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Bean: Time for Tuukka Rask-less Bruins to face reality

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The Bruins have enough problems as it is. The last thing they need is any sort of conversation about Tuukka Rask. 

No, not the annoying, “If he takes them to the Cup Final and they lose, can we blame him?” conversation we like to have in Boston, but more the stuff from the last 12 months: Will he be there? 

Rask has played one game since March 7, when he left after a period against the New Jersey Devils. The Bruins have called it an upper-body injury, but it sure looked like it was back-related given how Rask held his back as he skated off the ice late in that early March contest.

The Bruins are 6-4-2 since Rask first began missing time. There aren’t points for overtime losses in the playoffs, so think of their win-loss record as .500. You go .500 in the playoffs, you get eliminated.

On thin ice

Bruins' win percentage in last 12 games without Rask
50.0%

The Athletic's Fluto Shinzawa wrote Monday that his read on the situation is that the Bruins “don’t really know when Rask will be available.” With Jaroslav Halak out due to a positive COVID test, the Bruins’ goaltenders are now Dan Vladar and Jeremy Swayman. 

With all due respect to Halak, Vladar and Swayman, the Bruins need to know what’s going on with Rask as soon as possible. We saw what it looked like last year when Rask opted out of the postseason. The B’s went up against the Lightning and got positively smoked.

 

Their roster isn’t any better this year, and though they can’t face Tampa until the Eastern Conference finals, it’s hard to see this group beating two of the Washington Capitals, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs.

The Bruins need multiple moves to be considered a contender. Most notably, they need at least one wing who can score, but their rotation of young defensemen screams “doable in the regular season; will be an issue in the playoffs.” (See: 2014 playoffs.)

Five defensemen the Bruins should target at NHL trade deadline

The trade deadline is in a week. Even if Rask starts playing again before then, there’s no way the Bruins can feel good enough about his situation to invest heavily in this season. They’re currently holding down the final playoff spot in the East, so unless someone wants to go crazy for David Krejci, they shouldn’t sell. They should probably just ride it out with a low-cost addition or two, knowing this isn’t going to be their year. 

If Rask were healthy, it would be a different story. We could get sentimental and talk about making one last push with the remaining members of Boston’s longtime core, especially given that Rask and Krejci are in walk years. 

As is, though? The Bruins already don’t know where they’ll get their secondary scoring or what their blue line will look like from week to week. This is the type of team that would need to be carried by a great goaltender down the stretch. If they don’t even know whether he'll be there, they shouldn’t expect much of a run.