Losing in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final to the St. Louis Blues will forever be a painful memory for the Boston Bruins, and goaltender Tuukka Rask still hasn't stopped thinking about it.
“I don’t think you ever get over that, still getting flashbacks," Rask said on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" on Tuesday. "But you know, you got to realize it’s only sports, and it is what it is."
Rask was brilliant in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, posting a .934 save percentage and a 2.02 goals against average over 24 games. Unfortunately for Rask and the Bruins, Game 7 against the Blues at TD Garden was not one of his better performances of the spring. Rask allowed four goals on 20 shots as the Blues secured their first ever Stanley Cup championship.
One challenge Rask and the rest of the Bruins have dealt with this offseason is a shorter period of recovery time. Obviously, you'd rather have a shorter offseason because it means your team made a deep playoff run, but it does make preparing for the next season a bit tougher.
“I think the mental aspect is the biggest thing, especially if it’s a disappointing loss like that," Rask said. "You have to just kind of unwind and try to forget about hockey as much as you can. But then again, you only have 2-and-a-half, three months until the next season starts, so you’ve got to take a month for your body to recover. It’s a really small window to kind of recover and then try to get back in shape. I think if you can just kind of do something and stay somewhat in shape and keep skating, that’ll help you start the new season because you only have a couple months between the games. But I think mentally, it’s just such a grind, hockey season, you know you play 82 games plus 25, possibly, so mentally it’s very draining. And the fresher mentally you can be, the better off you are, I think.”
The Bruins did a nice job keeping Rask fresh last season. A huge part of that was signing veteran goalie Jaroslav Halak to serve as the backup. Rask played 46 games and started 45 of them -- his lowest totals for a non-lockout season since 2012. It paid off, too, because he looked fresh and ready to go come playoff time.
Employing a similar strategy during the 2019-20 season will be crucial in allowing Rask to recover from a long playoff run. Halak proved last season that he's more than capable of shouldering the load, evidenced by his 22-11-4 record with a .922 save percentage in 40 appearances.
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