The Bruins are two games into 2020 Cup play, knotted at 1-1 with the Hurricanes after Thursday night’s 3-2 loss at Toronto.
As serious as that might sound, if not critical, their goalie, Tuukka Rask, made clear after the loss that he feels something’s missing.
“Well, I mean, considering I had four months off,” said the franchise tender, asked how he felt both mentally and physically after starting on back-to-back nights, “I mean, I’m not in prime shape, but . . . trying to get there. I’m just trying to have fun and play the game. I’m not stressing too much about results and whatnot.
“It’s August, and I haven’t played hockey forever . . . so go out there and have fun and see what happens for me.”
Rask’s a different cat, no question, but that was an unexpected and unusual response, and one that no doubt will dominate Boston talk radio on Friday, over the weekend, and perhaps years to come.
Bruins fans live for this time of year, even if the postseason has been tolled into the dog days of summer. They frame their days around playoff games, dare not run to the fridge in the middle of the action. It won’t go down easy for many of them to hear the No. 1 goalie isn’t stressing like they are stressing.
Because there is “no buzz around the series,” explained Rask, noting special circumstances framed by the COVID-19 pandemic, “it feels dull at times.”
The lack of atmosphere, he added, “makes it feel like an exhibition game . . . but we’re trying our best to kind of ramp up and get energized and make it feel like a playoff game.”
The three-game round-robin tournament, in which the Bruins dropped all three and fell three rungs to the fourth seed in the East, was supposed to be where teams shook physical rust and mental cobwebs.
It didn’t do it for Rask.
When asked about Rask’s comments, teammate Brad Marchand said Rask perhaps was talking about the round-robin tournament. Nope. Rask clearly was focusing on the moment.
“These are playoff games, playoff atmosphere,” said Marchand, who put on a one-man penalty-killing clinic in the third period when the Bruins were scraping for the tying goal. “We are going to compete hard. There’s no question it doesn’t have the same atmosphere, and there’s no home-ice advantage . . . it’s just straight-up hockey at this point.
“Unfortunately, that’s the playoffs this year and, you know, at least we’re playing.”
Other observations from Game 2:
⋅ Anders Bjork didn’t light up the scoreboard in Wednesday’s overtime win, but he was strong on pucks, and generally more aware and assertive. Good choice to slot him into Pastrnak’s open spot on the No. 1 line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
Not new territory for Bjork. He made his career debut in the 2017-‘18 season opener as the right winger on the Marchand-Bergeron trio. He’s fast and smart. His game has lacked, and still needs, more sandpaper. If he can keep growing his grit element, his wheels can put him in a position to connect for 25–30 goals a year.
⋅ David Krejci scored in Game 1, then popped in the first power-play goal for the 1-0 lead in Game 2. With gifted, velveteen hands, he’s always looking “pass” as his first option. In his previous 61 playoff games before Wednesday, dating back to the 2013 postseason, he had scored only 7 goals.
Krejci’s go-ahead goal ended the Bruins’ 0-for-13 run on the advantage since landing in Toronto. They were 0-for-4 in Game 1, after going a sizzling 7-for-15 in last spring’s four-game conference final vs. the Canes.
⋅ The ‘Canes came with an improved lineup, which helped them limit the Bruins to only six shots in the opening 20:00 (and only two in the first 10:00). No surprise they subbed out Petr Mrazek in net for James Reimer. Mrazek left some fat rebounds in the opener, including the one off an Ondrej Kase wrister that Krejci potted after some nifty stick work.
⋅ Coaches live in the moment always, but especially in the playoffs, so expect Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy to go again with Rask in Game 3. But with a noon start on Saturday, after Rask played on back-to-back nights, it looks like an ideal time for Cassidy to go with Jaro Halak. The Slovak stopper started the round-robin opener vs. the Flyers, his first post-season appearance since the 2015 playoffs.
⋅ The ‘Canes in the second period flashed some of the scoring moxie that led to their play-in sweep of the Rangers. Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov scored only 88 seconds apart, first with the advantage and then at even strength. Quick-strike power they didn’t show last year vs. the Bruins.
⋅ Svechnikov’s release is lightning, reminiscent of the great Mike Bossy. He snapped in a sizzling wrister off a pinpoint, cross-ice feed from rookie Martin Necas into the left circle. The No. 2 pick in the ’18 draft has averaged 22 goals his first two seasons. That release, combined with his O-zone chutzpah, makes him a candidate to pop for 40.
⋅ Carolina likes to put heavy pressure at the points during the penalty kill. In Game 1, it led to Brock McGinn’s shorthander, when he picked off a lamebrained pass by Pastrnak. Looks like they’ll be sniffing for shorties the entire series.
⋅ Joel Edmundson, the ex-Blues defenseman, logged 30 minutes, 33 seconds in ice time in Game 1, second on the ‘Canes only to Jaccob Slavin (37:03). But the towering Edmundson was a DND for Game 3. Likely reason: He took a serious pop from Nick Ritchie at the 12:40 mark of the third period. Edmundson didn’t miss a shift, but he was rattled.
Ritchie has shown little in the first two games, but that was a varsity belt against the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Edmundson.