The Boston Bruins were dealt a minor setback Saturday with a 4-0 loss against the visiting New York Rangers at TD Garden.
And while both head coach Bruce Cassidy and Bruins players pointed to the fact that the team’s effort was not up to par, that excluded goaltender Jaroslav Halak.
The Bruins second-string goaltender, playing in place of Tuukka Rask for a third consecutive game, was a major reason why Boston trailed just 1-0 after one period and 2-0 after 40 minutes. Halak made a number of big-time stops as the Bruins struggled to put together a rhythm through either the neutral zone or on the forecheck.
Halak stopped 29 of the 33 shots and was the true last line of defense in a one-sided verdict. Cassidy was asked just how important Halak’s production has been this season, and it prompted some praise from Boston’s bench boss.
“I’d say he’s been important since the day he walked through the door, and he’s been very consistent,” Cassidy told reporters after the game. “So, I’ll go back even further (than this year). Tuukka’s missed certain stretches of time and Jaro has gone in there and given us solid goaltending — given us a chance to win every night. (I’m) disappointed for how the guys played in front of him.
“… That snow balls on you and then it becomes incumbent on Jaro to sort pick up the pieces, and I think he did his job as best he could,” Cassidy added. “Unfortunately, we didn’t respond for him or give him break and get something going on the other end.”
The 35-year-old Halak, following Saturday’s contest, has played in 11 games this season. He’s helped the Bruins to a 6-3-2 record on the campaign, his third in Boston.
“Listen, I think Jaro has been a pro since the day he’s been here, given us quality goaltending. (He’s) had the odd off-night like everyone else, but they’re few and far between. He typically is not a guy I worry about very often, if ever.”
Rask, who’s played 14 games this season, has been out with a lingering injury suffered March 7 against the New Jersey Devils. Cassidy expressed Friday that Rask would not be out long-term, and could return Monday or Tuesday.
The Bruins return to the ice Monday for a back-to-back against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. ET.