The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs undoubtedly were going to be unconventional for many more reasons than one.
Among the quirks of this NHL postseason is back-to-backs.
The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning will play two games in as many days on at least one occasion during their Eastern Conference semifinals series. Tuesday’s Game 2 will be quickly followed by Wednesday’s Game 3, and Games 6 and 7 — should the best-of-seven set go that far — will be played on Sept. 1 and Sept. 2, respectively.
The back-to-backs seemingly could prompt some difficult decisions for the remaining active teams, especially when it comes to the goaltenders. It’s common practice in the regular season for a club to split back-to-backs between their No. 1 netminder and the backup.
The Bruins, in particular, find themselves in an interesting spot. It’s fairly tough to envision 23-year-old Dan Vladar — who’s never played in an NHL game — seeing time between the pipes with the stakes this high, but Jaroslav Halak is no spring chicken at 35 years old.
Halak will start Tuesday night at Scotiabank Arena, but from there, B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy will operate with a wait-and-see approach.
“As for our situation, too early to tell,” Cassidy told reporters Monday. “Last night (in Game 1) was a busy night for Jaro. I thought as it went on, and he responded well, took the day off the ice today, so that will help him recover. Let’s get through the game (Tuesday night). Might also be a situation where we are in the series, you know, sometimes you got to look at your lineup and say, ‘OK, do we have the luxury of making any changes? How it will affect us? How does it affect the group throwing another guy in there?’
“I think our guys play hard no matter who’s in there. They said it before with Vladar, he competes in practice every day. Just signed a new deal, happy for him. But at the end of the day, I think it’ll be a decision we probably make Wednesday morning after we sort through the game on Tuesday and see where Jaro is at physically and have Danny prepared Tuesday night. Just say, ‘Hey you got to prepare like you’re going in the net,’ and if it doesn’t happen, well, we don’t lose nothing in that regard.”
Puck drop for Game 2 is set for 7 p.m. ET.