By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Bruins are two games deep in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Tuukka Rask isn’t buying it.
The goaltender got the start Thursday night in Game 2 against the Hurricanes, getting rare action in back-to-back days because — again — this is the playoffs.
Yet after losing 3-2, Rask said that despite the clear and obvious stakes of this loser-goes-home series, it doesn’t quite feel like the playoffs out there.
“Considering I had four months off … I’m not in prime shape. But I’m trying to get there,” Rask said when asked about his physical condition. “I’m just trying to have fun and play the game. I’m not stressing too much about the results and whatnot. You know, it’s August and I haven’t played hockey. So just go out there and have fun, and see what happens for me.”
Tuukka Rask: “I’m just trying to have fun and play the game. I’m not stressing too much about the results and whatnot. … Just go out there and have fun, and see what happens for me.” pic.twitter.com/5PxRY5SCh5
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) August 14, 2020
Rask was then asked about the Hurricanes coming into his crease, and the veteran goaltender reiterated that the intensity on the ice is not what it normally is when the playoffs typically take place.
“Well to be honest with you, it doesn’t really feel like playoff hockey out there,” Rask said. “There’s no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game. … It’s definitely not a playoff atmosphere out there.”
Rask was asked what he can do to mentally overcome the hurdle of the lack of intensity on the ice.
“You try to play as hard as you can,” Rask said. “Obviously, you know, you’re playing a best-of-seven series so there’s gonna be some battles going on and whatnot. But when you play in your home rink, and you play in an away rink, and there’s fans cheering for you and against you and that creates another buzz around the series. So there’s none of that. So it just feels, like, dull at times.”
Rask added: “There’s moments that, OK, there’s little scrums and whatnot. But then there might be five minutes and it’s just coast-to-coast hockey. And there’s no atmosphere. So it just feels like an exhibition game. But, you know, we’re trying our best to kind of ramp up and get energized and make it feel like a playoff game.”
Moments after Rask’s press conference (via video), Brad Marchand was asked if he, too, is finding it difficult get amped up for playoff games in an arena with no fans.
“Maybe he was talking about [the round-robin games],” Marchand incorrectly assumed. “But these are playoff games, playoff atmosphere. We’re going to compete hard. It’s definitely different, there’s no question, it doesn’t have the same atmosphere, there’s no home-ice advantage. It’s just straight-up hockey at this point. Unfortunately, that’s playoff hockey this year and at least we’re playing.”
Rask’s honesty is, obviously, quite interesting. But a mantra of “just have fun and see what happens” is not one that’s likely to be received well by a rabid fan base that’s hoping and planning for a long run through these unique playoffs, after seeing the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins season cut short back in March.
How Rask’s comments resonate with his teammates will be more important, though. By his Vezina-level standard, Rask’s performance has been fine but not outstanding — he’s stopped 48 of 54 shots through two games — but his admission that he’s “not stressing too much about the results” is probably not what the Bruins want to hear from their goaltender, when they know that three more losses will officially end one of the most promising Bruins seasons in history.