BOSTON - Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has already been on record saying he’d like to get rid of the shootout in NHL games.
So, it was no surprise the Finnish netminder had a stick-swinging nutty on the ice and was spewing out Finnish F-bombs postgame after a 3-2 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues at TD Garden.
Some of the frustration was clearly the result of two heavy, physical, well-heeled teams smashing into each other, and looking dead even in just about every category after 65 minutes of playoff-style hockey before being forced to settle things in the lame shootout.
More likely is that Rask was probably already six degrees to being salty after having “gave up that worst goal of my career” in the final 69 seconds of the first period on a Derek Roy dribbler that somehow crawled under his paddle. It had some wondering if that goal or the Butt Stumble goal vs. the Rangers in the playoffs last spring was the worse goal allowed.
The soft goal was the polar opposite of the sharp 26-year-old goaltender that stopped a career-high 43 shots in stealing a win against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. Unfortunately he’s the same puck-stopper for better or for worse, and that’s something Boston will live with as Rask has been “better” rather than “worse” much more often this season.
“We played a great game, I thought. I gave up that worst goal of my career probably there, and it brought them back in the game,” said Rask. “We got back 2-2, played a hell of a third period too, and then we just couldn’t score that winning goal. Then in the shootout, I couldn’t stop their pucks.”
But the shootout goals allowed to both Alex Steen and Roy caused him to violently smash his stick against the post and then multiple times off the ice when it wouldn’t break in half. He then went one stop further, and requested that the NHL “gas” the shootout before it ruins more well-played games between evenly matched teams with an anti-climactic skills competition.
“I’d gas them right away... midseason. Take them away. I don’t want it,” said Rask, who stopped 24 of 26 shots he faced before the shootout. “I thought both teams played pretty good hockey; pretty good systems and good players doing what their coaches are asking them to. Then you decide that game in a shootout, and obviously it feels good for them... and sucks for me, personally.”
There have been plenty of theories about improving the shootout, or perhaps getting rid of the individual skills competition to support overtime games in the regular season. Abolishing the shootout completely isn’t a realistic option when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has championed it in the past, and is likely to do so again. Lengthening the current 4-on-4 overtime session from 5 minutes to 10 minutes certainly makes a lot of sense. Splitting it up with five minutes 4-on-4 and five minutes of 3-on-3 action could be a lot of fun.
The idea of the two teams swapping ends of the ice for overtime while forcing both benches into the “long change” in the extra session could be enough to spark offense if handled in the proper way. It all sounds fine to Rask, who just wants to see the shootout gone given how it haunts the goaltender after the game is over.
“I’m sure [the rule-makers] are a lot smarter than I am, so I won’t say anything about that,” said Rask. “I mean... maybe just gas the whole overtime [and] just end the game there.”
The whole “gas the shootout” philosophy makes a lot of sense given the strong emotions flowing through Boston’s netminder after a particularly frustrating day of stopping pucks – or not stopping them as the case may be -- is all over. The best guess here: Rask is going to be among the league’s best in all situations as long as he can remove himself from the shootout as quickly as possible.