NHL: Eastern Conference Qualifications-Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask makes a glove save during Boston’s 2-1 loss to Washington last Sunday. Rask has left the NHL bubble in Toronto, and will not participate in the rest of the playoffs with the team.

The Bruins’ Stanley Cup hopes took a gut punch on Saturday morning.

In a move that shocked the Bruin fandom — though not the club itself, apparently — B’s goalie and Vezina Trophy finalist Tuukka Rask opted out of the playoff bubble in Toronto to return home to Boston to be with his family. Rask and his wife have three young girls, including a newborn.

At 10:20 a.m., the Bruins tweeted Rask’s statement.

“I want to be with my teammates competing, but at this moment there are things more imporant than hockey in my life, and that’s being with my family. I want to thank the Bruins and my teammates for their support and wish them success,” the statement read.

In a meeting with reporters on Zoom, GM Don Sweeney said there is no pressing or dire health issue for Rask at home, but that he was taken off-guard by Rask’s decision as the public and the GM expressed support for his goalie.“We understand completely where Tuukka’s coming from. I don’t think it’s any big surprise to us, to be honest with you. We’re privy to information before the rest of the public is. This has been a difficult decision for Tuukka but the Boston Bruins are in full support of why he made this decision,” said Sweeney.

“For all of our players, we knew this would be a mental challenge, especially players with families. In Tuukka’s case, he has a newborn at home along with two other young girls and and he just felt he needed to be home with them at this particular time. You couldn’t control the timeline of when the playoffs resumed. I give Tuukka a hell of a lot of credit for trying to persevere through this and go through the process of coming up and being with his teammates. First and foremost, that’s what he wants to do. But the priorities are in the right order and this is what he has to do at this time.”

Defenseman Steven Kampfer informed the Bruins before the roster deadline that he was opting out because of a health condition of his son. In Rask’s case, it wouldn’t have helped the B’s any more if he had opted out back then as well, because they weren’t going to find a Vezina-caliber goalie no matter when he came to the decision.

“He didn’t give us an indication that this was absolutely going happen,” said Sweeney. “We have conversations with all of our players. You saw Steve Kampfer make an earlier decision. You’ve seen players in different sports make family decisions and during the course of the time (in Toronto) it’s been increasingly difficult for Tuukka to mentally stay where he needs to be. And ultimately he made a decision he had to be in a different place. I think we all understand that these are trying times for everybody. The NHL has done a fabulous job in protecting the health and safety. But the priority for Tuukka at this point, and rightfully so, has to be his family and we support that.”

Now the reins are handed over to Jaroslav Halak. Halak’s last real playoff experience was in 2015. He did carry the Canadiens on a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010.