Tuukka Rask Opting Out Was Best for the Team
While it is easier to make the case following the Boston Bruins’ 3-1 victory in Game Three to take a 2-1 series lead over the Carolina Hurricanes, Tuukka Rask opting out was a selfless act, not a selfish one. Many people are debating the merits of team vs. family in the wake of Tuuka Rask opting out, but these people are missing the point. Yes, while I personally feel any decision made on behalf of one’s family should never be doubted, the most important question is, “Was this the right move for the team?” In this case, yes, it obviously was. How is Tuuka Rask–the likely favorite to win the Vezina as the best goalie in the NHL–opting out beneficial for the Bruins? Because if Tuuka Rask is even considering opting out, allowing Jaroslav Halak to replace him is clearly the right move.
When it comes to team sports, it is of the utmost importance that every player’s head is “in the game.” Now, hockey goalies are notoriously a weird bunch so trying to decipher when they are or are not in the right frame of mind is usually a fool’s errand. Making matters worse, Tuukka Rask is about a shade or two below the Ilya Bryzgalov level of weirdness, which is to say, Rask is a little more than a little out there. But if you go back to his comments following the Bruins’ loss in Game Two, you can clearly see how he just was not quite into the NHL Bubble playoff experience:
Here are Tuukka Rask’s full comments on the atmosphere up in Toronto: pic.twitter.com/5qQU4BDA3N
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) August 14, 2020
“It doesn’t feel like playoff hockey… It’s kind of like you’re playing an exhibition game… it’s just dull at times… it just feels like an exhibition game.”
Tuukka Rask Opting Out and Stepping Aside is a Grown Man Move
It is clear from the comments above that Tuukka Rask is not all-in when it comes to the NHL Bubble playoff experience. To him, the games are not playing like the true Stanley Cup Playoffs. As anybody that has watched the games would attest, he is obviously correct. However, some of the players are so good mentally that they can get jacked up for the games and treat the games as if they were your regular Stanley Cup Playoffs. But since that is not the case for Tuukka Rask, is him being in net, at less than 100% bought in, a good thing for the Bruins or a bad thing.
I would posit that it is a bad thing. But I would also counter that the best thing for Rask to do as a family man and as a teammate is to step aside and let somebody else take the reins. If you know you are not up to the task, you are setting yourself up for failure. So Rask, following his Game Two comments, realized where his head was at and made the adult decision that would benefit both his family and the Boston Bruins.
The pressing concern when it comes to Rask is that he is not just some scrub or even an average goalie; he was probably the best goalie in the NHL this season. However, part of that came as a result of him not having to carry the load all season long. The man right there on the bench spelling him for roughly 30 games this season was Halak, who is no slouch either. Yes, Halak’s best days are probably behind him, but it did not stop him from helping Rask and the Bruins win the Jennings award. So while most are bemoaning the loss of a Vezina-caliber netminder, the man replacing him has a more than fair shot of catapulting the Bruins to the Stanley Cup.
Yes, with all things being equal, you would rather have Tuukka Rask in net than Jaroslav Halak. However, if the Coronavirus has taught sports fans one thing, it is that these people we cheer for are not just nameless automatons, but are real people with real families and real problems. If you have somebody like Tuukka Rask opting out and claiming it is for a “family emergency” or for family reasons, he should be able to do so without any clapback. However, even more importantly for Bruins fans, they have to realize Tuukka Rask opting out is the best possible scenario for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask opting out was a selfless move that makes the team better, not a selfish move that makes the team worse. And for that, Rask’s Bruins teammates and all the Bruins fans should thank him for doing the right thing: he did the right thing for himself, for his family, and for the Bruins.