The Bruins reported for work Sunday and confirmed their Vezina Trophy finalist goaltender wasn’t feeling well enough to start the playoffs.
The reaction? Fine. We’ve got Jaro.
The confidence was still there Sunday evening, even after No. 1B netminder Jaroslav Halak submitted a so-so game — four goals on 29 shots — in place of Tuukka Rask. Coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t running away from Halak, pointing to the team in front of him as the larger culprit for a 4-1 round-robin opener loss to Philadelphia.
At the close of business Sunday, it seemed the Bruins would have their ace for Wednesday’s game against Tampa Bay, the second of three for seeding in the East. Rask was deemed “unfit to participate” on Sunday because he was not feeling well, a decision made Saturday evening. He also dealt with a broken finger on his catching hand last month.
“Feeling better,” Cassidy said pregame of his netminder, who led the league in goals against average (2.12) and was second in save percentage (.929). “Hopefully he gets back on the ice as soon as [Monday].”
Rask led the Bruins out of the tunnel in their previous 76 playoff games, a streak that ended Sunday. It was the league’s eighth-longest run as a team’s postseason starter. The only active goalies with longer streaks: Henrik Lundqvist (128), Pekka Rinne (89), Jonathan Quick (85) and Marc-Andre Fleury (79).
Dan Vladar, who has zero NHL games under his belt, wore the backup’s ballcap. Cassidy, leaning on advice from assistant Bob Essensa, AHL Bruins coach Jay Leach, goalie coach Mike Dunham, and GM Don Sweeney, said Vladar was “a little bit ahead” of Max Lagace toward the end of Providence’s season.
Three Bruins made their postseason debuts: Anders Bjork (two shots, minus-2 in 13:01); Jack Studnicka (three shots in 11:36) and Jeremy Lauzon (two penalties, minus-1 in 13:39).
Brad Marchand, who left Thursday’s 4-1 exhibition loss to Columbus with suspected lower body injury, moved well and skated a healthy 21:01. But while he and his top-line cohorts Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak combined for nine shots and 16 attempts, they found little in the way of quality … Winger Nick Ritchie, working his way back from a suspected injury, is a possibility to play Wednesday against Tampa Bay. Ondrej Kase is not likely to be ready that soon. Cassidy said Kase, who arrived in Toronto on Saturday, would need a few more days to get acclimated. “He’s feeling better. He seems fine. He’s skating well,” Cassidy said. “We want to get him back in there but we want to give him a fair chance to succeed.” Both wingers are expected to practice Monday and Tuesday … Add another playoff game to Zdeno Chara’s ledger (183; tied for 33rd all-time). The big man skated a lower-than-usual 16:57, leading the team in PK minutes (3:17) … The Flyers, who finished fourth in the East (41-21-7, 89 points), had won nine games in a row before the Bruins stifled them, 2-0, in Philly on March 10, both teams’ final game before the pause … The Bruins reported for work wearing black T-shirts with social justice messages, and black masks with blacked-out Spoked-B logos. Chara’s shirt had a portmanteau — “Eracism” — while Bergeron’s said “End Racism.” Marchand, Pastrnak, Cassidy and several others wore, “Listen. Learn. Change.” Cassidy said the team decided to wear the shirts. “We’re trying to get behind eradicating racism, listening, learning, educating, changing the social injustices,” he said. “That was the impetus behind the dress code today.” … The only other Bruins playoff game at a neutral site was their franchise postseason debut: a 6-1 win over Chicago on March 29, 1927. It was played at Madison Square Garden because Chicago Coliseum was previously booked … The Bruins were 0 for 3 on the power play, including two listless minutes midway through the third period, when they had a chance to make it a two-goal game. They produced zero shots … Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk took a puck to the face late in the second period, returning for the third with stitches on his nose and upper lip … Lauzon was tossed with a 10-minute misconduct after exchanging slashes with the Flyers’ Michael Laughton late in the third. Lauzon drew the Flyers’ ire after tangling with Michael Raffl, the Philly forward sliding awkwardly into the boards.