A new year could deliver the Bruins a new (old) goalie to their 2021-22 rotation. Tuukka Rask, who has been skating with the team after undergoing offseason to repair a torn labrum in his right hip, could be ready to go in three weeks, according to head coach Bruce Cassidy.
The Bruins play — as of now — 16 games in 31 days in January. Adding a third body in net could help with a busy schedule — one that could become more condensed as the season goes on.
“We had to make a determination, if we’re on the road, we’re traveling, one of those is a day off, how are we going to get him what he needs and still take care of us, right?” Cassidy said. “That was being discussed. If he didn’t go with us, where is he getting the work? Is it [AHL] Providence, injured players here, so that was on the table. I think that was the week they were saying any time after that he may be ready to go if his doctors clear him to play.”
Rask remains unsigned as the Bruins entered this season with Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark, who they handed four-year contract in July. The two have combined for a .925 5-on-5 save percentage through 26 games, via Natural Stat Trick.
An inevitable reunion
It’s been clear all season that as long as he could get back to 100% health, the Bruins would find a way to bring Rask back into the fold. They already knew he wouldn’t sign anywhere else as the 34-year-old stated in August that he would only play for the franchise if he was able to make a comeback. So, for general manager Don Sweeney, it would be a very inexpensive way to bolster a key position for a team with 30 points through 26 games.
But adding a veteran in Rask won’t solve all of the Bruins’ current problems. They’ve been top heavy, relying on David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron to carry most of the offense. Their team-wide 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 5.76 is worst in the NHL, but with that talent in their lineup you’d expect that to rebound.
The players know that they can play much better than they have, and strengthening one area won’t lead to an immediate change in fortune.
“[Rask] is one of the best goalies in the world and if he comes back, and at that level, then that’s great,” said Marchand. “He obviously has the talent that when you shoot on him and see him in the net, he’s so calm. He’s just one of those guys, their abilities are impressive, and that’s why he’s been one of the best goalies in the league for the last 10-15 years, or whatever it’s been, so it’s great he’s that close to getting back.
“He’s one of those guys who can win you games, but we have a big job to do the rest of the year regardless of who’s in net.”