Have you exhaled yet?
Sure, the Bruins improved to 3-0-0 Tuesday with a 4-3 win at the Vegas Golden Knights. But after a madcap final seconds that saw the Bruins protect their one-goal lead in a 6-on-5 situation for the Golden Knights, goalie Tuukka Rask wound up flat down on his stomach and then had to be helped off the ice by teammates. Even as the clock passed 12:30 a.m., you probably had trouble sleeping after watching Rask leave that way.
Rask blamed the Vegas heat for some cramping.
“Hot out there,” Rask told the media. “Not used to it.”
Coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t much more forthcoming about what happened to the goaltender that had just improved to 2-0-0 with a .937 save percentage with a 31-save performance.
“He either had a little bit of a muscle pull or a little bit of dehydration or maybe a little of both. I don’t think there is anything major structurally wrong with him,” said Cassidy, who not long ago wasn’t that concerned about David Krejci’s preseason injury; the center went on to miss opening night.
Rask should have some time to rest up, whether he’s injured or not, because the Bruins are taking Wednesday off and then he probably won’t start (as was probably scheduled) Thursday night in Denver. Cassidy wants to get Jaroslav Halak going as much as he wants to get Rask in his rhythm.
A Rask injury that lasts longer than the few minutes after the Vegas win wouldn’t effectively end the Bruins’ season. We know Halak could carry the load for at least a medium-length period of time (think weeks not months). The problem would be how much Cassidy would trust Boston’s No. 3 goalie, Maxime Lagace (career NHL save percentage .868), to take a few starts and keep Halak fresh. A Rask injury would derail the Bruins’ timeshare plan – remember 45 starts for Rask, 37 starts for Halak last season – more than it would cost them a high place in the standings.
Of course the Bruins’ continued short-term success would be based on continued health from their skaters, an eventual discovery of 5-on-5 offense that doesn’t come from Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, and continued strong play from the six defensemen. But that’s another story, this is about the goaltending in a time of potential catastrophe.
A Rask injury and Lagace call-up would also alter the Bruins’ roster plans in terms of their salary cap and would possibly force them into a difficult decision as they try to remain cap compliant but also save up cap space for potential deals when the need arises to upgrade.
None of this matters, though, because Rask was just cramping. Right? Wasn’t he?
We’ll find out in the days ahead. Have you exhaled yet?