PITTSBURGH – Do the Bruins have the best goaltending in the entire NHL as teams slowly approach the midway mark of the season?
It certainly appears that way as they throw Jaroslav Halak out against the high-powered Penguins in a Friday night showdown in Pittsburgh. That’s the same Halak that sat out the previous two games despite currently ranking fourth in the NHL in goals against average (2.30 GAA) and second in save percentage (.930) after a tremendous start to the season.
This will actually be just the third start in the last eight games for Halak despite those excellent numbers, and that’s because Tuukka Rask has been just as good since coming back from a weekend leave of absence in early November. Since coming back to the B’s, Rask is 5-3-2 with a .920 save percentage and has begun demanding closer to No. 1 goalie reps based on the way that he’s playing.
Certainly both Rask and Halak are confident in their own abilities, but they’re going to let others do the trumpeting about it for them. One thing has been clear, though.
Since both Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron went down on successive nights with injuries last month, both Halak and Rask have elevated their games and allowed an undermanned Bruins team to continue treading water in playoff range.
“Obviously we think we’re good goalies and we want to help the team. But it’s up to other people to decide where we rank in the league tandems. We don’t care about that too much,” said Rask to NBCSportsBoston.com. “Guys get hurt and different guys have to step up. Sometimes you need your goalies more than other nights. I haven’t felt like we’ve been stealing games or whatever. We just go out there and give us a chance to win, and I think we’ve accomplished that for the most part. Every team needs to have confidence in their goalies, and that’s all we’re trying to be.”
Put both goaltenders together and they’re second in the NHL behind only Nashville with a 2.55 goals against average, and lead the entire league with a .920 save percentage that’s actually way ahead of Anaheim and Toronto, the teams directly behind them.
The case can absolutely be made that the Bruins are getting the best goaltending in the entire NHL, as they probably should while shelling out almost $10 million for it this season.
“I feel that way. I’m sure some teams up the street have a different opinion,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if he thinks the Bruins have the best goaltending in the league. “We feel that we’re rock-solid there, and we don’t ever worry about who is in net ever. The only thing I worry about is keeping them sharp and getting them the starts that they need.
“There is probably not enough because there’s only one net and they’re both going well. It’s a good problem to have. And I think our guys feel that way that we go into each game with an edge, and that’s in net. You just can’t give up any soft goals because you are [expletive] if you do. You might have to make one or two timely saves and that will decide how people judge your performance.”
As Cassidy alluded, the challenge now becomes keeping both Halak and Rask at their current levels of puck-stopping while staving off rust for either one. Case in point is Friday night vs. the Penguins, when it’s been almost a week since Halak steered the B’s to a 6-3 win over the Maple Leafs. That’s a bit of a lengthy time period for a goalie that’s been as good as Halak, but both goaltenders seem to understand the ebb and flow of playing time right now.
It would appear lately as if Rask is beginning to reclaim that No. 1 job title based on playing five of the last seven games headed into tonight, but he's perfectly okay with giving way to Halak based on the way he’s played as well.
“I don’t know how challenging it is because we don’t really care. We both want to play. When we’re both playing good it’s a real luxury to share the net and keep both of us fresh. It’s easy when everybody is playing the same game, and on the same page,” said Rask to NBCSportsBoston.com. “It’s been working well that I play a couple of games and then I might rest one or two and then get back in there. It’s not about getting back out there and every single time you need to prove yourself again and again. It’s more like ‘take your rest’ and you go out there and play, and then the other guy plays. It’s working well.”
It’s working more than well as the NHL goaltending duo of Rask and Halak are at the top of the NHL charts when the B’s have needed them most, and don’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down. It’s exactly what the Bruins envisioned when they surprisingly went out and snagged Halak on July 1 at the start of free agency, and opted to make a massive investment in their goalies.
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