Did losing a playoff game to 39-year-old Craig Anderson make Tuukka Rask contemplate career mortality?
Sure sounded like it after the Bruins lost 3-2 to the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup first round Saturday.
After watching his team hardly test the veteran, who relieved an injured Vitek Vanecek 11 minutes into the game and finished with 21 saves, Rask — one of just two Bruins players tasked with answering for the defeat — was quizzed on his future beyond this season.
Boston Globe Hall of Fame writer Kevin Paul Dupont asked Rask if the Bruins’ playoff run will determine what he does after his contract expires this offseason.
“I haven’t really thought of that,” Rask replied. “I think I just try to go game by game, series by series and then see what the future brings after that. Obviously, there’s going to be some decisions to be made, but we’ll do that when the time’s right. Right now I’m not thinking that, I’m just thinking game by game and series by series.”
Dupont followed up: does Rask feel that “body-wise, health-wise” he’s ready to give another season a go.
“I’m not going to answer that right now,” the 34-year-old Boston netminder said. “I’ll talk to you after the season, you’ll find out.”
If the Bruins don’t find their offensive game, we might not be in suspense for long. Hopefully for the Bruins, Rask isn’t basing his decision on their ability to get inside of the Capitals’ defenders and make life more difficult on Washington’s goaltenders in Game 1.
If that were the case, he’d be as good as gone.
Nonetheless, Rask gave up three goals — one on an odd-man rush, two on deflections — and it wasn’t enough because Boston’s top six brought nothing to the table against an ancient goalie who was playing just his fifth game of the season and his second game in a month.
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David Pastrnak had an assist on Nick Ritchie’s power-play goal, but the top-line right wing and the rest of Boston’s top six went point-less otherwise.
“I just think a lot of those guys that have been doing a lot of scoring for us just weren’t able to get to their game tonight or get the puck to cooperate or support each other well enough to generate enough offense,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Other than that, it was not really typical of what we’ve seen lately from that group. So hopefully Game 2 they’re a little sharper.”
Maybe Rask, a popular guy around the dressing room as far as goaltenders go, was trying to light a fire under his teammates with his vague response about his future. “Play better or I’m going home,” he might’ve been saying.
Better yet, maybe he remembers the days of Mark Recchi and the Bruins’ efforts to send the Hall of Fame forward off into the sunset with one more Cup championship. Perhaps Rask was saying, “Let’s win one so I can shut up the haters and go home while I’m on top.”
As Rask said, we won’t know until the end of the season. All we know is that he’s clearly non-committal about playing beyond 2021, and the Bruins team in front of him was just as non-committal about playing straight-line, hard-nosed hockey in Game 1 — meaning they now have to play catchup in this series.
Little do they know (or maybe they do know), the Bruins could be playing to extend Rask’s career. It’s going to take a lot more determination in the offensive zone to keep it going.