There were plenty of people clamoring for Bruce Cassidy to start Jeremy Swayman during the second-round series against the New York Islanders.
Predictably, that clamoring got even louder after the series ended and it was revealed that Tuukka Rask was playing hurt and would need hip surgery.
The guess as to why Cassidy stuck with Rask was that he asked Rask if he was good to go, Rask said yes, and life went on.
Cassidy essentially confirmed that line of thinking during his post-season media availability today.
“He met with us every day: the medical staff, myself, [goaltending coach] Bob [Essensa], to go through his status,” Cassidy said. “He played Game 1 with it against Washington, right through to Game 6 in New York. It was the same injury...we just got different results in the second round, and obviously, some of that is team-oriented.”
“We were never going to run out of a player that wasn’t fit to play,” he continued. “So, it first passed through him...he regularly told us he was ready to go.”
Swayman did see some time in these playoffs, filling in for Rask in the third period of Game 5.
“After the second period, I thought he didn’t look as sharp,” Cassidy said of Rask’s performance in Game 5. “Goalie Bob talked to him and said he was lacking some energy, so we said ‘we’ll go with Swayman in the third.’ Then we’ll sort out Game 6. Again, he came back the next day feeling better.”
With Rask reporting that he was ready to go for Game 6, Cassidy had to make what he considered a pretty easy decision.
“It comes on me to make the final call, who gives us the best chance to win?,” he said. “I chose Tuukka. No regrets on that. We felt he gave us the best chance to win...didn’t work out that way.”
Cassidy also noted that Rask had the full backing of his teammates, something we heard repeatedly from the players themselves on break-up day.
“Some of those decisions also go through the leadership group, where are you guys at in terms of your mental psyche with the goaltending?,” Cassidy said. “They were all on board with Tuukka as well. They certainly believe in Swayman, but Tuukka’s been there and done it. That’s where that decision came from.”