Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is perhaps the most polarizing athlete in Boston sports.
Opinions on his performance, toughness and ability to win the Stanley Cup dominate the local sports discussion.
Rask has had a lot of criticism hurled his way since he became the Bruins' starting netminder at the start of the 2012-13 season. Despite being statistically the best goaltender in franchise history, Rask remains the subject of intense scrutiny. Much of that stems from the fact he hasn't yet won a Stanley Cup as a starter, even though the team came close in both 2013 and 2019.
Questioning Rask's toughness would be a foolish endeavor at this specific time given what he played through in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Rask revealed Friday morning that he played with a torn labrum in his hip, and that he plans to have surgery soon to repair it.
Charlie Coyle was asked Friday about the criticism Rask receives, and the Bruins center gave a candid response.
"I think that stuff kinda bounces off him, or it looks like it does. The criticism he gets is just insane," Coyle said. "It's got to be (from) people who just don't watch closely or what, but we all know what Tuukka brings and how good he is, what he plays through, what's done for us and what he's done for organization. For anyone to criticize him is -- someone used the word bozo before -- it's just stupid.
"Tuukka is one of the best goalies and he's been doing it for however long now, playing through stuff. Most people don't know what goes on behind the scenes and what guys go through, what he goes through, what he plays through. And he does it pretty well. We love Tuukka. We all know what he brings every day. I think Tuukka knows that, and that's all he needs."
Rask played excellent in the first round against the Washington Capitals as the B's won the series in five games. The second-round matchup against the New York Islanders was much more of a struggle.
Not only did Rask's performance dip, the team in front of him also suffered from injuries to key defensemen Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller. Turnovers and other costly mistakes put the B's, and Rask in particular, in a tough spot in the defensive zone.
Rask's future with the Bruins is uncertain. He's eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Rask said Friday he wants to return to the B's and has no intention of testing free agency.
What the Bruins decide to do with Rask and the goaltending situation as a whole will be among the main storylines surrounding the team over the next several months. There are plenty of tough decisions to be made.