Tuukka Rask's return to Bruins off to bad start after 5-3 loss to Ducks

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Rask's return to Bruins off to bad start after 5-3 loss to Ducks originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Tuukka Rask's performance for the Boston Bruins since returning to the team earlier this month has been underwhelming at best.

Rask was in net again Monday night and gave up five goals to the Anaheim Ducks as the Bruins lost 5-3 to finish a seven-game homestand.

Some Bruins fans in attendance at TD Garden even started chanting "We want Swayman" in reference to rookie goalie Jeremy Swayman, who was sent to the AHL's Providence Bruins a few weeks ago to make room for Rask on the NHL roster.

Anaheim's shorthanded tally in the second period was one of the softest goals Rask has ever given up.

“Obviously, I haven’t been good enough," Rask told reporters in his postgame presser. "You know, the inconsistency within the game and from game in and game out has been there and I just gotta fix that. I'm not satisfied, obviously.”

Rask is 2-2-0 with an abysmal .844 save percentage and a 4.28 GAA in four games. He's allowed five goals in two of his last three starts. It's a very small sample size and before this month Rask's last game action came in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but obviously this level of performance is nowhere near what the Bruins need or expect from a goalie of his caliber.

“Well, he’s not where he needs to be,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters after Monday's defeat. “I think that’s evident. We weren’t sure he would be this soon, either. As I said, I think you probably need seven or eight starts. There hasn't been a long layoff. He was just in the net (Saturday). That part of it is good that he got right back in there -- we didn't get the result we wanted (vs. the Ducks).

"Certainly needed a few more saves if we were going to win tonight. Again, he’ll need more starts, and then we’ll have to evaluate it. Right now, not where he needs to be.”

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The Bruins are not at the halfway point in the regular season yet. They've played 39 games so far, and their schedule during the second half of the season is loaded with tons of games and few off days as a result of six matchups being postponed in December due to COVID-19.

So, the B's can afford to be a little patient with Rask. The Bruins are in no danger of missing the playoffs. The Eastern Conference race is essentially over, with all that's left to be decided is seeding. The Bruins occupy the second and final wild card spot in the East and have an 8-point lead over the Detroit Red Wings with three games in hand. It would take a miraculous finish for the Red Wings or Blue Jackets to climb into a playoff spot.

This doesn't mean the Bruins should just assume a playoff berth is locked up, but the current standings do afford them the opportunity to patient with Rask and give him the games required to get up to speed.

Another factor in Boston's favor has been the recent play of Linus Ullmark. The veteran netminder is 11-2-0 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.34 GAA since Nov. 20. He's been excellent in net and will start Wednesday versus the Colorado Avalanche.

If Rask does not improve, the Bruins will need to re-evaluate the goaltending position and consider bringing Swayman back to Boston. But like Cassidy noted, Rask should get around seven to eight starts before that process really picks up.