Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask Both Have Cases to Be Made to Be the Bruins’ Starting Goaltender.
Picture: Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports
Coming into the new season, it was quite clear that Tuukka Rask was the starting goalie for the Boston Bruins. Rask finished last season with a 2.36 goals against average which was good for second among goalies who started at least 50 games.
In the offseason, the Black and Gold signed former New York Islanders goalie, Jaroslav Halak to back up Rask.
Halak had a dismal last season with New York. The Slovakian native allowed over three goals a game and was demoted to the American Hockey League (AHL) for the rest of the season.
This past summer, Halak chose to sign with the Bruins for two years. Before the season began, all signs pointed to Rask being the clear-cut starter to lead the Bruins back to the playoffs, but we are now in November and the future for the starting position is cloudy in Boston.
On opening night against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals,, the Capitals came out with a purpose and proved why they won it all last season. Rask allowed five goals on 19 shots and was pulled before the halfway point of the game.
The night after, the B’s traveled to Buffalo and Halak got the nod and he turned aside all 32 shots that he saw.
Both goalies split the next two games, and each got a win in their respective matchups. Rask allowed three goals on 31 shots against an Atlantic Division rival, the Ottawa Senators. Halak allowed only one goal on 26 shots against the Edmonton Oilers.
Rask got the following start in Detroit and the Bruins won 8-2. Through five games, Rask started three of them.
Boston then traveled to western Canada for a three-game road trip. Rask got the first start against Calgary, and he allowed three goals in the first period. The Finnish goalie was out of position, giving up bad rebounds and not making routine saves. The Bruins lost the game 5-2.
Halak got the remaining two starts on the road trip against the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers, where the Bruins were at the short end of two overtime losses. The 33-year-old allowed five goals between both games. Through eight contests, both goalies had received four starts.
Rask got the next outing in Ottawa and had a strong performance, stopping 38 shots in a 4-1 win. Not to be outdone, Halak started two days later and shutout the Philadelphia Flyers at home.
The pair of goaltenders split the last two games and those games favored Halak. Rask allowed two goals on 22 shots against Montreal in a 3-0 defeat, whereas Halak allowed two goals on 44 shots in Carolina in a 3-2 victory.
At this point in the young season, each goalie has had six starts and Halak has simply outperformed Rask.
As of the beginning of November, Rask is 3-3-0 with 3.15 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. On the other hand, Halak is 4-0-2 with 1.52 goals against average and a .947 save percentage with two shutouts.
Rask has allowed some soft goals and it has caught the eye of third-year head coach Bruce Cassidy.
After being shut out by Montreal on October 27th, Cassidy spoke with reporters after the game about Rask.
“It was a soft goal, as a team and the goaltender has to be able to get out of the first period without being too far behind.”
Going forward, Cassidy addressed his goaltender controversy, insisting it will remain balanced for now.
“We’re going to try to keep it as balanced as possible early on, and then like we said if one separates himself from the other like every other position here then we’ll allow that to evolve.”
It seems that for the foreseeable future, Rask and Halak will continue to split starts. While many Bruins fans would like to see Halak take over the job, that likely will not happen. One would assume that Halak’s stellar play will come back down to earth soon.
The last respectable season Halak had as a starter came in 2014-2015, where he went 38-17-4 with just a .914 save percentage and 2.43 goals against average.
Last year, Halak could not even maintain the starting job for a mediocre New York Islanders team.
Statistically, in each of Rask’s past five seasons as a starting goalie, Rask has had respectable numbers every season.
In addition, the Bruins are paying Rask to be their starting goalie. The 31-year-old is still under contract for another two seasons after this one concludes and is owed $7 million each season.
On the other hand, Halak has one more year on his contract after this season and is being paid just under $3 million a season.
It would be difficult for the Bruins to bench Rask given his contract and his tenure with the team. Halak will likely play more than the average backup and give Rask needed rest, especially given how hot Halak has been.
The Bruins would be wise not to burn out Rask and ride the hot hand. But do not expect the team to bench Rask for a long period of time or even trade him.
Despite going through a difficult patch, Rask is still the starting goalie for the foreseeable future.