BOSTON — Tuukka Rask was the first Bruins player to speak Monday morning at the team’s breakup day, and he shed more on the illness that prevented him from playing in Boston’s season finale two days earlier.
The goaltender said he came down with a stomach bug the night before the game and realized a few hours before puck drop that he would not be healthy enough to play.
“I spent the night in the bathroom there for hours,” Rask said. “Can’t control that.”
Rask took the ice for pregame warmups but only to give emergency call-up Jeremy Smith time to make the trip from Providence to Boston. Smith then watched from the bench as Rask’s understudy, Jonas Gustavsson, surrendered four goals in a 6-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators that kept the Bruins out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I knew I wasn’t going to play (before warmups), so I just went out there to wait until Smitty (arrived at TD Garden),” said Rask, who added that he spent the game sleeping and “trying to recover” in the Bruins’ dressing room. “But when you’re sick, you’re sick. Trust me: If I felt like there was a chance I could have helped the team, I would have gone out there. But I couldn’t even stand up.”
Rask said his symptoms had subsided by the time he arrived back at the Garden on Monday.
“It was one of those 24-hour bugs, and it just hit at the worst possible time,” he said. “So nothing you can do about it.”
Boston finished the season by losing nine of its final 12 games to fall one point shy of a Stanley Cup playoff berth.
“We definitely felt snakebitten at times,” said Rask, whose team failed to score multiple goals in six of its last nine losses. “We probably lost some points we could have gotten, but then again, I think at the end of the day, you get what you deserve. And (with) the kind of a roller-coaster season that we had, we got what we deserved, and that’s the end of it. We definitely showed signs of good hockey at times, and we just couldn’t keep that going for a long period of time.”
The Bruins now have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons after reaching them in each of the previous seven, and there is a strong chance the team could look to make significant changes this summer, either to its roster or to its coaching staff. But even if those changes trigger a Bruins rebuild — sacrificing short-term success for long-term improvement — Rask said he has no desire to take his talents elsewhere.
“Yeah, absolutely,” the 29-year-old goalie said. “I’ve loved every minute here, and I plan to be here many, many years to come. I’m in for the long run, and I want to be part of the solution here and bring this team back to the playoffs and bring the Cup back. So that’s where my head’s at.”
Rask played in 64 games this season and ranked near the bottom of the NHL in both save percentage (.915; tied for 27th) and goals against average (2.56; 25th), though shaky defense in front of him was at least partially to blame for those underwhelming stats.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask