Love him or hate him (and … yep, somehow both sentiments are still present in all corners of New England), you can’t knock Tuukka Rask for this: he’s always been a straight shooter.
Win or loss, the candid B's netminder is often rather blunt in his assessment of his play, sometimes to a fault. And while Rask is always willing to take his own game to task, his straightforward musings can oftentimes be examined through the wrong lens — with his laidback persona misconstrued for apathy at times.
Still, for as much as Rask's postgame comments can occasionally sound about as earnest as Tony Soprano mourning his dear Livia, those quotes rarely coincide with a player who's built a pretty established reputation as a ferocious competitor between the pipes.
That being said — the Bruins' top goalie didn't do himself any favors at all when he took to the podium following Boston's 3-2 loss to the Hurricanes in Game 2.
When asked about the growing number of scrums developing so far in this first-round series — namely the scraps found down low around his crease — Rask opted to instead expand his thoughts on this revamped playoff format, focusing more on the atmosphere, or lack thereof, at Scotiabank Arena.
"To be honest with you, it doesn’t really feel like playoff hockey," Rask said. "There’s no fans. It’s kind of like you’re playing an exhibition game. Obviously, there are some scrums after the whistle. I haven’t noticed that they would be targeting me or whatnot. Things happen, people falling on you and whatnot. But it’s definitely not a playoff atmosphere."
When asked a follow-up later on during his Zoom conference, Rask doubled down — reiterating the challenges that all players up in Toronto and Edmonton are currently facing. Fair or not, there's only so much energy one can draw from without having 16,000 raucous fans cheering/screaming above you.
"You’re trying to play as hard as you can," Rask said. "Obviously, you’re playing a best-of-seven series so there's going to be some battles going on and what not. But when you play at your home rink, you play at an away rink, and there’s fans cheering for you or against you and that creates another buzz around the series. There’s none of that, so it just feels dull at times. There’re moments that, ok, there’s little scrums and whatnot. But then there might be five minutes and its just coast to coast hockey and there is no atmosphere. It just feels like an exhibition game."
Again, there's absolutely some truth to Rask's comments. Yes, this entire tournament, as great as it is for hockey to back and the Stanley Cup up for grabs, is weird as all hell. Beyond the bubble accommodations, the daily testing, and whatnot, having no spectators in the stands for full-speed, NHL action is something these players have not experienced in ... well, ever, at least at the pro levels.
Yes, of course, you're going to be heated up when someone socks you in the face or you're club is pushing for that tying goal. But methinks you'd find very few NHLers that would say with 100% conviction that this Cup run offers the same rush as what we're all used to come the postseason.
But that being said,