Tuukka Rask has been injured in the most recent Bruins game against the Rangers last Saturday. Rangers young forward Filip Chytil run over him after a push from Charlie McAvoy and Rask was helped to get off the ice. Boston Bruins later that night announced that Rask has been diagnosed with a concussion.
What about that concussion now? No one is trying to bring up the worst-case scenario, but the Bruins have their history with concussions even during this season. Around the NHL, we don’t have to go that far to see how bad concussions have turned out to be for elite goaltenders. For example look at Corey Crawford from the Chicago Blackhawks, who competed with Rask in Stanley Cup finals in 2013.
Rask is the Bruins fourth player of the season who went down because of a concussion. Urho Vaakanainen was hit hard by Mark Borowiecki in Ottawa earlier in October and was out until World Juniors, which started shortly before Christmas. Charlie McAvoy suffered a concussion on the same road trip as Vaakanainen and missed 20 games afterward.
David Backes suffered a concussion on the same trip as Vaakanainen and McAvoy, well, that road trip across Canada in October proved to be horrible, and he missed five games. Most recently Jake DeBrusk went through a concussion after being hit in Bruins loss to Toronto in late November. DeBrusk played four more games not recording points and wasn’t feeling right, as he admitted later. DeBrusk missed nine games afterward.
Now as it seemed that Rask started to hit his best form of the season, he experienced a concussion, which is more than unfortunate. The Bruins have no space for panic mode, there is still a lengthy break on the table and the players return to the practice next Monday. To know how long will the Bruins be without their starting net-minder, that will most probably not be announced by the club.
There are three possible scenarios ahead for the Bruins. In the good case, for instance, Rask will be fully healthy and report to practice next Monday and he will be in the net against the Winnipeg Jets one day later. That sounds good, but we really don’t know how much probable is this scenario. Rask hasn’t had a long concussion history during his career, but one would never know.
In between good and bad scenarios, there is a middle path one. Rask will be out for some amount of time, but Jaroslav Halak will handle number one position quality and Zane McIntyre, after having his best moments in Providence in the AHL in recent weeks, will be a solid backup. Rask will be back well before the playoffs.
Nevertheless, in the worst-case scenario, the Bruins will be put into a very uncomfortable situation. Tuukka Rask might be potentially out for the rest of the season, that’s a possibility for sure. Jaroslav Halak has been great all season long with Boston, but since Christmas break, Halak has won just one of his five games and even in that only win he gave up four goals. His recent play indicates that he lacks confidence and needs a bounce back. If Halak continues to play rather poorly, which is also a possibility, the Bruins can decide to either dwell on Halak and trust him and probably McIntyre as their goalies, or go and search goaltending help on the trade market in desperation.
This last option, stated as the worst-case scenario, is also the least probable one. There have been some rumors around Yesterday, that the Bruins may even look at Jimmy Howard if the situation requires it. Imagine being General Manager Don Sweeney and having a good team in desperate need of a quality goaltender with Rask out long-term and Halak underperforming. A move for a rental net-minder then would make a sense. And it doesn’t have to count likes as Jimmy Howard or Sergei Bobrovsky.
Even if the worst-case scenario applies, don’t write off Jaroslav Halak, who can still bounce back during any time. But even if Halak performs as desired, he will need a bit of rest potentially going to the playoffs and the Bruins have to play a lot of back-to-backs as well. No one is saying that Boston should look at big fish in the market with goaltenders if necessitated, maybe just a backup reinforcement for 10 or 12 games would be helpful. Zane McIntyre has been great in his last starts in the AHL, but he hasn’t convinced many people during his last time around with the Bruins in the NHL in the 2016-2017 season.
Jaroslav Halak has shown his best hockey with Rask struggling. Now as Rask hit his stride, Halak seemed kind of nervous and under pressure. Speculations and rumors might whirl this way or that way in the coming days and weeks, but one thing is pretty clear and sure. If Tuukka Rask’s concussion affects him for an extended period of time, the Bruins are in the trouble.