SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Today we spell redemption r-a-s-k; that is a chance at redemption.
Bruce Cassidy kept his plans a secret after the Boston Bruins took the ice at Compton Family Ice Arena for their first practice on the Notre Dame Campus. He didn’t take long to let the proverbial cat out of the bag. The very next day, the third-year Bruins bench boss named Tuukka Rask as the starting goaltender for their 2019 Winter Classic tilt with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Rask makes his second start Winter Classic and first since allowing five goals against the hated Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium in 2016. The Finn served as a backup to Tim Thomas during Boston’s 2-1 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park in 2010.
This was far from a clear-cut decision for Cassidy. Rask, sitting at 9-8-2 this season, hasn’t provided enough consistency this season. Jaroslav Halak, on the other hand, has been one of the best goalies in the league this season. In fact, Halak leads the league in save percentage (.928) and sits fifth in goals-against average (2.28).
But Rask’s recent outing in Buffalo — a 3-2 overtime win — gave Cassidy something else to ponder over.
“Tuukka [Rask] is going to start,” Cassidy said after the team’s final practice in 2018. “Tough decision obviously with the way Jaro [Jaroslav Halak] has played. [Rask] played well the other night and we’re trying to get him some consecutive starts to get him feeling good about his game on a regular basis. I think it’s been not as consistent, I think we all agree, as we’d like so this is an opportunity for him to take another step. So that’s the biggest reason.”
With a game of this magnitude and Halak exceeding everyone’s expectations, Cassidy gave the decision plenty of thought. He even considered playing both goaltenders at times before ultimately choosing Rask.
“I told Jaro that. I said ‘It’d be nice if I could split you two, but is that realistic? Probably not.” Cassidy stated about retracting his potential two-goalie plan. “If Jaro gets in, that means it probably didn’t go well for Tuukka, so we don’t like to think that.”
Cassidy, for now, is sticking to his guns and going with players that have brought Boston success in recent years. Now the focus shifts entirely to the 2014 Vezina Trophy winner.
Both Rask and the Bruins are hoping for a better showing than his lackluster performance against the Canadiens back in 2016. The now 31-year-old netminder let up five goals in a hideous and forgetful performance against Boston’s arch-rivals.
Three years later, Rask gets his chance at redemption in one of the more historic college football venues. At the very least, he’ll be sporting a brand new helmet that pays homage to the iconic Notre Dame football squad.
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
Bruins Daily is a NHL credentialed media organization that is dedicated to being the leading provider of Boston Bruins news, analysis, and commentary, by focusing exclusively on the Boston organization. Bruins Daily provides written content, studio produced video, and on location video, all with a unique voice that fans can relate to. Complete coverage is provided through all of the latest NHL/AHL news, updates, scores, injuries, transactions and fan events.