By: Patrick Donnelly
Tuukka Rask has not been great to start the season. As a Tuukka apologist and a member of Michael Felger’s “Boo-Hoo Tuukka Crew,” I’ll be the first to admit that. To say he sucks would be a bit of an overstatement though. Sure, he’s given up some softies and the 7-0 loss to Washington in the season-opener and then a 5-2 loss in Calgary certainly didn’t help his case.
What also hasn’t helped Rask’s cause has been the standout performances of his counterpart, Jaro Halak. Halak has been nothing short of spectacular so far this season, posting a 4-1-2 record in seven games played to go along with two shutouts, a 1.45 GAA (even though it really is a dead stat), and a .952 save percentage. Not to be lost in all of this is that Halak leads the league in both of those categories.
Simply put, Halak has outplayed Rask who has a 6-3-0 record with a 9.02 save percentage and a 3.15 GAA in six games. Yikes. However, it is still very early in the season where stats don’t quite tell the whole story – we always hear how around Thanksgiving is when we have the sample size. Remember, Rask started off the year last season pretty poorly, like this year, but he got his act together and finished off the season just fine; he was even in the conversation for the Vezina at certain points.
For now, it seems like the best option is to ride the hot hand, especially given how stacked the rest of the East, specifically the Atlantic Division, looks. Just a few days ago, Bruce Cassidy said he would keep platooning Halak and Rask until either goalie clearly separated himself, and after two more outstanding performances from Halak, including a shutout against Philadelphia, it seems the Bruins have found their man, for the time being, as Halak got the start on Saturday night against the dominant Nashville Predators.
The Bruins fell 1-0 as Halak made a valient effort with 39 saves. Like last Saturday when the Bruins fell 3-0 to Montreal and Rask gave up two, the story of the night was the Bruins complete failure to muster up any sort of offense if the first line gets shut down since it’s the focus of the opponent’s defense.
Who’s to say Rask won’t turn it around? After all the same exact situation played out with Anton Khudobin last year, albeit not as early as it’s happening this season, and after a few consecutive games riding the pine, Rask found his game and turned it on as previously stated.
For the near future, Jaroslav Halak looks to be the starter for this Boston Bruins team. Hopefully, it serves as another slap in the face for Rask and he gets going. As for Halak, the 33-year-old is going to set out to continue to prove his doubters wrong and show that he can still do it as a starter in the NHL after two circus seasons with the Islanders. However, Tuukka Rask will get the start Monday night as the Bruins host Tyler Seguin and the Dallas Stars at TD Garden.