Are the Boston Bruins Overworking Tuukka Rask?

By Casey Drottar
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Bruins started off their California road trip out pretty poorly last night, getting shelled 5-2 against the Anaheim Ducks. There were plenty of troubling stats, such as the Bruins paltry penalty kill, which allowed goals on all three Anaheim power plays. The Ducks also scored shorthanded as well. However, the most concerning issue was the play of Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.

For the night, Anaheim was only able to get 20 shots on goal, and Rask saved just 15 of them. Five goals on 20 shots isn’t exactly something a goalie takes pride in, especially one as talented as Rask. Throughout the game, his reaction time seemed a little off, which more than contributed to a few Ducks goals.

It’d be easy to write this off as one ugly performance. Every goalie, no matter how good, has a night like this every once in a while. The problem, though, is that Rask has looked pretty rough the past few games he’s started.

Before his 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets this past weekend, he gave up five goals in a loss against the New York Islanders just three days after being yanked from a game against the Ottawa Senators. On that night, he let by three of the first 12 shots he faced, and was swapped out for Chad Johnson just 20 minutes into the game.

So, is this just a rough week for the Finnish netminder, or is it something more?

What needs to be noted is the amount of games Boston has had Rask play this year. The Bruins have played 43 games this season, and Rask has started 34 of them. That leaves just seven starts for Johnson, along with one for AHL call-up Niklas Svedberg. Johnson’s mop-up duty against the Senators was the first action he’s seen since December 19. He’s played decently when starting, with only three losses and a 2.34 GAA. With that in mind, how has Johnson only started eight games? Svedberg played well in his lone start, so are the Bruins planning to call him up again soon?

These are questions you need to consider, especially when looking at the fact that Rask’s career high in NHL starts per season is 39. For those counting, that’s just five more than his total this year, and we still have four months of hockey left. Barring injury, Rask will have a new career high at the end of the season.

Bottom line; Boston is prepped for another strong playoff run, but they’re also at risk of wearing out their franchise goalie. If they have issues with Johnson – and I can’t imagine why – they need to bring in a backup they have faith in. Whether or not that’s Svedberg is irrelevant, whoever it ends up being needs more work because Rask needs more rest.

Obviously, considering the fact that this is Rask’s first 82 game season as a starter, the plan was to give him more than 39 starts this year. At the same time, throwing him into the deep end might not be the best strategy. If he’s worn out in January yet continues to start three games a week, he might need to be propped up come playoff time.

Again, maybe this is just a bad spell, something Rask will eventually play his way out of. Or maybe he’s gassed. If it’s the latter, the Bruins need to address this, because a worn out goalie is going to do nothing but derail their chances in the postseason.

Casey Drottar is an NHL writer for Follow him on Twitter @CDrottar19 or “Like” him on Facebook

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