BOSTON (CBS) — It’s been a slightly busy week for the Boston Bruins. On Saturday, their starting goaltender and Vezina Trophy finalist opted out of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs just hours before Game 3 of the opening round series. The team then went out and won three straight games without him, punching their ticket to the second round of the playoffs.
Considering the circumstances, that’s no small feat. Still, the departure of Rask remains a significant story.
On Thursday, one day after the Bruins eliminated the Hurricanes, team president Cam Neely was asked what his reaction was when he got the news from Rask.
“Obviously, as you know, as [GM Don Sweeney] mentioned, he came to us and spoke to us the morning of Game 3, where he said he had to go home to deal with a family emergency,” Neely said. “So we respected that. Now it’s about the guys that are here and the team that we have here. That’s what we have to focus on.”
Neely was asked if Rask could possibly return to the “bubble” in Toronto, but Neely said he had not spoken to Rask in the past few days and therefore could not answer. Instead, when asked later on about the team’s response to abruptly losing Rask, Neely said the team simply kept its focus on playing winning hockey.
“The guys are focused on who’s here and what we have to do to play well to give ourselves a chance to win,” Neely said. “It’s really about the group here and our players really focus on that. They talk a lot about it. They’re really a close group to begin with, both young and older players really get along well, have a lot of fun together. They’re tight both on and off the ice, which I think helps make a successful club.”
The Rask decision thrust Jaroslav Halak into the starting role, and though the veteran netminder allowed a few shaky goals in his first two starts, he ultimately got the job done, stopping 68 of 73 shots faced while backstopping three wins.
“He’s a competitor — both on and off the ice. He’s well focused. I think it’s obviously a little surprising to get the call when he did. But as a backup goaltender, you have to be prepared to come in at any time. I thought he stepped in and did a good job for us. He’s very intense, but he’s got a great sense of humor. … He battles out there. He wants to stop all the pucks, like most goalies obviously do.”