Sports Q

Sports Q: Is starting Tuukka Rask over Jeremy Swayman the right call in Game 6?

What would you do if you were Bruce Cassidy?

Tuukka Rask. John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe

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Is starting Tuukka Rask over Jeremy Swayman the right call in Game 6?

Ah, yes, the question of the day, and perhaps the ultimate debate-worthy question we’ve had here at the Sports Q. It combines urgency, legacies, and logical arguments for either goalie, Tuukka Rask or Jeremy Swayman. 

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has the only vote that counts, of course, and he told the media Wednesday morning that Rask would get the start. So let’s tweak the question: Is that the right call?

The pro-Tuukka case: He’s the winningest goalie in Bruins regular-season and playoff history. While he’s never won a Cup as the starter, he’s played well enough to get the Bruins on the brink in 2013 and ’19. The situation – the Bruins trail the Islanders, 3-2 – won’t be too big for him. And he has had moments of excellence in this series, including a 28-save effort in the Bruins’ 2-1 overtime victory in Game 3 that gave them a fleeting 2-1 lead in this series. Rask can be an enigma, but he’s as goalie the vast majority of teams in the NHL would be happy to have in their net in a must-win game.

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The pro-Swayman case: The UMaine product was superb late in the regular season, going 7-3 with a 1.50 goals against average and 94.5 save percentage in 10 games. He allowed a goal on three shots in relief of Rask in Game 5, but the defense closed ranks around him and the Bruins nearly pulled off a furious comeback from a 5-2 deficit. Playing him might be a strategic changeup that the Islanders won’t be ready for. And most important, he’s healthy, and Rask, whose mobility is clearly affected by a back injury and assorted other ailments, is not.

So who should the choice be? I have to admit, if I’d answered this yesterday, my answer would be different than it is today. I would have said they should stick with Rask, the veteran, and that’s what they’ll do. But I think it’s a mistake, and Cassidy should have gone with Swayman.  Rask just doesn’t look right, because he isn’t, and with the defense in front of him depleted, he could be a sitting duck for the Isles in Game 6. I do wonder if he’ll get a quick hook if the Islanders get one on him early.

I understand Cassidy’s call. Rask is the experienced veteran who has won a lot of games through the years. It would be a lot to ask Swayman to go out there in a must-win after not having started a game since May 11. But he’s a talented kid, and he might have been up for it. I would have liked to find out.

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What does everyone else think? Is the decision to start Rask the right one?  I’ll hear you in the comments.

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