Bruins

Tuukka Rask not a fan of bubble playoff hockey: 'It's like playing an exhibition game'

Bruins

Tuukka Rask was far from the problem in Boston’s 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series in the Toronto bubble at Scotiabank Arena.  

The goalie was beaten on a couple of short side rockets from Carolina snipers Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov, and the game-winner for Dougie Hamilton in the third period was a big-league blast after the B’s ran around in their own zone. In all, he stopped 23-of-26 shots, which was a pretty similar performance to Rask stopping 25-of-28 shots in their Game 1 double-overtime win against the Hurricanes.

The .889 save percentage that Rask is sporting after two games against the Hurricanes certainly isn’t anything to write home about.

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But Rask made some strange comments after the loss downplaying the playoff atmosphere inside the Toronto bubble with the empty seats. Rask compared the atmosphere to an exhibition game feel rather than the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which is understandable in some ways.

But it’s one thing to bag on the round-robin tournament that had zero meaning for a Bruins team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Rask’s comments on the Game 2 loss really fly in the face of everybody else among the Bruins group working diligently and sacrificing family time to embark on this unusual Cup run.

“To be honest with you, it doesn’t really feel like playoff hockey out there. There are no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game,” said Rask. “It’s definitely not a playoff atmosphere out there. You try and play as hard as you can. When you’re playing at a home rink and an away rink and the fans are cheering for and against you, it really creates a buzz for the series.

 

“There’s none of that. So it just feels like dull at times. There are moments when there are scrums and whatnot, and then there will be five minutes when it’s coast-to-coast hockey. There’s no atmosphere. So it feels like an exhibition game. We’re trying our best to ramp and get energized, and make it feel like it’s a playoff game.”

You can’t ever fault Rask for being honest, and that’s exactly what he’s doing in describing these bubble games when he knows just exciting Stanley Cup Playoff hockey can be during normal times in front of packed NHL arenas. But this really isn’t the kind of less-than-enthusiastic message anybody wants to hear from Boston’s No. 1 goaltender at the start of what the team hopes will be a long, deep run into the postseason.

Maybe somebody on that Bruins team needs to find a way to get the goaltender into more of a playoff mindset that Rask clearly isn’t a couple of games into Boston’s postseason run in this most unusual 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff experience?  

Or maybe, just maybe, Rask needs to get over the dullness of the bubble hockey environment and be like the rest of his Bruins teammates that clearly seem to be on the same page about making the best of their current situation in Toronto.

Either way, it's going to sound like Rask is already cranking up the excuse-making machine just in case the Bruins eventually fall short in the playoffs and further clouds just how important getting a Cup is to him at this point.