Is there a goalie controversy brewing in Boston? The first month of play has seen the Boston Bruins skate to a 5-2-2 record. Bruins starting goaltender Tuukka Rask has been between the pipes for 5 of those games, posting a 3-2-0 record with a 3.38 and .901 save percentage. Going into last night’s game, Rask’s counterpart, backup goalie Jaroslav Halak, has made the most of his playing time, leading the Bruins to a 2-0-2 record with a 1.74 GAA and a 9.33 save percentage.
The split time in net so far this season should be beneficial to both athletes. A little friendly competition will hopefully lead to Rask and Halak playing at the top of their games. Also, the rest will do Rask well; he has played an average of 63 games the last four seasons, topping out at 70 in the 2014-15 season. This heavy workload, some have argued, has led to Rask looking less than his stellar self at the end of the 82 game regular season.
Halak got the nod in net for Thursday night’s matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“We went back and forth,” coach Bruce Cassidy said when asked about the luxury of good backup goaltending, “but this was originally scheduled as Jaroslav’s game. We told Jaro listen, if you come in and play we’re not going to limit your starts. We’ll allow the competition to evolve and he’s done a real good job.”
The first period was uneventful and saw Halak make routine saves on all 7 of the shots he faced. Halak’s first great save of the night came in the second period when a rebound ricocheted off the skate of Bruins forward Joakim Nordstrom and he made a great positional save.
Halfway through the second period Halak faced a barrage of scoring chances from the Flyers. Philadelphia forward Claude Giroux had a breakaway chance but couldn’t get the puck past Halak. Halak would come up huge again a minute and a half later when Flyer defenseman Travis Sanheim, who was set up in the slot for a one timer, was robbed by Halak. Shortly thereafter Halak made an incredible sprawling split save on Giroux again keeping it a 0-0 game. Inspired by his goaltender’s tremendous saves, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara would score the game’s go ahead goal a few minutes after Halak’s second save on Giroux. Jake DeBrusk would add a powerplay goal at the end of the second and that would be more than enough to put the Flyers away. Chara would add an empty net goal at the end of the third to secure a 3-0 win for the Bruins.
He [Halak] made some big saves for us when we needed them, timely and here we are with the win so,” Cassidy said. When asked about riding the hot golie instead of a scripted schedule Cassidy replied, “We’ll work Tuukka’s starts in cause he’s been the number one but if Jaro’s able to push him and eventually take the job, if and when that happens then we’ll look at that so we’ll try and keep it as balanced as possible early on and then if one separates himself from the other, like every other position here, we’ll allow that to evolve.”
“We have confidence in both guys [Rask and Halak] and I think that helps a lot,” DeBrusk answered when asked if he has more freedom to try and be offensive knowing he has solid goaltending behind him. “There’s not goals going in form anywhere and everywhere. We’re kind of playing a stingy system and when teams do get chances and they will cause it’s the NHL, I think both goaltenders have been there for us. Ever since preseason I thought he [Halak] has been very good. We have two goaltenders we have confidence in.”
The Bruins and their fans hope both goaltenders can keep playing at this elite level.