Sticking with Tuukka Rask is the right call, for now
He’s in his third-year behind the Bruins’ bench, but Bruce Cassidy’s decision-making in Boston is leaps and bounds ahead compared to his first NHL coaching stint in Washington. So it came to little surprise when Cassidy said he’d likely lean toward starting Tuukka Rask for the Black and Gold’s home opener against the Ottawa Senators on Columbus Day afternoon.
Cassidy will confirm his starter following Sunday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. Jaroslav Halak’s 32-save shutout against his ‘former’ team in Buffalo is tempting enough to give him a second straight start. But that means deviating from his calendar of scheduled goaltenders early in the season.
Of course, this decision isn’t the end all be all for the 2018-19 season. Going with Rask won’t sit well with the hot take crowd led by Michael Felger and the rest of Boston’s knee-jerk sports radio personalities.
The last thing any coach wants to do is deviate from the norm to begin the season. So starting Rask against a lowly Sens bunch is the way to go.
“Most likely, yes,” Cassidy said during his press conference at the Brighton practice facility on Saturday. “We usually script this out ahead of time and we’re going to follow that plan until we don’t.”
Wednesday’s 7-0 shellacking at the hands of the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals was hardly a script that Cassidy envisioned. He had little choice but to pull Rask after the veteran netminder allowed five goals on 19 shots. Halak fared a little better allowing two goals in relief, but sparked the B’s in their bounce-back effort at Buffalo 24 hours later.
True, Rask allowed a few goals he’d like to have back, including Evgeni Kuznetsov’s short side goal that ended his night at 7:28 of the second period. The Bruins’ D did little to help Rask or Halak as the Caps gained easy zone entries where time and space was easy to come by.
The defensive effort improved tremendously in Buffalo, despite allowing 32 shots. They gave Halak plenty of time to react and kept the Sabres away from the dangerous scoring areas. Halak stood tall and made the key saves when he had to in instances where pucks stayed near the crease.
“Obviously when you get embarrassed in a blowout like that, you want to come out the next game hard and play your style of hockey,” Rask said about the B’s effort in Buffalo. “And I think we played pretty well as a team, and we got rewarded with some key goals. So that was a good bounce-back win for us.”
Rask, himself, will look to bounce back in his next scheduled start. A similar performance to Halak’s in Buffalo is more than ideal. Even Rask’s ‘B’ game will do more good than harm.
What does that ‘B’ game entail?
“I would say it’s where he might fight the puck, but it gives you a chance to win,” Cassidy said.
“His ‘A’ game is when he’s on and it’s more than a chance to win; he’s bailing you out and making key saves at times. I think his ‘B’ game…there might be a soft goal mixed in there, but when he makes a save he makes it. That’s usually what everyone’s ‘B’ game is. It’s not your best, but it still contributes to a win. So that’s what I always describe the ‘B’ game for any player. It might not be your night where you’re the star of the show, but you’re going to do enough to help a team win. Obviously, as a goalie, it’s more magnified. If it’s a ‘B’ game, there’s probably a goal in there that he’d like back, but he stays in there and battles back.”
He wasn’t a part of that bounce-back effort in Buffalo, but Rask gets another chance to redeem himself. The sooner he does, the better.