Bruins

Andrew Raycroft says Bruins can’t let Tuukka Rask play through injury in Game 6

Rask left the Bruins' Game 5 loss for "maintenance" of an ongoing injury after allowing four goals in two periods.

Tuukka Rask Bruins
Tuukka Rask after giving up a second-period goal Monday night. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
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It’s win-or-go-home time for the Bruins after Tuesday night’s 5-4 loss to the New York Islanders in the second round of the NHL playoffs.

But the big question is: will Tuukka Rask be in net when Boston tries to stave off elimination in Game 6 Wednesday night?

The veteran goaltender didn’t finish Game 5, getting the yank after allowing four goals on 16 shots through the first two periods of the game.

Rookie backup goaltender Jeremy Swayman took Rask’s place for his first after playoff action, allowing another goal that proved to be the difference in the game.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy downplayed Rask’s exit after the game, saying his removal was simply for “maintenance that needed to be done” and that Rask “certainly could have [gone] back in” despite not being 100 percent.

Cassidy then said he “assumes” Rask will suit up for Game 6.

But NESN analyst and former Bruins goalie Andrew Raycroft told WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show that Rask’s injury — which may be related to a lower back strain suffered in March — shouldn’t be so lightly dismissed.

“Any time you have a ‘maintenance period,’ which I’ve never heard of in Game 5 of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there’s going to be a lot of questions and a lot of confusion for all of us,” he said.

Raycroft spent his first five seasons of his 11-year career as a goaltender with the Bruins, the team that drafted him. He noted that Rask’s stiffness during pregame warms and movements on the ice during Game 5 quickly revealed the long-time Bruins net-minder wasn’t healthy.

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“I watched him just playing the puck — something that he’s done really well, really worked on, got better at — I thought it was not sharp, especially to start the game,” he said of Rask. “A few odd plays coming out of the net, didn’t look like he could really get a lot of leverage on his stick and make real good, hard plays. So you put all of it together, and then he comes out, there’s something going on.

“But when the coach says, ‘He could have went…’ — I’m not sure. There’s just a lot to try and take from the not-100 percent information that we have.”

Rask gave way to Swayman to start the third period with the Bruins nursing a 4-2 deficit. The rookie then allowed a goal less than two minutes into the frame to make the score 5-2. But he didn’t face another shot after that as Boston’s offense clawed its way back into the game before falling just short.

“I thought they were still in it. I thought putting Swayman in there, that puts him in a tough spot — never played in a playoff,” Raycroft added. “Does Tuukka make that save on Brock Nelson and keep it 4-2 and then they got back and tie it up? I feel like he could’ve. But maybe it he’s injured, maybe they were worried about it.”

Raycroft also said he would have liked for Rask to push through the injury if possible, acknowledging the veteran goaltender’s departure from the playoffs last year and past perceptions of being “soft” have invited additional criticism of his commitment.

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But he added that simply toughing it out is especially hard for goaltenders, which means the Bruins might have a tough choice to make with Rask for Game 6.

“You hear about guys — the mythology of Patrice Bergeron coming out of the hospital. As a goaltender, that’s a lot harder to do,” he explained. “You can’t just go up and down the wing and change your game and just get in on a board check or just play good defensively. As a goaltender, you’re in or you’re not. It’s one or the other. And when you’re not 100 percent, if you’re not feeling it completely, then it makes your job very, very difficult.”

“Whatever it is, his health has to be better for him to play Game 6 than it was Game 5. If he’s the same way going into Game 6 as he was going into Game 5, then I don’t think you can play him.”

But Rask, as Raycroft points out, isn’t the only reason the Bruins find themselves down 3-2 in their series with the Islanders. In particular, Boston has allowed six power play goals on 10 chances during their three home games in the series.

The former goaltender said Bruins coach head Bruce Cassidy “had to” voice his frustrations with the officiating, while admitting calls have been “bad for both side.”

Still, the officiating woes have made the ineffectiveness of the Bruins’ penalty kills even more glaring, according to Raycroft.

“When we look back on this series if the Bruins don’t find a way to win through to Game 7, I’m going to look at the ‘PK’ and its inability to stop this team…that’s the difference in the series right now,” he said.

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