Has another goalie been added to the shopping list for Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney before the NHL Trade Deadline?
With the health of Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask becoming ‘a considerable concern’, there has been an uptake in NHL trade buzz this past week that Sweeney and the Bruins have been poking around for a depth goalie in case Rask’s injury becomes even worse than it already has. One source indicated that the uncertainty surrounding Rask’s return has the Bruins at least keeping their eyes and ears open for potential goaltending depth ahead of the April 12 NHL Trade Deadline.
“From what I’m told, there is considerable concern with Rask in Boston,” one of the sources told BHN Saturday. “They have Halak just for this situation and like what they’ve seen from [Dan] Vladar but what if [Jaro] Halak goes down or isn’t doing what they expect from him. He’s had some issues and it can’t hurt to add more experience to that position for the playoffs.”
After missing six games with what’s believed to be a lower-back injury, Rask returned to start against the New York Islanders on March 25. He stopped all six shots he faced in the opening frame but left after a period and did not return. The Bruins would blow their 20 lead after one and lose 4-3 in a shootout. That relief appearance by Halak and some other Halak starts showed that maybe the goalie bullpen could be a little deeper just in case.
“I don’t think this is a sign they don’t believe in Halak but what if he goes down or struggles, then they’re down to a rookie, maybe two with Vladar and Swayman,” the same source said.
Of course, even after their thrilling come-from-behind 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, it’s no sure thing the Bruins even make the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs right now. Chances are you never thought you’d read that heading into the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline but then there’s a solid chance you didn’t think the Bruins (19-10-5, 43 pts, .632 %) would be clinging to the final playoff spot in the East Division on April 4 right? That’s where they were as they woke up on Easter morning, leading the Flyers (17-14-4, 38 pts, .543 %) by five points with a back-to-back, home and away set with the Flyers set for Monday in Boston and Tuesday in Philadelphia.
The Flyers, a fashionable preseason pick to win the East have struggled thanks to a porous defense and goalie phenom Carter Hart struggling but the Bruins haven’t had bad goaltending at all. In fact, in this roller-coaster season of COVID pauses, a crowded injury list, and a lack of 5-on-5 scoring, the Rask/Halak tandem and Brad Marchand have been the most consistently good thing for the B’s this season. Rask is 8-4-2 with a 2.04 GAA and a .907 save percentage and Halak is 9-5-3 with a 2.44 GAA and a .910 save percentage. The Bruins are fifth in the NHL in goals-against allowing 2.47 goals-against per game.
Clearly, improving their five-on-five scoring and adding a Top 4 defenseman is a major focus ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline but can one really blame the Bruins for wanting to make sure they’re as secure as can be between the pipes given the touch and go status of Rask?
Halak’s stats have been great but he has had some in-game funks and some overall duds this season and given his mediocre performance after Rask had to leave the bubble to attend to his sick daughter during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s hard to knock Sweeney for at east sniffing around to see what the goalie market has. Some may point to Vladar’s (2-1-0, 2.03 GAA, .929 save percentage) as validation that he can be a sufficient backup but the Bruins are still looking at this season as a closing window for the veteran core of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Marchand and Rask to win another Stanley Cup and they likely don’t want to take a chance with the most important position in the playoffs.