When Tuukka Rask made his decision to opt out of the remainder of the NHL season, it came just hours before Game 3 of the Boston Bruins’ series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Because of that, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t able to address the matter with the media until after the game.
Here’s everything Cassidy had to say about Rask’s decision following Boston’s 3-1 win to take a 2-1 series lead.
Q: Bruce, pregame, I’m sure that could’ve been a vulnerable time for players in terms of Tuukka not being available. What was your message to them
A: Well the message, we’re not going to change the way we play no matter who’s in net. We’ve proven that with (Jaroslav Halak) here for the last two years and now the playoffs. We know he’s a capable goaltender, the only issue for us is Jaro hasn’t played a lot so we want to make sure you allow him reasonable time to get back into game mode. So that was a message. Jaro is a popular guy in the room, guys want to play for him, and the next part of that message is it’s playoff hockey. We can’t be worried about who’s out of the lineup. We worry about who’s in the lineup. Just like we don’t talk about (David Pastrnak) when he’s not here. When he gets back in there he’s going to be a good player for us and etc.. But the guys that are in there, this is how we’re going to play, and it worked out for us.
Q: Bruce, could you just take us through how you heard of Tuukka’s decision and how the players heard. And in a strange way did it have a galvanizing effect do you think on the rest of the team?
A: It could, it very well could. Like I said Jaro is a popular guy and they know his abilities. You know now it could be his turn to have a nice run. I think it’s in the back of everyone’s mind if you know if we want to reach our goals we’re going to need a goaltender in there to help us get there. No team gets there without solid goaltending, so maybe this is Jaro’s year. Tuukka had a great run last year. So that’s certainly something we can rally around, but by the same token it wasn’t going to be the end of the world to have Jaro in there. You know we wish Tuukka well with his family but you know we were here to take care of business today and again on Monday.
So, how I found out, I found out this morning through Donnie (Sweeney), I think Tuukka went and spoke with Cam (Neely) and Donnie about his decision and he relayed that to me. So not going to change the way we play, but it is a bit of a shocker at first. It’s your starting goaltender that’s a terrific goaltender, but again, Jaro we have faith in and so it’s a pretty simple sort of mindset to get in. He’s our guy, start getting (Dan) Vladar or (Maxime) Lagace ready in case something happens to Jaro is the next challenge. And that’s it, we play and kind of sort through it after the game, here we are, and so I’m sure we’ll have some discussions about if we have to change anything. But I don’t think so, I like the way we played today, keep trying to do it the same way.
Q: Bruce, Don made it clear when he spoke to us today that this wasn’t an overnight occurrence for Tuukka, that this had been, for the lack of a better word, brewing for a while. So given that, were you trying to balance where he was with his head stuff and home stuff with how much work you gave him?
A: Well yes. I think I have a good relationship with the players. I think we’re a tight knit group, all the wives and the children, that’s the unfortunate part about — one of the unique situations here this year with the playoffs is we’re not all together, and that is one of the, I think, rewards of making the playoffs is you get the families, the kids, the wives are all together and in it together, and I think there’s good memories from that for everybody. But with Tuukka, I was aware that — I know he had his third daughter this spring and it was on his mind leaving here and he wanted to get some things settled at home, but after that it’s his business and I don’t get into unless he wants to discuss it with me, which I think every player is a little bit different that way. So I’ve certainly talked with Tuukka through training camp etc., but he made the decision to come, so I assumed everything was good at home. But you know deep down that there may be a possibility, as Donnie said. But you can’t dwell on that. We have a team to get ready, I know it sounds cold but the professional part of it is you’ve got to get a team to get ready to play for the Stanley Cup and then still be there for Tuukka for whatever he needs. So that’s what we’re doing. And today we got a win, we need two more to win the series, and that’ll be our focus, and I will certainly find time to reach out to Tuukka at the appropriate time to make sure that he’s doing well and his family is doing well.
Q: Going back to Tuukka, when you look at it and you know that he wasn’t there altogether, he wasn’t fully in it, and I’m wondering just as a coach or as a team, is it better to know that you have a goalie that’s 100 percent in right now, and let Tuukka go sort out what he has to sort out?
A: Yeah I think there’s validity in what you’re saying that now that the situation has been — there’s finality in it and Jaro’s our guy, and again we’ve got to get a backup ready for Jaro. There will be a little bit of competition there. But at the end of the day as a coach you want to try to trust your players’ professionalism that they’ll be ready to play. And I thought Tuukka practiced hard, played well for us in the first two games against Carolina, so you know that part of it you got to be a little bit careful as a coach, a veteran guy in the league, had the run he had last year, Vezina Trophy nominee, that he’s a good goaltender and he’ll get stuff squared away and use this time wisely to do that here. But again I mean family comes first, and that decision was made. So yes, then we move on. I know it sounds cold but on the professional part of it we have a job to do here. We move on, it’s Jaro in net and then be there for Tuukka as I said earlier. So that’s our game plan right now. Happy for Jaro and I’m sure Tuukka is as well. They have a great relationship and I’m sure he’s happy for his teammates, Tuukka, that we got the win, so it’s not like there’s any animosity there. He’s just trying to take care of his family and we’re trying to take care of business here in Toronto.