If you showed somebody every goal the Bruins have given up this postseason and asked which goalie seemed like their head wasn't in it, the answer would not be the guy who went home.
Instead, it would be Jaroslav Halak, who has given up arguably the three worst goals of a series that has also featured Petr Mrazek and James Reimer.
Halak is better than this. You know it, I know it, we all know it.
So the Bruins had better hope their backup-turned-starter's play through two games has been a product of temporary rust that will eventually subside. They can make a run if Halak is very good. If he's just OK, probably not. If he is what he was in Game 4? They'll be an easy out in the second round.
It can't be overstated how huge the Bruins' third period was Monday. Down 2-0, they scored four goals in a row in the third period while not allowing a shot until the 18th minute. That Hurricanes shot went in, but Boston still held on to take a 3-1 stranglehold on the series.
Had the Bruins not had that period, we'd be looking at a tied series and a Bruins team that — in addition to not being able to put the puck past bad goaltenders — had an issue in net.
Instead, the Bruins have three games to polish off Carolina and prepare for (probably) the Lightning. There isn't major pressure on them to rush David Pastrnak back into the lineup, but getting a strong performance from Halak sure would help everyone rest easier.
Halak was fine in Game 3, which was also just his second game since the return. Between the time off and the fact that he only allowed one goal — a terrible giveaway on his part — his actual play was hardly a story. The headline was that he filled in at the last minute and got the win.
Game 4 obviously stood out. Great goalies allow three goals all the time, but context is key for this performance.
Carolina's first two goals came from simply throwing pucks at the net glove side from the top of the circle and Halak missing them. If the circumstances were different and there were a veteran backup at the ready (it's AHL youngster Dan Vladar), a bullpen call would have warranted after Jordan Martinook's second period tally.
Then the Bruins figured out how to limit the damage: They just didn't let Carolina shoot in the third. They dominated, scored and kept the puck the hell away from their own end as the Hurricanes didn't manage a single shot on Halak until they'd pulled their goalie. When that first shot at 18:33 did sneak under Halak's pad with 1:27 left, the game somehow felt like it could still slip away.
The Bruins held Carolina to just one more shot, though, and held on. Now they can look ahead to Game 5 and honestly, Halak should feel like he has a new lease on life. He can look at Monday as a case of him not having his A-game (or D+ game) as he continued to get acclimated, but taking a victory out of it nonetheless. The clunker can be behind him and he can move on having not cost the team.
The Bruins should view it that way too. Maybe that's being optimistic, but Halak's two years in Boston have shown he's far more capable than what we've seen so far in the playoffs.
The Bruins aren't a team that wins in spite of their goaltender. They've spent too much money at the position and have had too good of netminders for that to be the case. And truthfully, despite their regular season finish, they aren't good enough to win without goaltending in the playoffs. They need Halak to be good. That can start Wednesday.