Much to the chagrin of sports fans around the country, the city of Boston may soon be planning another championship parade, as the Bruins are just five wins away from hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time since 2011.
The Bruins have had a remarkable playoff run and their success can be attributed to their complete roster assembled by GM Don Sweeney. Of course, the biggest factor in the Bruins’ run has been the play of their starting goaltender, Tuukka Rask.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 15, 2019
Rask’s postseason play has been otherworldly, making him the front-runner to win the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff MVP. This strong play has silenced the doubters that he has had for so many years, who questioned his ability to win in the big moment.
Personally, I never understood the hate for Tuukka Rask. He has always been an exceptional goaltender and among the league’s best. To me, his postseason struggles and inconsistencies can be attested to one thing, durability.
Between 2013 and 2018, Rask averaged 61 starts per season, so it’s no wonder why he often struggled in the playoffs. He ran out of gas.
Let’s face it, today’s NHL goaltender is not suited to play in 60+ games anymore. Today’s starting goalie is better off playing no more than 55 games in a season. Ergo, teams have focused on either having a 1A/1B starting tandem or a very capable backup goaltender to keep their starters fresh.
In the Bruins case, it’s the latter with backup Jaroslav Halak. The Slovak netminder has always been a good NHL goaltender and at his age, a “backup” role behind an elite starter was the perfect fit for him. This season, he won 22 games with an impressive 2.39 GAA and .924 save percentage. He is the Bruins’ MVP for this season.
Why you ask? Thanks to Halak, who started 37 games this season, Rask’s workload was managed significantly better, keeping him fresher and more durable for the playoffs.
The dividends from this managed workload have paid off tremendously, as Rask has posted his best postseason numbers since the Bruins’ Cup run in 2013, where they ultimately lost in the finals to the Chicago Blackhawks. This season, they’ll be hoping for different results.
Jaro Halak was without question Don Sweeney’s best free agent signing this past offseason. Should the Boston Bruins raise the Stanley Cup in June, their fans shouldn’t forget the contributions of the man who never set foot on the ice during the playoffs.
Photo: NBC Sports Boston