It’s too early for a full-fledged goaltending controversy in Boston, but the chance of one taking place is gaining steam — and fast.
The Bruins blanked the Philadelphia Flyers 3-0 on Thursday at TD Garden, and Jaroslav Halak delivered another quality performance between the pipes. He made 26 saves (six on the penalty kill), including a couple beauties when the game was in the balance.
Tuukka Rask still will get the start Saturday night against the Montreal Canadians, but the result of that game could force head coach Bruce Cassidy into making a decision on the immediate future of his goaltending situation.
Rask owns 3-2-0 record with a .901 save percentage. Throw out the Opening Night fiasco against the Washington Capitals in which he allowed five goals on 19 shots, and he is 3-1-0 with a .924 save percentage. Halak, meanwhile, is 2-0-2 with a .933 save percentage.
Not even taking numbers into account, Halak has looked better.
Slow starts aren’t uncommon for Rask. It even happened this time last season and resulted in Anton Khudobin getting primary netminder duties for a few weeks in November. Once Rask proved he deserved his spot back, he posted a 19-0-2 record beginning with a big win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 29. Rask had a .941 save percentage in that stretch and didn’t lose a game in regulation again until Feb. 10.
So are we wandering back into that territory?
“It could, absolutely,” Bruce Cassidy said, via a team-provided transcript, when asked about getting to a point where goaltending plans don’t require prior scheduling, rather just riding the best man at the time. “We do that at the start of the year for — we’ve done it here for years and just to work Tuukka’s starts in because he’s been the number one. But if Jaro’s able to push him and if and eventually take the job if and when that happens then we’ll look at that. We’re going to try to keep it as balanced as possible early on, and then like we said if one separates himself from the other like every other position here then we’ll allow that to evolve.”
None of this is to say Rask has been totally dreadful, and make no mistake, he will spend more time as Boston’s No. 1 goalie this season than Halak. The Bruins are in an enviable position right now having the best goaltending tandem in the NHL and can rely on either guy for prolonged periods.
But in the past, a brief relegation in roles has seemed to help Rask, and with the way Halak is playing, maybe going that route soon would be for the best.
Here are some other notes from Thursday’s Bruins-Flyers game:
— Jeremy Lauzon made his NHL debut Thursday, and the moment didn’t look too big for him.
The 21-year-old was recalled on an emergency basis earlier in the day with four Bruins defenseman injured, and by nightfall, the 2015 second-round pick was on the third pairing with Steven Kampfer. Lauzon logged 11:25 ice time (including 1:47 while Boston was shorthanded) and made two hits, also blocking one shot and earning a takeaway.
Here’s what Lauzon had to say about making his debut.
With Charlie McAvoy, Urho Vaakanainen, Kevan Miller and Torey Krug all sidelined, Lauzon could become a staple on the blue line for the foreseeable future. Judging by his performance against the Flyers, Cassidy shouldn’t need to worry about having to rely on him.
— Zdeno Chara lit the lamp twice against Philadelphia.
The captain slapped a nice shot from the point to open the scoring in the second period, then scored the empty-netter with 23 seconds left to close the door.
It was Chara’s 14th career two-goal game and his first since January of 2014. The opponent in that contest? Also the Flyers.
— The Bruins on Saturday will be tasked with a Canadiens team that has been one of the NHL’s biggest surprises in the first month.
After a dreadful 2017-18 campaign and an offseason spent not making the team much better, many understandably felt the Habs would be at the bottom of the league yet again. While it’s still early and that very well could happen, they currently are at 5-2-2.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images