Don’t look now but the Boston Bruins appear to have a clear-cut No. 1 goaltender and it isn’t Jaroslav Halak.
While Halak has been solid in his first season with the Bruins and has compiled a record of 13-8-2 with the NHL’s fifth-highest goals-against average at 2.46 and ninth-best save percentage of .920, he’s lost momentum as of late.
Fortunately for the Bruins, however, Rask has finally found his stride and has established himself as the most reliable option in net for the Bruins over the past few weeks.
This is good news for the Bruins who have needed Rask to round into form to complement Halak who played at such a high level this season that he was earning himself the distinction as the team’s starter, supplanting Rask from his perch. It wasn’t to last, though.
Halak is Trending Downwards
As mentioned, Halak has had a solid season in Boston after being cast off by the New York Islanders in the offseason. For the majority of the first half of the 2018-19 season, it was impossible to look at goaltending leaders in the NHL without seeing Halak’s name at or near the top of every category.
It wasn’t just a good season relative to Rask’s slow start but a season potentially worthy of some Vezina nominations if he could maintain that pace throughout the year.
Unfortunately, that pace has died off as of late and Halak has hit a bit of a snag over the last month and a half.
From No. 26 to Dec. 14, Halak played in four games for the Bruins and was the winner of just one. He’d allow 15 goals on 133 shots, posting a .887 save percentage and 3.75 goals-against average in those four games.
This isn’t to say that there haven’t still been signs of excellence from Halak who backstopped the Bruins to three consecutive victories against the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators on Dec. 17, 20 and 22 respectively. In those games, he would allow only three goals on 77 shots, giving him a save percentage of .961 and one shutout in those games.
Since then, however, Halak has fallen on some bad luck and has allowed four goals in three of his next four games. In the one game that he didn’t allow four goals, he would still allow three.
On the flip-side, however, Rask has been dominating as of late and is earning every cent of his $7 million annual salary.
Rask is Trending Upwards
Though Rask had an incredibly slow start to his 2018-19 season, he’s bounced back in such a massive way that he’s not only earned himself the starting job in Boston, but he’s climbing the league standings as well.
It may not seem possible but Rask now boasts a 14-8-3 record with a 2.42 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. His goals-against average ranks fourth in the league and is better than both Halak and former Bruins’ backup netminder Anton Khudobin’s identical 2.46 goals-against averages. Rask’s save percentage is also tied with Halak’s.
Just how good has Rask been?
Dating back to Dec. 29, Rask has gone 6-0-1 in his starts and has allowed two goals or fewer in six goals or fewer in seven games. He’s compiled a 1.71 goals-against average in that time and has made 194 saves on 206 shots, good for a sparkling .941 save percentage.
He also picked up his first shutout of the season in those games, won the 2019 Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks and tied the record for the most wins for a goaltender in the history of the Boston Bruins with 252. A franchise, by the way, whose history dates back to 1924.
Both Goalies Will be Crucial for the Future
Though Rask has regained his status as the No. 1 goalie in Boston, the Bruins will still need Halak to find his groove.
The Bruins have succeeded this season due to the play of their goaltenders first and foremost.
Though the two haven’t necessarily overlapped their excellent play for large stretches of time, the Bruins have benefited from them both kicking it into gear at the right moments. They’ll need some more consistency from both if they have any intentions of competing for a Stanley Cup, especially with the way the team’s league-worst shooting percentage.
Halak’s slump is worrisome but he’s still proven that he can bounce back from slumps and succeed if given the chance. If he can still spot Rask when necessary and keep the Bruins from leaning on their No. 1 goalie too frequently then all parties involved could find success as a result.
Halak and Rask both have very good GSAAs (goals-saved above average) with Halak holding the league’s ninth-best average at 9.11 and Rask holding the 11th at 8.46.
Goaltending is a strength for the Bruins this season and rather than arguing about one goalie being the better of the two, it’s time to start acknowledging that both wear the spoked-B and will need to play well as a tandem for the betterment of the team.
Halak had the better start to the season, Rask has been the better of the two as of late. From here on out, however, both goalies will need to be at their best. There’s simply no reason to hope for anything otherwise.