Number 40, Tuukka Rask was back on the ice for last night’s Bruins game versus Montreal at TD Garden. The game with the Canadiens was originally scheduled to be played Wednesday (Jan. 12) in Montreal, but the NHL has moved that game from the Bell Centre to TD Garden, due to the COVID-19 situation, and instead had Boston’s scheduled March 21 road game from Montreal, played on Garden ice last night (Wednesday). Rask’s return to the Boston lineup as the backup goaltender to Linus Ullmark for the Bruins, follow’s some intense rehabbing, as the 34-year-old veteran goalie worked his way back from hip surgery six months ago. The chance to resume his career as the only Bruins goaltender to have, 500 NHL career games, and, as the leader in wins for Boston (306), save percentage (.921), plus notching 57 playoff wins in 104 playoff games, convinced him to sign for one season at short money. Having only worn a Boston Bruins sweater in his 14-year career in the NHL, it had to be a lift for his new and former teammates to see him back in the fold. Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced that Rask’s one-year deal was signed on Tuesday, with an NHL cap hit of $1 million, prorated for the remainder of the regular-season schedule that will earn Rask a mere $545,000…proving that “it’s not always about the money.” Leading Sweeney to comment, “I think in some ways, sometimes Tuukka’s too honest, you know? He’s just a guy who wants to come back and play hockey. He committed to the rehab part of it, and the process, which is not an easy thing. He could have just faded off. He’s had a hell of a career, leads in wins. He has a lot of things on his résumé. But he wanted to play.” There is the possibility that Rask may get the nod from Coach Bruce Cassidy to work the Boston net for either Thursday’s (tonight 7:00) game versus the Philadelphia Flyers, or Saturday’s 1:00pm matinee game with the red-hot Central Division’s Nashville Predators. During the Wednesday press conference Rask summed up the biggest motivation for his desire to return was: “To play with the group I’ve played with my whole career, and have another chance to win.” The downside of the Rask signing had rookie goaltender Jeremy Swayman being assigned to the Providence Bruins in the AHL. For Boston, Swayman is an excellent insurance plan, as the youngster will be waiting with baited breath for the opportunity to return to Boston, due to poor play by either Ullmark or Rask, a heavy game schedule, or a COVID issue, and deservedly so, as he has played well during his time with the big club!
Boston’s Wednesday game with the Canadiens, had the Bs coming off their solid 7-3 offensive attack against the Washington Capitals on Monday night, riding the momentum of their impressive outing. The Bruins’ return to TD Garden Wednesday, began a 13-day day stretch during which the locals will play seven games. Following the hosting of the Flayers (tonight) and the Predators on Saturday, Boston will also be visited by the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, January 18 (7:00pm) also the night that the Bruins will raise Willie O’Ree’s number 22 to the rafters, followed by the revenge-seeking Washington Capitals on Thursday, January 20 (7:00pm), finishing up the homestand with Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, January 22 (3:00pm), and the Anaheim Ducks on Monday, January 24 (7:00pm).
Followed by a couple of timely line changes by coach Cassidy, some intentional, and some due to COVID, it appears that the Bs have picked up the pace with some much needed offense, including some solid play with the pairing of David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall working together on the second line, and the seamless fit of Craig Smith on the first line. Not to be overlooked is how the defense has also stepped up to help out, both defensively and offensively (see Matt Grzelcyk/5 points). Not surprised to see Brad Marchand stick his nose right back in there Monday night and score two goals, following a pretty nasty cut on his nose due to a vicious high stick from Washington Capitals’ forward Nic Dowd.