With Jaroslav Halak once again ready to be a 1B goalie for the Bruins and share the workload with 1A Tuukka Rask, can Rask once again be fresh and ready to put his team on his back in the Stanley Cup playoffs?
After a slow start last season, Rask found his game in November and never looked back. He admittedly benefitted from having Halak as his partner between the pipes and he’s excited to split starts with Halak again this season because he knows it increases the Bruins’ chances of finishing what they started last season and winning the 2020 Stanley Cup.
“We split the games and we had two goalies going, kind of competing, pushing each other and I think that’s what every team wants,” Rask told reporters last week. “We accomplished that last year and we’ll try and do it again this year. It helps a lot. Your body feels good, mentally you’re fresh and you feel like your game’s in a place that it needs to be and you’re ready for a long run (in the playoffs).”
By no means was 2018-19 a Vezina Trophy worthy season like the 2013-14 season when Rask was voted as the NHL’s best goalie after going 36-15-6 with a 2.04 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. What last season was though, was exactly what Rask, 32, and most goalies his age need, a decreased regular-season workload. Besides the 48-game, lockout-shortened season in 2013, when Rask started 36 games, his 46 starts last season were a career-low for him as a starter.
After a brutal October in which he had a 3.15 GAA and .902 save percentage, Rask bounced back to go 27-13-0-5 with a 2.48 GAA and .912 save percentage. His best work came when it counted most though as a much fresher Rask carried hsi team to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, going 15-9 with a 2.02 GAA and .934 save percentage. The Rask-Halak tandem worked and the plan now is to utilize it again and make another run to the Cup Final.
There’s a very real chance that Rask once again gets off to a slow start this season since he and his teammates played deep into June during the run to the Final last season. Rask has told the media that he’s healthy, so that won’t be an issue, but it’s only natural that a goalie coming off a combined – regular season and playoffs – 69-game season, will show some fatigue early on as he finds his groove. However, just like last season, Rask and the Bruins have the luxury of treating that fatigue with more quality starts from Halak.
Last season Halak actually started more games (7) than Rask (6) in October and there’s a good chance head coach Bruce Cassidy could use Halak even more during his team’s 12 games this October. That will only benefit the Bruins later in the season and during what they hope is another long playoff run. Rask is very much on board with a close to, if not even split with Halak this season and having that mentality going into the season will be huge.
Official Prediction: 44 GP, 42 Starts, 28-12-2, .920 save percentage, 2.30 GAA