With Jaroslav Halak struggling against the Tampa Bay Lightning, it’s time for a certain group of fans to admit that Tuukka Rask is the true #1 goalie for the Boston Bruins.
When Tuukka Rask opted to leave the NHL bubble to tend to family matters, the news was met with mixed reactions from fans of the Boston Bruins.
Some were understanding of the goaltender’s decision to return home to be with his family, others felt as though he bailed on the team, and some were excited to finally see Jaroslav Halak take the reins.
A small portion of fans have always felt as though Rask wasn’t able of performing in big games, and now they’d finally see what happens when they got what they wanted.
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It turns out that the Boston Bruins are a much better team with Tuukka Rask in net. Halak played well against the Carolina Hurricanes, but it didn’t always look easy for the Bruins.
The real test began in the second round, facing a much better opponent in Tampa Bay. After narrowly holding on for a 3-2 win in Game 1, the Boston Bruins and Jaroslav Halak began to fall apart in Game 2. Halak gave up two goals on shots that managed to just sneak through five-hole, but both shots were ones that he would probably love a second chance at.
Game 3 was ugly, and got out of hand early on. While Halak didn’t get a ton of help, he also wasn’t able to make a save to stop the bleeding. After giving up four goals on 16 shots, Halak was pulled in favour of Dan Vladar who didn’t fare much better. However, by the time Vladar was in net, the game was already out of reach for the Boston Bruins.
A bounce back Game 4 could have proved that Halak could handle the pressure, but unfortunately it was another game to forget for Boston. While Halak didn’t get much help from the guys in front of him, his performance was still not what the team needed, allowing three goals on 26 shots.
It was his second game in a row with a save percentage below .900, and it became clear that the Lightning were targeting his glove hand throughout the game.
Of course, Jaroslav Halak is dealing with circumstances that nobody has had to deal with before. Going over five months without playing in a meaningful game and then being thrown into the starting role, trying to get mentally prepared for a playoff game without having any fans in the building, and not being able to play at TD Garden have all been challenges.
Add in games being delayed earlier in the playoffs due to an extended overtime game and Game 4 being postponed another night and rescheduled due to the protests going on in various sports leagues across North America right now and these are truly some unprecedented times.
Even under the circumstances, Halak’s performance hasn’t been great and definitely hasn’t been what you need in order to go on a long playoff run. In comparison to what Tuukka Rask has done, it becomes clear just what he brings to the Boston Bruins.
The level of confidence that the team plays with in front of him is much higher, likely because they know that Rask will be back there to bail them out with a big save more often than not. Rask also brings a calm demeanour to the crease, making even some of the biggest saves look routine.
Would this series be going differently if Rask was still with the team? It’s hard to say for sure, but it’s hard to imagine the Bruins struggling this much with Rask between the pipes.
The Lightning are a strong team, and will likely be the favourite to win the Stanley Cup if they hold on to this 3-1 series lead against the Bruins, but the Bruins with Tuukka Rask also would have been one of the favourites to win it all this season too.
A large portion of Boston’s success over the last decade is because they’ve been lucky enough to have Rask in net for them.
Not winning a Stanley Cup as a starting goalie does not take away from his value to the team, and instead just goes to show how hard it is to win it all in this league. This playoff run without Rask shows that it’s time to give him the credit he has deserved all along.