BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins are taking an interesting approach to Tuukka Rask this week as they wait for the Stanley Cup Final to begin a week from now.
Rather than pepper him with shots in practice this week or come up with some elaborate way to keep him in the zone, the Bruins goaltender’s teammates’ biggest strategy is to stay the hell away from him. You have to respect their commitment to leaving alone a guy who’s at the top of this spring’s Conn Smythe candidates with a 12-5-0 record with a 1.84 goals against average and a .942 save percentage, and a goalie who’s pretty much matching what Tim Thomas had done to this point during the 2011 Stanley Cup playoff run.
The big difference for Rask: Thomas was otherworldly in the Cup Final against Vancouver while posting a .967 save percentage and only allowing eight goals in the seven-game series. Rask had a pretty good .932 save percentage while allowing 16 goals in six games against the Blackhawks in 2013, so he needs to be better than pretty good this time around in the Cup Final to truly match Thomas’ playoff run beginning to end.
So with that in mind, Rask won’t be having too many conversations with the guys on his team this week or next in a time-honored hockey superstition akin to not talking to a baseball pitcher during a perfect game.
“I don’t even talk to the guy right now,” said Bruins defenseman Torey Krug. “I’ll try to ignore him and I’m sure he’s trying to ignore me. I’d say that’s probably a common theme in this locker room. From Day One of the playoffs he’s had a routine and he’s had that look in his eye. I think most guys fall in that category of just letting him do his thing and kind of tip-toeing around him. [You just want to] stay out of the way of his routine.”
Clearly it’s going to be a challenge to keep Rask “in the zone” with the 10 days between the conference final and the Stanley Cup Final, and much of it will be up to him to remain mentally and physically sharp after a long layoff. But it also sounds like his teammates are going to do whatever is necessary to get him there, and keep him there, prior to the Memorial Day Cup Final start against either the St. Louis Blues or the San Jose Sharks.
“We leave him alone. You leave him be. You don’t get into his head at all and you let him do his thing. Whatever he wants to do, you let him do it,” said Brad Marchand, with a smile. "But he’s a pro. He’s been around for a long time so he knows how to prepare himself and stay sharp. We have to do the same thing in the room.”
It’s not exactly an uncommon theme for hockey players to just totally leave their goalie alone when one is going through a hot streak like Rask is right now, and the Bruins players are adhering to hockey tradition in that way. They just have to hope that the silent treatment is exactly what the doctor ordered for a player in Rask who’s playing at the highest level of his career when it comes to excelling during the biggest moments of the postseason.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.