Just a few days after Patrice Bergeron avoided a trip to the 2020 NHL All-Star Game by way of losing the “Last Man In” vote, another B’s player is set to miss the weekend showcase in St. Louis.
Tuukka Rask announced Monday evening ahead of Boston’s matchup against the Flyers that he will also not participate in the event, opting instead to spend time with his family over the B’s bye week. With Rask’s exit, Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy will take his spot on the Atlantic Division roster.
“I was thinking about it a lot when I saw the scheduling and the possibility of me going,” Rask said Monday in Philadelphia. “First of all, it’s a great honor to be chosen, obviously. This decision is tough, but for me, I had to be kind of selfish, thinking how much hockey we played last year and the short summer and thinking of playing until June again.
“This game falling basically in the middle of our bye week, so (I) wouldn’t be able to do anything with the family. So, just kind of a selfish decision to spend time with the family and go away and get your mind and body kind of rejuvenated and be ready for the last couple busy months of the season.”
While David Pastrnak and Bruce Cassidy will still take part in the event, Rask will now have to face a one-game suspension immediately after the All-Star break — a loss Boston can absorb by simply starting Jaroslav Halak in net.
“They were fine with it,” Rask said of the team’s reaction. “Like I said, I gave them a heads up. I talked to Goalie (coach) Bob (Essensa) even way before the break, if there’s a possibility that I’m going, that it might be more beneficial for me to sit somewhere else and take the break. They were very supportive.”
Rask is not the first NHLer to opt to skip next weekend’s showcase, given that Alex Ovechkin has followed the same route over the last couple of years — while Marc-Andre Fleury will also skip the trip to St. Louis. You wonder why more players don’t follow a similar path — given how vital the bye week can be during a grueling NHL season.
By skipping the All-Star Game, Rask will be afforded some extended time off. Boston will host the Golden Knights on Jan. 21, but will then not play another game until Jan. 31 in Winnipeg. Had he opted to take part in the showcase in St. Louis — scheduled for Jan. 24-25 — Rask’s vacation plans and some well-deserved R&R would likely have been scuttled.
“Just because it falls in the middle of the bye week, you want that break and you want to spend some time with your family,” Rask said. “In this case, it wouldn’t really be a possibility. I get it, it’s everybody’s personal choice. Again, nobody really wants to really make the league look bad or anything like that. Sometimes you just have to be selfish and make these decisions thinking of your family and the second part of the season, so I understand it.”
For as much as he tabbed it as a “selfish” decision, there isn’t much wrong with Rask prioritizing some vacation time among family over a thing as trivial in the big picture as the NHL All-Star Game.
As Rask noted, rest should be a priority whenever such a window is afforded to NHLers.
With 27 starts through 47 of Boston’s games so far this season, Rask is currently on pace to surpass last year’s workload, in which he started 45 games during the 2018-19 campaign. Keeping Rask around that 45-55-game mark should be a priority for the Bruins when it comes to keeping their top netminder fresh for the playoff push.
Last year, Boston reaped the benefits of what stood as Rask’s lightest amount of reps since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season (36 games played) — as the B’s goalie closed out a run to the Stanley Cup Final with a pair of shutouts and a .934 save percentage over 24 playoff outings.
The NHL might not be thrilled, but can you really knock Rask for wanting to spend more time on a beach than in St. Louis? I sure won’t.
And given the numbers Rask has generated when his workload has been properly managed, Boston would rather see their netminder expending his energy in June — rather than waste it during a 3v3 fanfest in the middle of January.