Going into this season, Boston Bruins’ fans probably figured that when it came to the club’s goaltending, it would remain the status quo.
That meant that Tuukka Rask would get the majority of the games, while the backup would be played somewhat sparingly. It’s really been this way since Rask officially became the team’s number one goaltender in the strike-shortened season of 2012-13.
Why would they expect anything different? Rask has been a staple between the pipes for this franchise and has done it all, except lead them to a Cup, which he came close to accomplishing in 2013 when the Chicago Blackhawks beat them in the Final in six games.
With all of that said, however, things have been very different in the Bruins’ crease thus far this season. In fact, it may have people wondering who the team’s true number one goaltender is this season.
The reason why this is the case is because of Jaroslav Halak. After spending four seasons with the New York Islanders, he came to the Bruins in the off-season with relatively low expectations.
Halak, 33, struggled mightily last season. He went 20-26-6 with a 3.19 goals-against average, a .908 save percentage and one shutout.
As such, coming into the season, the Bruins and their fans were probably hoping for a netminder that would be serviceable and one that put between the pipes, would not be much of a downgrade and would get some wins. That’s really what every NHL team wants from their backup.
Well folks, Halak has come out and surprised everyone with an unbelievable start to the season. In fact, he’s actually outperformed Rask so far.
As of this writing, Halak is 10-5-2 with a 2.27 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage, and three shutouts. Yes, you read those numbers right.
Those numbers are amongst some of the best in the entire league. He is currently fifth in the league in goals-against average, second in the league in save percentage, and tied for second in the league in shutouts.
Not only does he have these numbers, but he has had a few wins against solid hockey teams this year. He has beaten the likes of the Toronto Maple Leafs (twice), Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Vegas Golden Knights, all teams that either occupy a playoff spot or are on the bubble.
When Rask was struggling earlier in the season, Halak came in and got the job done. He was steady, made the big saves when needed, and helped his team get two points, which is all that really matters in the end.
Secondly, he has clearly earned the trust of head coach Bruce Cassidy. The fact that he has started in games against some of the better teams in the league shows that Cassidy believes that he can win with Halak in net.
Halak’s fine play between the pipes has also probably taken off some of the pressure that is put on Rask. In years past, Rask was expected to be the guy in net every night, but now, especially with the way Halak is playing, he can be a bit more relaxed and just focus on his game.
With all of this said, no one is quite sure if there is a true goaltending controversy in Beantown. However, with the way Halak is playing, it is easy to see why Bruins’ fans are clamoring for him to get in more games to help their team keep pace in the league’s best division.
It will be interesting to see how things play out with these two netminders come April.