Bruins

Why Bruins stuck with Tuukka Rask over Swayman vs. Islanders

Bruins

If you want to second-guess the Boston Bruins after their second-round Stanley Cup Playoff exit, you could start in net.

Head coach Bruce Cassidy started Tuukka Rask in every game of Boston's series against the New York Islanders despite the goaltender battling what was later revealed as a torn labrum in his hip. Even after pulling Rask following two periods of Game 5 in favor of rookie Jeremy Swayman, Cassidy went back to Rask in Game 6, where he allowed four goals on 27 shots in the Bruins' season-ending loss.

Cassidy explained what went into the decisions to pull Rask in Game 5 and start him in Game 6 over Swayman, who had played well during the regular season.

"We were never going to run out a player who wasn't fit to play," Cassidy said Monday in a video press conference. "(Rask) regularly told us he was ready to go. In Game 5 going into the second period I thought he didn't look as sharp. (Bruins goaltending coach) Bob (Essensa) talked to him, he said he was lacking some energy, so we said, 'We'll go with Swayman in the third, and then we'll sort out Game 6.' "

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After Swayman allowed one goal on three shots in Boston's Game 5 loss, Cassidy checked in with Rask, who told his head coach he was "feeling better" and good enough to play. That was enough for Cassidy to stick with his veteran.

"He went through his routine, his maintenance," Cassidy said. "He didn't skate a lot between games, (but) he got the morning skate in and felt ready to go. And then it comes onto me. I have to make the final call on who gives us the best chance to win, and I choose Tuukka. So, no regrets on that. I feel he gave us the best chance to win."

 

Rask is one of only two active goaltenders with over 100 career playoff starts (Marc-Andre Fleury is the other), so Cassidy felt that experience trumped Swayman's upside. According to Cassidy, the Bruins' veteran leaders felt the same way.

"Some of those decisions also go through the leadership group: 'Where are you guys at in terms of your mental psyche with the goaltending?' And they were all on board with Tuukka as well," Cassidy said. "They certainly believe in Swayman, but Tuukka has been there and done it."

Rask posted an .897 save percentage over six games against the Islanders, so with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps Swayman deserved a start after stopping 94.5% of shots during the regular season. But both goalies would have been hampered by a banged-up B's defensive group whose lack of depth was exposed throughout the series, so there's a good chance a change in net wouldn't have changed the final outcome.