Jeremy Swayman has caused Bruce Cassidy to give plenty of thought to the Boston Bruins’ goaltending situation.
With Tuukka Rask dealing with a back injury for the better part of a month and, in that same time frame, Jaroslav Halak ending up in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, Swayman has taken the world by storm — with the support of Rask and Halak behind him. The rookie netminder is 5-2-0 with a .946 save percentage and 1.57 goals against average since making his debut.
Halak hasn’t seen much action since being cleared to return. He played 17:19 of mop-up duty Friday in the B’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres, but that’s it. Swayman started in Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it’ll be Tuukka Rask in net Tuesday against Pittsburgh, with Halak backing up.
Cassidy on Tuesday flat admitted that Swayman’s emergence has made Halak the de facto odd man out.
“Yeah, there’s no doubt he’s the one that’s sort of been pushed out a little,” Cassidy said over Zoom ahead of Tuesday’s morning skate. “Now, some of that was by circumstance, right? There was an injury to Tuukka and Jaro went into COVID, so opportunity for others and Swayman’s grabbed that. He’s been excellent for us. Hard to find fault in any of his games, he’s played real well and if it was probably more in the middle of the year, it would be easier to allow Jaro to find his game again, and we’re limited in how many games we have left. We have a No. 1 that played one game in four or five weeks, so he’s got to get his timing back. You’ve got another young kid who’s played real well since he’s been put in the net.
“So, it’s a good problem to have, unfortunately for Jaro, like I said, he’s the one that’s probably losing out on the opportunity to get back in there. Doesn’t mean he won’t, but I guess what I’m telling you is there’s no guarantee and I don’t know when he’ll get back in there. Right now, it’s Tuukka tonight, and we’re going to piece it together game by game.
“I think we only have a couple more back-to-backs, so that’s obviously a situation where we’re going to use two different goaltenders, but that’s not until (we play New) Jersey, so this week we’ll see how Tuukka feels, and knowing that Swayman’s given us good starts, right now he’s the next option unless Bob (Essensa) says, ‘Hey, I think Jaro’s there and he’s ready, so let’s get him in.’ So that’s kind of the discussion we have, it’s day-to-day right now.”
Like Cassidy said, it’s a good problem to have. The Bruins could keep going with Rask and Swayman if that’s what they feel the tandem will be in the playoffs, but it obviously would benefit them to keep Halak fresh, as well.
Whatever the case might be, they have options. That alone is a good thing.
Puck drop for Bruins-Penguins is set for 7 p.m. ET on NESN+, with pregame coverage beginning at 6 p.m.