WILMINGTON — Tuukka Rask is back with the Bruins, healthy, rested and the new owner of an Olympic bronze medal.
Rask played in four games for Finland in the Olympics, missing the team’s semifinal loss to Sweden with the flu but returning to blank Team USA in a 5-0, bronze-winning contest for Finland.
“I mean, it’s a great tournament,” Rask said of the Olympics. “It’s a tough tournament. You’re playing against the best players in the world. It’s not the same situation as in the NHL, but it’s still a battle. It was great. A great thing for Finns to get that medal. Nobody expected us to win it, and now, for [the Bruins], we got three medals, so I think everybody should be feeling pretty good about ourselves going into the month of March. Hopefully we can share some of that confidence we have from the Olympics to the other guys.”
Rask shot down a seemingly baseless rumor floating around that he had missed the semifinal game because he had gone out the night before. The Olympic village was generally dry, and Finland’s housing had no alcohol. He joked that Bruins teammate and Sweden star Loui Eriksson had put something in his food.
What actually happened was that Rask was sick during the Olympics and had played through the flu in the team’s quarterfinal win over Russia, but when he woke up the day of the semifinal game (the game was played at 4:30 p.m. in Russia, by the way), he felt that Finland stood a better chance playing a healthy Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi. Lehtonen played and the team lost.
“What can you do? I could have played, but if you’re 40 percent of your capacity, it doesn’t really make any sense to go out there if you have two No. 1 goalies,” Rask said. “So that kind of made my decision easier to stay off. I knew that it was not going to matter who’s in net, we were going to have a chance to win. It happens and no hard feelings.”
This was Rask’s first Olympic experience, but with owners against the idea of sending NHL players to future Olympics, it could be his last. Rask said he hopes that isn’t the case, but sees why owners may be concerned.
“I mean, it’s kind of a two-edged sword, I guess, because you see these injuries and it’s tough because the teams, they just give their players up and if something happens, you get nothing in return,” he said. “But for us being there, it’s fun, it’s a great experience and it’s fun to play with.
“So I can see the both worlds, GMs and owners, kind of mad about losing the players. But then again, it’s a fun experience for the players, so I’m sure they’re going to figure it out by the next one.’
Rask returns to the Bruins just as their schedule picks up. The team’s schedule calls for six sets of back-to-back games, and it’s the team’s intention to not overwork Rask. As such, Chad Johnson, who has started half of the team’s last 12 games, will get more ice time.
As for Rask, he said he doesn’t want to tell the coaches every time he feels tired, and that considering he only played four Olympic games and got a lot of sleep (he said he slept the entire plane ride back to North America), he doesn’t feel burned out now.
“You always have to look sharp no matter what, especially for the goalies,” Rask said. “But honestly, I feel good now. I don’t feel tired. Ask me again after March, I might have a little different story.’