The Boston Bruins fell to the New York Rangers 3-2 on Saturday. The star of the night was Mika Zibanejad who potted a go-ahead goal in the second and the eventual game-winning goal in the third period. However, the biggest play of the game came on a tally by Filip Chytil – and it wasn’t the goal itself that drew the most attention.
Tuukka Rask suffered a concussion on Saturday night. The goaltender was down on the ice for a period of time before being helped down the tunnel and into Boston’s locker room.
It was a tough sequence to watch, especially for Bruins fans. Chytil flew down the right wing and zipped by Bruins’ star winger David Pastrnak. With the puck on his backhand, Chytil proceeded to skate the puck toward the goal where Rask awaited. Switching the puck over to his forehand, the 19-year-old expertly roofed the puck to tie the game 1-1 in the first period.
Charlie McAvoy was desperate to beat his opponent to the net. The defenseman slid to the front of the goal on one knee in what seemed to be an attempt to break up the play with his body. The two players met at the top of the crease, and McAvoy made contact with Chytil’s lower body. This knocked the Ranger into the vulnerable goaltender. The principal point of contact between Chytil and Rask was the netminder’s head.
Having suffered a concussion on the play, Rask is under league protocol. Luckily, Boston will not resume play until after the NHL All-Star break. This is nothing new for the 2018-19 Bruins, however. The team has lost many of its starters to injuries this season with key pieces like Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara missing time.
Urho Vaakanainen, Jake DeBrusk and McAvoy were all out with concussions at different points throughout the campaign. “We’ve been hurt at every other position, so it looks like it’s going to be one of those years where we’re going to be tested at every position,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, according to an NHL.com article.
At first glance, it looks as though Rask will be out for more than the Bruins’ nine-day break. The replays were gruesome to watch. You can clearly see that the netminder’s head was snapped backward by the collision with Chytil, going on to smack both the post and the ice on his way down. It was almost like a three-punch combo that left Rask in a daze as he was helped to the tunnel.
Tuukka Rask suffered a concussion after this nasty collision with Filip Chytil 😳 pic.twitter.com/NospP08pfb
— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) January 20, 2019
Even though they’ve dealt with injuries all season, losing Rask is a tough pill to swallow for the Bruins. He had struggled earlier in the season, but after taking a leave of absence, the Finn came back refocused. Since Dec. 29, he has a 6-0-1 record and a .942 save percentage (SV%) along with a shutout. On Saturday evening, he was attempting to set a franchise record: Rask was tied with Tiny Thompson in career wins as a Bruin with 252. A victory would have been the 31-year-old’s 253rd in 454 career starts.
Halak, McIntyre & Vladar
Luckily for Boston, Jaroslav Halak has played well this season. It was apparent that he carried the Bruins through a rough patch in the early going when Rask was having sub-par performances and the team was dealing with a slew of injuries. Recently, Halak has moved out of the spotlight with No. 40’s resurgence. The newest Bruins goaltender has five appearances since Christmas, including Saturday’s loss to the Rangers. During that span, he has a record of 1-4-0 and an .861 SV%.
When he received consistent starts, the netminder performed well. One must wonder if the big chunks of time off have affected Halak’s play. Perhaps he will return to his early-season form with strings of three or four starts in a row. He will certainly be asked to take the brunt of the workload as Boston is forced to look to the AHL for the time being.
The choice is between Daniel Vladar and Zane McIntyre. Vladar was called up earlier this season during Rask’s leave of absence but did not see any playing time. He has never appeared in an NHL regular-season game in his career and has gone 6-8-1 with the Providence Bruins this season. Meanwhile, McIntyre seems like the most-qualified candidate. He appeared in eight NHL contests during the 2016-17 season but went 0-4-1. However, McIntyre has gone 13-8-0 this season in Providence and seems to be the hotter of the two goaltenders right now.
Zane McIntyre presumably next man up if Rask is out. He's playing best hockey of season with wins in five straight starts
— Mark Divver (@MarkDivver) January 20, 2019
If McIntyre is called up, Halak will still be making the vast majority of starts. While Boston’s goaltending prospects are blooming, they don’t seem quite ready for NHL action. However, a call-up would give one of these AHL netminders a grand opportunity – one that many players only get once or twice in their career, if at all. No one wants a teammate to get injured, but when an injury does occur, it opens the door for someone like McIntyre or Vladar.
Whichever goaltender is called up will be arguing his case for NHL duties in the future. Halak’s contract runs through the 2019-20 season, but a solid performance by either minor-leaguer could affect Boston’s decision to move on from the 33-year-old to make space for one of the team’s prospects.
At the end of the day, losing Rask is quite simply awful for the Bruins. The potential long-term effects this could have on his career aside, the Bruins’ starter is the guy you want in goal during the team’s push for the playoffs this season. Unfortunately, he could be out for quite some time, which leaves the weight of Boston on the shoulders of Halak.
I cover the Boston Bruins and NCAA Hockey here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised 10 miles north of Boston, I developed a love for the game of ice hockey at a very young age. There’s really nothing better than this sport, though steak is a close second.