Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask believes he made the right decision in leaving the team during the first round of the 2019-20 NHL playoffs inside the the NHL bubble in Toronto.
In an interview with Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic, Rask discussed the decision publicly for the first time and revealed that he felt uneasy about leaving his wife, Jasmiina, at home in Boston with their three children, including newborn Livia, during the COVID-19 pandemic:
"I think it was challenging for everybody. You're inside a bubble looking outside and you see the world out there, and you just know you can't exit the perimeter. It's obviously not easy from that perspective. But for me, my whole thing, before it even started, was that we didn't even have a passport for our youngest one for my family to go home [to Finland]. If they had a chance to go home, I'd be OK with that. Then I wouldn't have to worry about anything with what's going on in Boston. That was obviously something I was weighing even before we were in the bubble."
Rask also divulged that the main factor that contributed to his departure from the bubble was a medical situation involving his eldest daughter, Vivien:
"There was a situation with our oldest daughter that needed my immediate attention. I did what, as a dad and as a parent, I needed to do. That's it. There's no more drama to it. I had to make a choice of dealing with the consequences that might come afterwards. I chose for my own personal sake that it's better for me to come home than stay there and deal with the stuff later at home."
Rask left on the morning of Game 3 of Boston's first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Bruins went on to win that game and the series with Jaroslav Halak in goal, but they were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.
Rask revealed that watching the Bruins' playoff run from home was difficult since he knew there was nothing he could do to contribute at that time.
Although most were publicly supportive of Rask reuniting with his family during a difficult time, he faced some criticism as well. Most notably, former Bruins defenseman and head coach Mike Milbury questioned Rask's decision during an NBC broadcast.
Rask said the opinions of others had no impact on him:
"If people knew what was going on, they might have a different perspective. I'd like to say everything. But I want to be very protective of my daughter. I don't want to cause her any damage in the future by saying what happened and what didn’t happen. I hope you understand that."
Now that the dust has settled on the 2019-20 season and Rask's daughter, Vivien, is doing well, the focus shifts toward the 2020-21 campaign.
The 33-year-old Rask has spent his entire 13-year NHL career with the Bruins, but he is entering the final year of his contract.
The two-time All-Star, one-time Vezina Trophy winner and one-time Stanley Cup champion went 26-8-6 with a 2.12 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and five shutouts last season, but his future is far from guaranteed.
If next season is Rask's last in Boston, the Bruins are well-equipped to go on one more run. They led the NHL with 100 points in just 70 regular-season games last season, and with Rask and a strong group of forwards back in the fold, the Bruins have the makings of a Stanley Cup contender.