Updates from Saturday, Feb. 22
According to Matias Strozyk of Elite Prospects, Rask will play in today's bronze medal game against the U.S.:
Tuukka Rask will start for Finland in the bronze-medal game against the United States, per MTV3.— Matias Strozyk (@MaStrozyk) February 22, 2014
After leading Finland to an upset victory over Russia in the quarterfinals at the 2014 Winter Olympics, goalie Tuukka Rask was expected to be a key figure in the semifinals against Sweden. Unfortunately for the Finns, he is currently under the weather.
According to Michael Farber of SI.com, Rask is reportedly battling the flu, which ultimately prevented him from giving Finland a chance to play for gold in Sochi, Russia:
G Tuukka Rask not in official FIN lineup. Apparently has the flu.— Michael Farber (@MichaelFarber3) February 21, 2014
Rask's surprising omission from the lineup prompted Finland to go with Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen between the pipes and San Jose Sharks backstop Antti Niemi as the backup, per Shawn Roarke of NHL.com:
Tuukka Rask out for semifinal vs. Sweden. Word he is suffering from flu. Huge blow. Lehtonen is the starter now, backed up by Niemi— Shawn Roarke (@sroarke_nhl) February 21, 2014
Rask, who is a key player for the NHL's Boston Bruins, has been brilliant for Finland at the Olympics. He was expected to be a key cog in Finland's attempt to nab a medal, but the illness must be significant if it was enough to keep him off the ice in such a huge game.
Being without Rask is far from an ideal situation; however, Ottawa 67's beat writer Alex Quevillon points out that Finland's goaltending depth helps to ease the sting:
Finland, the only country who can be without Rask Rinne and Backstrom and still have no issues between the pipes whatsoever.— Alex Quevillon (@A_Quevillon) February 21, 2014
Even so, Rask gave Finland a steadying presence in the crease, and he was arguably the best goalie in the entire Olympic tournament. His Bruins teammate, defenseman Adam McQuaid, viewed Rask as the single biggest factor in Finland's potential run toward the gold medal, according to Brendan C. Hall of ESPNBoston.com.
He's doing the same thing he's doing for us, he's giving them a chance to win every game. In a short tournament like that, and with one game you move on kind of thing, you get a hot goalie, you can do good things. No surprise to see him playing as well as he is. We're all happy for him.
How will Finland fare in the wake of Rask's illness?
Tough luck forced Rask out of the lineup on Friday, but it remains to be seen how long he'll be laid up. If the Finns lose to Sweden, then Finland will play either the United States or Canada for bronze on Saturday. If Finland wins, though, it won't have to play until Sunday's gold-medal game.
There is no question that Finnish fans are hoping to escape the semis with a win, which would give Rask another day to recover.
Rask is also a key figure for the Bruins moving forward as they look to win another Stanley Cup, but his illness doesn't figure to impact his status with the team much. Perhaps Boston will rest Rask for the first game back against the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 26, but there is no reason to believe that this will be a long-term issue.
Rask has likely dreamed about playing in the Olympics for a long time, so it has to be tough for him to sit out in the semifinals, but perhaps this isn't the last that we have heard from him in Sochi.
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