One of the interesting questions facing the Bruins now that their season is over: What, if anything, to do about their goaltending situation?
Tuukka Rask finished up Boston’s 12-game playoff run with a 2.88 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage, placing him 10th and 12th, respectively, among playoff goaltenders thus far this spring. Certainly he wasn’t a big part of the problem in the second-round series against the Lightning -- he played well enough for the Bruins to win -- and in doing so made a pretty good rebound from a shaky end to the Toronto series, where his teammates needed to bail him out in the third period of Game 7. In the end, the five-game failure vs. Tampa Bay had almost nothing to do with the goaltending of Rask and everything to do with the offense getting shut down by a Tampa Bay team that was faster, deeper and more physical.
Still some of the same old questions linger about Rask after he faltered in one of the biggest moments of the season in Game 7 against the Leafs. Also, at this stage of his career he requires significant mental and physical breaks during the season to handle the rigors of an 82-game campaign.
Certainly his playoff numbers feel less than expected from a No. 1 goalie who counts for $7 million against the salary cap, but his regular-season and playoff performance should buy him more time as Boston's franchise goalie for next season and beyond. The B's have found a good formula for getting the best out of him by limiting him to 55 or 60 games during the regular season, and this year they were able to come in underneath that number thanks to a strong season from backup Anton Khudobin.
There aren’t any palatable options on the goaltending free-agent market, not with 32-year-old Carter Hutton, a backup with the Blues, as arguably the most attractive option. Kari Lehtonen, Jonathan Bernier and Ondrej Pavelec are the other goalie options via free agency for either starting or backup work. When placed side-by-side to that Star Wars cantina collection, Rask looks a whole lot better . . . to even his most ardent detractors
The lack of attractive candidates may also lead the Bruins to re-sign Khudobin as well, after his 16-6-7 record with a 2.56 goals against average and .913 save percentage. He’s approaching free agency on July 1 and could conceivably get himself a raise on the open market, but the suspicion here is that Khudobin is very comfortable in Boston and that the Bruins feel the same way about the affable Russian netminder
Were Khudobin to walk, the Bruins would have to go outside the organization for a backup. They lost Malcolm Subban to Vegas in last summer’s expansion draft and then watched Zane McIntyre go through just a "just okay" season with the Providence Bruins this past year. McIntyre was outplayed on the P-Bruins by veteran Jordan Binnington, on loan from St. Louis, as he posted a 2.52 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage . . . numbers similar to Khudobin's, but compiled in the AHL.
Younger Bruin goalies like Daniel Vladar, Jeremy Swayman and Kyle Keyser aren’t ready for prime time as they work up through the ranks.
The bottom line with the Bruins and their goalies: It makes the most sense to assume that both Rask and Khudobin will be back as a tandem next season after helping the Bruins finish fourth in the league in goals allowed this past season behind only Los Angeles, Nashville and Anaheim. Rask and Khudobin certainly aren’t perfect, but let’s be honest . . . that’s pretty good.