The Boston Bruins have had a rough couple of months.
A frustrating exit from the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and losing top-four defenseman Torey Krug in NHL free agency lead the list of disappointing developments for the Original Six club.
Boston's offseason as a whole has been lackluster so far. Replacing Krug on the blue line remains an issue, and captain Zdeno Chara still is unsigned. Restricted free agent forward Jake DeBrusk also is without a contract. The addition of free agent winger Craig Smith was a solid upgrade, but he alone won't fix the team's secondary scoring woes.
Despite all of that, the Bruins' still have one of the best rosters in the Eastern Conference and, if healthy, should be among its top contenders.
One player sure to play a critical role in Boston's success or failure next season is goaltender Tuukka Rask. He's confident the B's will be a competitive club during the 2020-21 season.
“I don’t think we’re changing that much,” Rask recently told Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic. “It sucks for Torey that he wasn’t able to stick around and had to move on. But if you look at the past five or six years, I think we’re past that rebuild phase, or whatever people were talking about at that point. Years ago, we were bringing these people in, young guys in, giving them minutes and getting them comfortable playing in the NHL.
"That’s been working really good for us. We always talk that it’s not the Providence Bruins and Boston Bruins. We have so many people coming up and down the line that everybody feels comfortable playing with anybody. I think that’s one of our main strengths.
“From my perspective, nothing changes. I think we’re a very competitive team, regardless of when we start playing. I don’t know what Z’s situation is. He’s obviously been a part of the organization for a long time, captain and a big piece. Who knows what’s going to happen there. Regardless of what happens, I think we have a very competitive team. I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully, this season kicks off at some point. Because it seems to be the waiting game again.”
The Finnish netminder is coming off a very impressive campaign during which he placed second in Vezina Trophy voting after leading the league in goals against average and ranking No. 2 in save percentage.
Rask did not participate in the Bruins' entire 2020 playoff run. He left the league's Toronto bubble before Game 3 of the team's first-round series versus the Carolina Hurricanes to return to his family. Jaroslav Halak replaced Rask as the No. 1 goalie and was unable to lead them past the eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.
The 33-year-old goalie's name came up in trade rumors over the offseason, but right now it appears he will enter the 2020-21 season as the team's starting netminder.
It's an important season for Rask. Not only is he entering the final year of his contract, the upcoming campaign could be the last run at a Stanley Cup title for Boston's current veteran core.
If the Bruins are going to return to the Stanley Cup Final and finish the job, they'll need consistently strong play from Rask throughout the season to make up for the team's lack of ideal scoring depth.