Rask-Halak rotation gives Bruins new goaltending dynamic
Don’t call it a goaltending controversy between Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Call it a fine tandem instead.
Halak and Rask split duties during the Bruins’ first five games of the 2018-19 campaign. The former, who signed with the Black and Gold during the summer, is looking impressive having given up just one goal in his first two starts. The latter, despite his lightning rod status from sports radio hosts and angry Twitter mobs, bounced back after a dreadful opening night performance where he allowed five goals on 19 shots against the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals.
So, it came as no surprise when Bruce Cassidy announced his goaltending plans during the Bruins’ next two stops in Calgary and Edmonton as part of the team’s upcoming four-game road trip.
“They’re going to split [the back-to-back]. Tuukka will start [Wednesday] in Calgary, and Halak will start Thursday in Edmonton,” Cassidy said following Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “From there, we’ll let you know on Friday who plays [in Vancouver] on Saturday. I don’t know if they’ll split the next two or if Tuukka will keep going. We’ve kind of looked at that, but that’s the immediate plan right there.”
“It’s been good sharing the games back and forth. I think it helps for both of us to get in there and find our rhythm,” Rask said about the early rotation. “I think he’s played tremendous [in the] games [he’s played] so it’s good for us.”
Very rarely do teams have two capable and experienced starters at their disposal. Both enter the four-game Canadian road swing with exactly 452 career appearances. Halak has the slight edge in career starts with 436 compared to Rask’s 433.
Yes, Anton Khudobin brought stability at a much-needed time as the team’s backup, especially during a four-game run late November. That helped lessen the burden for Rask and kept the Finnish goalie fresher come playoff time.
Khudobin’s reliability and his colorful personality are now in Dallas. But Halak’s experience and stability give the Bruins a goaltending dynamic they haven’t seen since Rask shared time with Tim Thomas for most of his first three seasons in Boston.
“I think you can see his mindset. He’s been a No. 1 goalie so it’s not like he’s stressing out too much. He knows what to do and how to be mentally stable out there [in games] and during practices too,” Rask added about Halak.
“So I think that’s the biggest difference, you know, from a veteran goalie to a young goalie; just to be even keel and do your job out there. So I think that’s great for our team. We’re trying to be those calm influences out there where nothing rattles us and I think he’s a great example of that.”
They may feel calm, but neither are too comfortable between the pipes.
Case in point Halak’s last game against the Oilers. Yes, it was another solid outing with his only blemish coming on Connor McDavid’s breakaway tally. Halak saw the puck well in his 25-save effort, but he also needed a save from his defense in a timely third period moment.
Luckily for Halak, there was a certain 6-foot-9 captain there to back him up to keep the B’s lead to two at 3-1.
“I think, you never want to get comfortable. I mean, you want to feel good about your game, but you never want to be [too] comfortable,” Halak said following the 4-1 win over Edmonton. “There’s always thing[s] to improve in practice or in games, and even tonight, I mention, I think Zee [Zdeno Chara], I owe him a big dinner and he stopped probably three goals, probably wouldn’t be able to get two points, you know. These guys take pride in defending and Zee is, he’s well known for it.”
Chara is well-known for making clutch defensive plays. Halak and Rask are well-known as reliable stalwarts between the pipes. The goaltending tandem and the Chara-led blue-line are complimenting each other in the early going.