Smith to talk to somebody professionally when he sensed that something wasn’t quite right with his new teammate and it helped Smith turn things around personally and professionally when he was with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season.

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Smith ended up playing just three games with the Bruins last season after being picked up on waivers, but even in that brief time Bergeron had managed to reach out and make a connection with the player that made a lasting impact. That’s exactly the kind of healthy, welcoming dressing room that’s made the Bruins a success over the years.

There isn’t a long history of black players with the Bruins in recent years as Smith, Jarome Iginla and Malcolm Subban are the only black NHLers to suit up with Boston over the last decade. So there haven't been a great deal of opportunities for Bergeron, Chara and the rest of the B’s leadership core to show just much they embrace the diversity and equal treatment for all that so many around the NHL are voicing in the days since George Floyd was horrifically killed by Minneapolis police officers.

But give full credit to both Bergeron and Chara for stepping up this week, representing the Bruins in a manner they would be proud of and showing that it’s about actions as much as -- if not more than -- words when it comes to promoting equal treatment for all, and a better tomorrow for people of all races and backgrounds.

Breaking down the winners and losers of NHL 24-team season return format

Breaking down the winners and losers of NHL 24-team season return format

The NHL has their 24-team postseason format and they’ve even drilled down on some of the specifics this week.

We still don’t know exactly when the Stanley Cup postseason can start or when NHL training camps would be going full speed ahead. Also, all of the matchups beyond the “qualifying round” are still very much in the air.

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Clearly there is still plenty we don’t know about the Stanley Cup Playoffs once the NHL presses the play button in the next few months.

But we do know enough about the proposed postseason to know who will benefit, and who will be getting the short end of the stick. So that’s enough to put together the always popular winners and losers list when it comes to the new NHL postseason format. 

Click here for the gallery.