While Tuukka Rask played every minute of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the last few years, that may not be the case this time around.
Rask said he’d be “surprised if you see goalies play every minute of every game during these playoffs because the situation is so different," which could open the door for Jaroslav Halak getting some games at some point in the postseason.
Maybe it will be that Halak gets a start during the round-robin games against the other top seeds while the play-in qualifying round is going on in the first week of August, or maybe there will be some kind of shared duties given how compacted the playoff schedule is going to be with no travel involved at the Hub City setting.
“We’ve had the luxury of me sharing the net with Jaro [Halak] the last couple of years and it’s worked out great for us. As far as the playoffs are concerned, you never know. You lay off for four months and then you right into playoff hockey, there might be some injuries and some nagging injuries that might happen, your groin or hips,” said Rask, on a NHL zoom call with fellow Vezina Trophy finalists Connor Hellebuyck and Andrei Vasilevskiy on the day they were announced as the final three vying for the top goaltending prize.
“I’d be surprised if you see goalies play every minute of every game during these playoffs because the situation is so different. But I’m looking forward to it. You never know but I guess we’ll see what happens. We’ve had the luxury of having two very good goalies the last few seasons, so I think we’re in a good spot.”
“The way I look at it, all bets are off because everybody has been off for four months. It’s not the same situation that it would have been, or it could have been in March and April. Everybody is starting from scratch and trying to recapture the feeling you had when the quarantine period started. But it’s going to be tough. I think as a team we’re just trying to just go out there, start strong and recapture that energy we had.
"I’m just going to go out there and try to play my best and we’re going to have three games before the playoff start. So hopefully you can get that good feeling back with yourself and you’re ready to start playoffs. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s not going to be easy for anybody. All of us are just trying to do our best to prepare and then make a good product for the audience to watch.”
Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App
For the Bruins, a well-rested Rask could be a very good thing based on the .934 save percentage he posted last postseason after starting just 45 games during the regular season. This year with the abbreviated regular season Rask had just a 41-game workload, so the Finnish netminder could potentially carry a heavy workload in the postseason.
But with the potential of any player – even a goaltender – being lost for COVID-19 reasons and the ever-present injury possibilities, the Bruins will need to mix Halak in at some point simply to knock four months of rust off prior to him possibly being needed.
“The round-robin games are meaningful. We’ve always said we want to have our team playing the best hockey going into the playoffs, we want to win and get the highest seed,” said Cassidy. “We also said we’d build in maintenance if that’s what the players required and that’s to be determined.
“They may not need an exhibition and three league games, so we’ll determine that. But I’ve got to believe with only four games [exhibition and round-robin] that we can’t get all four [goalies] in there unless there’s an injury of some sort. That’s just my thinking. Obviously Tuukka is ready to go then he’d be our guy on opening night of the playoffs, but if something unforeseen happens then we’d need a No. 3 ready to go whether that’s [Max Lagace] or [Daniel] Vladar. A guy like Jaro may not see the net a lot in the playoffs if Tuukka is the starter like we anticipate he will be, so [the round-robin games] is where he will have to get his live work.”
The interesting thing would be if Halak plays really well – and even outplays Rask as he’s done in spurts over the last few seasons – and demands more playing time once the postseason gets rolling.
A goaltending controversy would be just another log on the fire in what’s already going to be a playoff run filled with adversity and challenges, so the Bruins will look to avoid that at all costs. There’s no doubting, though, that they will need to play both Rask and Halak at some point once the real games start to get played next month.