Bruce Cassidy has publicly downplayed injury concerns regarding Tuukka Rask. He did so again Monday, even after deciding to lift Rask after 40 minutes in a Game 5 loss at TD Garden.
“There was some maintenance that needed to be done,” Cassidy said following the Bruins’ 5-4 loss to the Islanders. “He wasn’t 100 percent, so we made a decision. That’s the call we had to make between periods. I’ll just say he wasn’t himself, 100 percent. Certainly could have [gone] back in. We made a decision not to put him back in.”
Asked if he was ready for Game 6, Cassidy was blunt.
“I assume he will.”
Rask, who recently acknowledged he was less than healthy, allowed four goals on 16 shots.
Jeremy Swayman, his 22-year-old backup, started the third and took the loss, allowing a goal on his third shot to fall behind, 5-2. He didn’t see another puck the rest of the way, his teammates scoring twice for the 5-4 final.
“Sway came in and did a nice job,” said David Pastrnak, who scored twice. “Tough luck . . . it would have been nice to get it done for him.”
Rask, 34, did not participate in Monday’s morning skate in Brighton, but that is not unusual for veterans come playoff time. He moved slowly during the pregame warmup, his back appearing stiff.
Rask went the distance in all nine previous playoff games this season, ranking fourth among goalies in save percentage (.935) and third in goals against average (1.94).
In an appearance on WEEI before the second round began, Rask said his “game feels good, health is OK . . . I’m not as good as I want it to be, but obviously I’ve been playing and practicing. So I’m out there. That’s all that matters.”
Rask sustained what is believed to be a lower back strain March 7, and played just 20 minutes of action over the next five weeks. Before Game 3, Cassidy said his ace was “fine,” and “ready to go every playoff game.”
Cassidy also referred to Swayman, who had not played a postseason game before Monday, as a “very capable backup.” Swayman, a first-year pro, submitted a sparkling 10 games as Rask’s late-season backup. Swayman finished 7-3-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .945 save percentage, with two shutouts.
If Rask is the starter for Game 6, Pastrnak will have faith.
“There is no doubt with him,” he said. “He’s one of the best goalies in the world. Absolutely zero doubt.”