Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is open to playing on both Monday and Tuesday. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)
This is one big, massive, gigantic week for the Bruins. And it starts with a back-to-back beginning with Monday against the Maple Leafs up in Toronto and then Tuesday night against the Senators in Boston.
The Leafs are just three points back of the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division, have a in game in hand over the Black and Gold, and are 3-0-0 against the Bruins this season. The Sens are ahead of the B’s by four points for second place in the division, and have beat the Bruins in both of their prior meetings this season.
These are the games that the Bruins need Tuukka Rask to show up and stand on his head as he’s done so many times this season.
On back-to-back nights.
A challenge that the 30-year-old would be ready for if given the call.
“Of course,” Rask, who has made the fourth-most starts in the NHL this season (56), said when asked if he could play both Monday and Tuesday. “I don’t think, especially this time of year, you want to take time off just because.”
The Bruins have put a serious, almost Belichickian emphasis on taking everything one day, one practice, one game at a time, and while that’s true, this week is huge beyond just Monday and Tuesday, as the Bruins will skate against the Lightning on Thursday and a road game against the Islanders on Saturday. The Bolts are currently two points out of a playoff spot and have won six of their last 10 games while the Isles are a single point out of postseason contention and have won 20 of 37 home games this year.
With the exception of last week’s loss in Edmonton, which saw Rask lifted after he allowed five goals on 17 shots in just over 22 minutes of time on ice, Rask has been solid under B’s interim coach Bruce Cassidy, with eight wins and a .914 save percentage in 12 games. But he has yet to play in back-to-back games since the Bruins made the switch from Claude Julien to Cassidy.
“I’ve tried to be upfront with who we’re gonna play in net and Tuukka’s gonna play [Monday], but that’s as far as I’m gonna go,” Cassidy said following Sunday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “Generally in back-to-backs we’ve used both goalies. Because we just had a couple of days off and Tuukka’s workload wasn’t [bad] — he didn’t play in Calgary, he only played a period and change in Edmonton — so we might change [the goaltending schedule] this week.”
Rask has skated in the second leg of a back-to-back just twice this season, with one win and an .884 save percentage in those situations. His last ‘zero days rest’ day came back on Feb. 1, when he allowed five goals on 22 shots against the Capitals.
Cassidy did add that it was unlikely that the club would suit Rask up for all four games of the club’s games in the next six days.
But that won’t change how Rask changes his mindset in yet another week of unofficial playoff hockey.
“Every game matters and you have to be ready to play,” said Rask.